Georgia
04.09.08
Urgent Interventions

Physical and verbal assault against Mr. Saba Tsitsikashvili

GEO 002 / 0908 / OBS 145
Physical and verbal assault / Threats
Georgia

September 4, 2008

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Georgia.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Human Rights Centre (HRIDC) about the physical and verbal assault against Mr. Saba Tsitsikashvili, journalist and HRIDC Coordinator for the Shida Kartli region, while covering a demonstration against the Russian occupation.

According to the information received, on September 1, 2008, Mr. Saba Tsitsikashvili was physically and verbally assaulted in the village of Karaleti (Shida Kartli region) by Messrs. Lado Vardzelashvili, the Shida Kartli Governor, and Zurab Chinchilakashvili, Deputy Governor. Mr. Saba Tsitsikashvili was covering a demonstration against the Russian occupation when Messrs. Vardzelashvili and Chinchilakashvili, along with several other men, approached him. Mr. Chinchilakashvili and Mr. Vardzelashvili grabbed him and continued to verbally and physically abuse him, while his men threatened him in the following terms: “Keep in mind, if you continue as you are doing we will arrange your disappearance and you will be beaten every day”.

When Mr. Saba Tsitsikashvili tried to come closer to the head of the regional police department, who was nearby, Mr. Zurab Chinchilakashvili grabbed his wrist and strongly squeezed. He accused him of having brought journalists with cameras and told him: “I will make sure you disappear...”. Then two unknown persons appeared and started beating him, hitting his ribs and legs.

Afterwards, they brought Mr.Tsitsikashvili near the car of Mr. Davit Khmiadashvili, the Gori District Governor, who was present there along with Mr. Giorgi Kvitsinadze, the Deputy District Governor. As they approached them, Mr. Tsitsikashvili heard Mr. Chinchilakashvili saying, “take him back!”. Near the District Governor’s car, Mr. Tsitsikashvili was beaten in his ribs, reportedly with the help of a key. The District Governor and Deputy Governor then told him to “f.ck off from the place”. Mr. Tsitsikashvili immediately returned to Gori.

Subsequently, Mr. Tsitsikashvili went to Tbilisi to report the events to the HRIDC and the Public Defender.

It appears that Mr. Zurab Chinchilakashvili started to become aggressive towards Mr. Tsitsikashvili after August 29, 2008. On that day, Mr. Ucha Nanuashvili, HRIDC Executive Director, along with several other employees of HRIDC, including Mr. Tsitsikashvili, visited the Kombinatis Dasakhlebia (Factory Settlement) hosting internally displaced people (IDPs) originating from the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone. They wanted to find out what were the living conditions of IDPs two weeks after the bombing. It turned out that the Gori inhabitants who had returned from Tbilisi had no shelter, and had been left to sort out their problems themselves. Messrs. Nanuashvili and Tsitsikashvili took two homeless IDPs to the regional administration to talk with officials in charge of IDPs, and met Mr. Zurab Chinchilakashvili.

On this occasion, Mr. Chinchilakashvili asked Mr. Ucha Nanuashvili: “Excuse me, who are you?”. He then said: “I have some problems to clear up with your organisation”. After this, he took Mr. Saba Tsitsikashvili to talk separately and said: “Ask your boss what he was doing and where he was when the Russians entered Gori. We needed him at that very instance!”. Then he came to Mr. Nanuashvili, saying that he wanted to make a complaint against HRIDC, which is “always looking for some negative information” and that they “will pay for [their] statements”. He finally shouted: “Let’s discuss all your articles from your web site. Who are you anyway? Where were you when Russians entered Gori? You should have come at that time and stand beside us!”.

On August 30, 2008, Mr. Tsitsikashvili went back to visit the IDPs in Gori, in the company of a British journalist who was shooting a documentary film. Mr. Antony Butts, a TV News filmmaker, was filming the plight of IDPs when high-ranking Georgian authorities showed up to the camp: Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava and Messrs. Koba Subeliani, Lado Vardzelashvili and Zurab Chinchilakashvili. While the camera operator was filming Mr. Gigi Ugulava, Mr. Chinchilakashvili approached Mr. Tsitsikashvili and whispered in his ear, “Did you not hear what I told you yesterday? I do not want to see you in the office of regional administration!”. He added: “I wish you were not a journalist, otherwise I would beat you”.

