Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2004 - Georgia

Trial of the alleged murderer of Mr. Giorgi Sanaya49

On 30 July 2004, the Tbilisi Regional Court confirmed the decision of 9 July 2003, by which the District Court of Tbilisi Gldani-Nadzaladevi sentenced Mr. Grigol Khurtsilava, a former state security officer, to 13 years in prison for the murder of Mr. Giorgi Sanaya. Mr. Sanaya, a journalist for television channel Rustavi 2, which regularly denounced Government corruption, was murdered on 26 July 2001.

On 24 November 2004, the appeals chamber of the Supreme Court examined the appeal lodged by Mrs. Rhatuna Chkhaidze, Mr. Sanaya's widow, to identify the person(s) behind the murder of Mr. Sanaya, and to requalify the crime, described as a common law crime, as a political crime.

However, on 6 December 2004, the criminal appeal chamber dismissed the political nature of the murder and indicated that

Mr. Khurtsilava had murdered Mr. Sanaya because Mr. Sanaya had tried to sexually harass him. The ruling contradicts Mr. Khurtsilava's statements during the initial trial that he had mistaken Mr. Sanaya, whom he did not know, for another man.

Continued harassment of television channel Rustavi 250

On 29 December 2003, a rocket was fired onto the premises of channel Rustavi 2, damaging the building. No result of the inquiry had been made public at end-2004.

On 4 February 2004, the television channels Rustavi 2 and Mze simultaneously stopped broadcasting their highly popular political debate program, following a decision by the Government, which gave no explanation.

In Adjaria, as part of the serious tensions that occurred at the beginning of 2004 between the newly elected Georgian authorities and the authorities of the autonomous republic, Rustavi 2 journalists were targeted by the local authorities. During the night of 7 January 2004, members of the security forces prevented Mr. Irakli Shetciruli, a journalist at Rustavi 2, from crossing the administrative border of Chokoli. Mr. Shetciruli had just finished a report on the arrest of members of the youth movement "Kmara!" (Enough!). On 5 March 2004, Mr. Vakhtang Komalhidze, a journalist at Rustavi 2 in Tbilisi, was violently beaten by several men, and the video tapes he was transporting in his car were stolen. After these events, two police officers were initially arrested then released shortly afterwards, with the result that these acts of violence remained unpunished at the end of 2004.

Legislation restricting the participation of independent NGOs in the Penal System Supervision Council51

On 11 August 2004, a new Penal System Supervision Council was introduced by presidential decree, entitling the members of some NGOs to visit penal detention centres when they wish and without need for a prior authorisation. The new Council replaces the former one, established by the Ministry of Justice in 2000 and abolished in April 2004. The Council's function has not changed, however, the criteria according to which the new members were selected were not clearly defined and it seems that the choice was arbitrary. Council members include performers and members of NGOs that supported the members of the new Government during the Revolution of Roses and who now occupy high-ranking positions in the Georgian Government or Parliament. By contrast, independent organisations such as Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights and the Human Rights Documentation and Information Centre (HRIDC) were not selected for the Council, despite their applications, and now find themselves ostracised.

In the same context, threats were also made against members of both organisations.

In summer 2004, Mrs. Nana Kakabadze, president of Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights, received anonymous death threats by phone "if she didn't stop her activities". After the Revolution of Roses, this NGO revealed around 100 cases of torture and inhumane and degrading treatment in prisons. It also systematically reacted to Government pressure on and persecution of journalists and the media. The coordinator of the Rustavi branch of the NGO, Mr. Levan Sakhvadze, was beaten up on 4 May 2004 by unidentified assailants.

At the beginning of November 2004, Mr. Nicanadinadze, head of the legal department of the State Chancellery and advisor to the Prime Minister, telephoned the HRIDC, to ask the centre to cease its activities concerning the right of refugees. He indicated that the Centre might "have problems" if it refused to comply. Mr. Nicanadinadze accused the HRIDC of belonging to a political organisation and causing trouble for the Government.

Finally, inquiries conducted after attacks on and burglaries of the offices of the Foundation for the Defence of Human Rights in April 2003 had not produced any results as of end 2004.

Release of Mr. Giorgi Mshvenieradze52

Mr. Giorgi Mshvenieradze, a representative of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association in Kutaisi, was arrested on 7 December 2003, while he was observing the Parliamentary elections. He was released several days later by decision of the court in Kobuleti, after he was pardoned by Mr. Aslan Abashidze, the former leader of the autonomous republic of Adjaria. He had been sentenced to three months in preventive custody, after revealing major violations of electoral procedures at some polling stations.53

At the end of the elections, the OSCE declared that the Autonomous Republic of Adjaria was one of the Regions where irregularities had been most flagrant. Several NGO representatives were attacked, notably in Kobuleti, and 51 observers were prevented from carrying out their vote-counting operations under pressure from members of the Electoral Commission.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

49. Idem.

50. Idem.

51. Idem.


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.