NGOs respond to the case of a Georgian activist detained in Akhalgori

The signatory organizations respond to facts of persecution of a Georgian civil activist and journalist Tamar Mearakhishvili who lives in Akhalgori region by de facto regime of Tskhinvali on August 16 2017 and urge the Georgian Government to use all available diplomatic and legal means to ensure safety of the activist and protection of her rights.

Since the August war in 2008, after the military occupation of Tskinvali region, including Akhalgori, Tamar Mearakhishvili has continued to reside in the region and to publicly criticize corruption and repressive politics of the Tskhinvali de facto regime. She has close cooperation with various independent media outlets and openly discusses problems existing in the region, among others discriminatory practices and harassment of the ethnic Georgians living in Akhalgori. Despite number of threats and coercion, T. Mearakhishvili did not leave Akhalgori or stop her public activities. Based on the information spread by media, Tamar Mearakhishvili was detained on August 16 around 6 p.m. near her house by persons in civilian clothes, who did not clarify reasons and grounds for her detention.  The interrogation continued for several hours under threats and without presence of a lawyer. After several hours, the militia of the Tskhinvali de facto regime released the activist. According to the information disseminated by media, her detention is connected with charges of prejudicing the honor and reputation of the ruling political party of the regime “United Ossetia”. It has to be noted, that several days before the incident, on July 31, 2017, law enforcement bodies of the Tskhinvali de facto regime summoned T. Mearakhisvhili for interrogation on the same case, and tried to intimidate her with questions relating to her activities, among others her cooperation with “Ekho Kavkaz” and aggressive communication. On June 8 of the same year, T. Mearakhishvili was kidnapped from Akhalgori to Tskhinvali.

Detention and continuous harassment of T. Mearakhishvili during different periods based on political and different opinion, as well as ethnic identity, allegedly entail indications of persecution. Repressive means used against the activist have to be connected with the interest of intimidating her, creating obstacles for her journalistic activities and forcing her to leave the territory of Akhalgori.  Clearly, these efforts of harassment do have “chilling effect” affecting other activists, journalists or all ethnic Georgians living in that region.

For ensuring freedom and security of T. Mearakhishvili, timely and effective intervention of the Georgian Government and international organizations is crucial.

After military occupation in 2008, Akhalgori was placed under effective control of the Russian federation. In accordance with international human rights principles, precisely the latter has primary responsibility for the human rights violations on the territory. The obligation to protect human rights and freedoms is derived from the fact of effective control on the territory, regardless of whether the violation is carried out directly by the state through its armed forces, or the independent local government. In parallel, despite the absence of effective control in Tskhinvali region, the state of Georgia has positive obligation to use all available means for protection and respect of human rights under its jurisdiction, and in compliance with the said obligations, to continuously make efforts for the protection of human rights and freedoms through the use of legal and diplomatic means in relations with other states and international organizations.[1]

Despite the fact that after the detention on August 16, Tskhinvali de facto militia released T. Mearakhishvili, the risks remain that the prosecution against her will be arbitrary and discriminatory.  Considering this, we urge

The Georgian Government to use all available diplomatic and legal mechanisms, among others, negotiating formats, and resources of international organizations for ensuring security and protecting human rights of T. Mearakhishvili and her family members.

The international organization to get involved in the case timely and use all available mechanisms of diplomatic and political pressure on the Russian Federation and Tskhinvali de facto regime, for preventing persecution against T. Mearakhishvili based on political and other grounds and for ensuring observance of human rights standards and security in the process of criminal prosecution faced by her.

Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)

Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)

Open society Georgia Foundation (OSGF)

Transparency international Georgia (TI)

Media Development Foundation (MDF)

Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA)

Human Rights Center

Article 42 of constitution

Tolerance and Diversity Center (TDI)

Liberal Academy Tbilisi

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