The Observatory expresses its deep concern about the above-mentioned physical and verbal assault against Mr. Saba Tsitsikashvili, as it seems to merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities. The Observatory further recalls that as a Participating State of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Georgia must conform with paragraph 8 of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Resolution on Strengthening OSCE Engagement with Human Rights Defenders and National Human Rights Institutions, which states that the OSCE Participating States recognise “the need for particular attention, support and protection for human rights defenders by the OSCE, its Institutions and field operations, as well as by participating States”. The Observatory also urges the Georgian authorities to conform to the Declaration of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on Human Rights Defenders, so as to create an environment conductive to human rights defenders, to take effective measures to protect, promote, and respect them, to ensure their access to effective remedies and to take action to prevent attacks and harassment against them.

Action requested:

Please write to the Georgian authorities urging them to:

  1. Take all necessary measures to guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Saba Tsitsikashvili;
  2. Put an end to any act of harassment against Mr. Saba Tsitsikashvili, Mr. Ucha Nanuashvili as well as against all human rights defenders in Georgia;
  3. Conduct a fair and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned events in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided by the law;
  4. Comply with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” and Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration
  5. Guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international human rights instruments ratified by Georgia.

Addresses:

  • Mr. Mikhail Saakashvili, President, State Chancellery, 7 Ingorokhva Street, 380034 Tbilisi, Georgia; Tel : (995 32) 28-27-03 / (995 32) 28-24-00; (995 32)99 96 53; ( 995 32) 98-72-62, ( 995 32) / 99-87-50, Fax: ( 995 32) 98-72-62 (99532) 28-27-68; (99532)28-27-14; E-mail: pr@president.gov.ge, vano@president.gov.ge
  • Mr. Alexander Lomaia, Secretary of the National Security Council of Georgia, 7, Ingorokhva Street. 380034 Tbilisi, Georgia, Tel: (995 32) 93 23 22 ; Fax: (995 32) 98 99 72 ; E-mail: snsc@gol.ge
  • Mr. Ivane Merabishvili, Minister of Interior, Ministry of Interior of Georgia, Tel: (995 32) 74 62 50; +995 32 99 62 96 / 99 80 50 / 99 95 55/27 28 44; ; Fax:(995 32) 98 71 46 / 99 95 24; E-mail: presscenter@pol.ge, press_center@pol.ge
  • Mr. Giorgi Arsenishvili, Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights Petitions and Relations with the Civil Society, Parliament of Georgia, 8 Rustaveli Avenue. 380018 Tbilisi, Georgia; Tel: (995 32) 28 13 88; Fax: (995 32) 92 15 63. Email: Humanrights@parliament.ge
  • Mr. Nika Gvaramia, Minister of Justice, 19, Griboedov st, Tbilisi, 380008, Georgia, Tel: (995 32) 93 27 21 / 93 50 49 / 75-82-22; Fax: (995 32) 93 02 25 / 75-82-22 ; Email: justice@justice.gov.ge
  • General Prosecutor of Georgia, 24 Gorgasali st, 380014, Tbilisi, Georgia; Tel.: (99532)40 51 11; Fax: (99532)40 51 93
  • Mr. Sozar Subari, Ombudsman of Georgia, 11, Machabeli street, Tbilisi 0107,Georgia, Phone: (995 32) 92 39 60 / 92 24 78 / 92 24 81 / 93 15 85; Fax: ( 995 32) 92 24 70; Email: info@ombudsman.ge
  • Mr. Levan Mikeladze, Ambassador, Permanent mission of Georgia to the United Nations in Geneva, Rue Richard Wagner 1, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 733 90 33 ; Email: geomission.geneva@bluewin.ch
  • Ambassador Mr. Salomé Samadaschvele, Diplomatic Mission of Georgia to Brussels, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 732 85 47

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Georgia in your respective countries.

Geneva - Paris, September 4, 2008

Kindly inform the Observatory of any action undertaken quoting the code number of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax: FIDH : +33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / 33 (0) 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT : + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 (0) 22 809 49 29

Email : Appeals@fidh-omct.org

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