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Lost Crew

October 8, 2010
Tea Topuria

Giorgi Romelashvili, Zaza Birtvelashvili and Otari Sukhitashvili were members of the same tank crew. All three of them were lost on August 8th of 2008. The tank #406 is lost as well. Hammerberg Commission thinks that the investigation should continue.

“I lost my only son. I want him back either alive or dead,” – states Qetevan Sukhitashvili, Otar Sukhitashvili’s mother.

Giorgi Romelashvili was the leader of the tank crew. His father Muraz Romelashvili saw him last on August 7th when he came by for snack. His father has lost hope of seeing him alive.

Muraz Romelashvili: “We are from Tskhinvali. We left the city in 1991 when the disturbance unleashed. Since then, for twenty years we’ve been living in Gori. My boys were eleven and seven by then. They were raised here. One was very skilled in handicraft. He could build houses very well. Another was good at computers. But still both chose to join army. We were robbed in Tskhinvali in 1991 and they could not stand that.”

Giorgi Romelashvili’s brother, Gela Romelashvili also died in the war. There’s a big possibility that Giorgi has also died, but investigation is not able to confirm or deny this information.

The disappearance of the tank crew was also investigated by the Council of Europe High Commissioner of Human Rights, Thomas Hammerberg. The report of commission states that the investigation around this case must be continued.

According to the report, on February 26th of 2010, the Ministry of Internal Affairs transferred disk to the experts of commission which reflects the enslaved soldier with obvious signs of torture. The soldier had a helmet on the head with number 109 written on it. Representatives of Georgian government recognized Giorgi Romelashvili on the photo. Later, the recording was checked by the friends and family of Romelashvili, Birtvelishvili and Sukhitashvili but none of the missing people were recognized.

Another valuable information for the investigation was parts of the exploded tank that was discovered in Tskhinvali. The serial numbers discovered on the remains of the tank didn’t math with the serial numbers known for Georgian governmental organs, but one of the high officials of Georgian Defense Ministry noted that there was so much similarity between these numbers and the numbers registered after the purchase of the tank #406 that it’s possible that it was the searched tank. Tskhinvali de-facto administration is trying to clarify this issue in more detail.

On the basis of the existing data, the experts of Hammarberg commission issued the following recommendations: all sides, including Russian and South Ossetian de-facto administration shall take more action in this direction. More information should be gathered concerning the determination of Georgian tanks and the graveyards of those people who died on the field.

Besides, Georgian government shall take all measures to identify the individual reflected on the video material. After identification of the individual, relevant measures should be taken for ascertaining the fate of this person.

The article was prepared within the project -  Investigation of the facts of the Enforced Disappearances in Georgia with Financial Support of the Eurasian Partnership Foundation within the EU funded project - Strengthening the Media’s Role as a Watchdog Institution in Georgia 
The contents of this article report are the sole responsibility of the Human rights Centre and cannot be taken as to reflect the views of the European Union and Eurasian Partnership Foundation.