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Police Does not Have Rights to Hide Information About Ossetian Detainees

Mari Otarashvili

Tskhinvali de-facto government permanently speaks about the hostages detained during the war in August of 2008 and onwards; they request Georgian side to return detainees. The Ministry of Internal Affairs denies the existence of arbitrarily detained people in Georgian prisons. High-ranking officials of the MIA state that Georgian police detained ethnic Ossetian people for criminal offence. Part of them was convicted too. However, suddenly it was cleared up that the situation is not as it is reported. Instead 2 adults kidnapped from Tirdznisi village 5 Ossetian people were released by Georgian side; this fact confirmed that there are arbitrarily detained Ossetian people in Georgian prisons.

One of the released prisoners Pavle Tekhov reported to Tskhinvali media sources that he personally saw more 11 Ossetian prisoners when representatives of the Red Cross met them.

Reportedly, on December 2, after the Human Rights Commissionaire of CoE Thomas Hammarberg involved the situation, Ossetian Citizens Ibragim Laliev (born in 1974), Lavrenti Kaziev (born in 1974), Iakob Tekhov (born in 1941), Pavlik Tekhov (born in 1958) and Vladimer Eloev (born in 1978) were released. Indeed, they were arbitrarily detained in pretrial detention setting of Gori police department. They were released by the court on August 4 but the police sent them back to the detention setting and kept them in secret. From August 4 till December 2 these people were considered to be missing. Before December 2, the head of Analytic Department of the MIA Shota Utiashvili categorically denied existence of hostages in Georgian prisons.

It is strange but the only high-ranking official of the MIA, who confessed existence of Ossetian hostages, was head of Shida Kartli regional police department Vladimer Jugheli. He still confirms that they have detained several other Ossetian people too; among them are those people who Tskhinvali regime has been requesting for a long time. However, Jugheli does not want to release concrete information and does not tell the names of Ossetian detainees. He thinks the issue shall be agreed at higher level.

Vladimer Jugheli, head of Shida Kartli Regional Police Department: “Those people, whom Ossetian side is looking for, are either our detainees or have disappeared during the war. Why should we have people disappeared during the war?! We also lost people during the war, we are asking Ossetian side to release them but they do not release… I cannot understand what you are speaking about?! The only thing I can say is that if official people order us to exchange detainees, we will do it; but I do not know what they will order me. I understand that Ossetian side requests to exchange prisoners but it is impossible. How can we exchange criminals? I do not know the names of the wounded. We have several detainees but cannot tell their names either. This information is not public.”

Jugheli said he knows names of every detainee. Police knows the names of missing people too. “We are looking for the missing people. The Ossetian side knows who is dead and who is alive. Of course I know the names of the detainees but please do not ask me to name them. I cannot,” said the head of Shida Kartli regional police department.

How lawful is hiding the information about prisoners by the MIA and regional police department? Should not the information about the prisoners be available for the society?

Nestan Londaridze, lawyer for the Human Rights Center said the information about prisoners should be transparent. Hiding similar information contradicts the Constitution of Georgia and law. “Generally, if the case is not Griffith Secret, policeman can announce the case details. As for the information about detainees, it shall be available even if the case is Griffith Secret. Identity of prisoners and their conditions in detention settings shall not be kept in secret. If the information is requested, police is entitled to announce the names of the detainees.”

Conflict scientist Paata Zakareishvili said hiding similar information by the MIA and Shida Kartli regional police department is illegal. Besides that, it causes serious complications in conflict resolution and prevention of people’s kidnapping.

Paata Zakareishvili, conflict scientist: “Of course it is not a military secret and policemen are entitled to inform every interested person about Ossetian prisoners. Besides that, if we consider the fact that Georgian side had kept Ossetian people in arbitrary detention for a long time, we can suspect that they still hide some information about other hostages too. Similar suspicions have become logical and grounded after Hammarberg took Ossetian people to Tskhinvali on December 2 while Georgian side denied their existence.

Civil society and generally, every interested person, has right to request information from the government whether it has hidden anybody and the government shall give thorough and concrete reply to this question. They should report how many Ossetian people are detained in Georgian prisoners; their names and other details – date, circumstance and reason of their imprisonment.”

By confirming the information about existence of arbitrary detainees in Georgian prisons (in fact they are hostages) reputation of Georgian state was seriously damaged in front of international community. Evidently, the government of Georgia has already started oppression of international human rights organizations. For example, national TV-companies, controlled by the government, release biased information and the government tries to blame Georgian non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders in complication of the situation.

Georgian Young Lawyers Association and Human Rights Priority responded to the information released by Public Broadcasting and Rustavi 2. You can read their statements on our website.

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