Natia Bakhtadze's murder - femicide and alarming situation of women's rights in Abkhazia

On July 28, 2023, Georgian citizen Natia Bakhtadze, an ethnic Georgian, went missing in the city of Gali. According to the initial reports, the young woman was "abducted for the purpose of marriage". A few days after Natia's disappearance, the body of a young woman was found in the village of Ilori. It was later found out that the deceased was a young woman who had gone missing in Gulripshi a week earlier. Although the identity of the deceased was established as a result of autopsy, the circumstances of her death have not been made public.

Natia Bakhtadze's body has not been found yet. The de facto authorities detained Ochamchire resident Aynar Tsvihba on charges of the murder of Natia Bakhtadze. Tsvihba pleaded guilty and named jealousy as the motive. According to him, the woman's refusal and her upcoming wedding became the reason for the murder.

Aynar Tsvizhba's father Tamaz Tsvizhba is considered an influential person in the region. In the past, he was the first deputy of Temur Nadaraia in the Gali district; currently, he has a flour business in eastern Abkhazia. The camera footage seized in connection with the murder shows that on July 28, the day of Natia Bakhtadze's disappearance, Tamaz Tsvizhba drove the car in which the young woman was allegedly killed to the car wash. Tamaz Tsvizhba also accompanied his son when he tried to cross the border in order to hide in Russia. Tamaz Tsvizhba is currently not detained.

On August 31, 2023, Natia Bakhtadze's mother published an open letter, addressing the so-called president, the minister of internal affairs and the ombudsman of occupied Abkhazia. Yamze Agumava asked them to find her daughter’s body and said that the murderer's relatives knew everything: "More than a month has passed since the murder of my daughter and Natia's body has not been found yet. I don’t believe that my daughter's body is where they are looking for it. The relatives of the killer know everything. I'm sure they were the ones who helped him get rid of the body. Please arrest and interrogate the relatives of Aynar Tsvizhba, because he admitted that he called his father and said that he committed the murder. He would not be able to hide the body alone - his relatives helped him to hide the crime. They decided to hide the body and bury it somewhere in the forest, hoping to get away with the crime. Please find my daughter's body," reads the mother's letter.

In addition to the problem that women cannot enjoy their rights in Abkhazia, where murder on the grounds of jealousy is considered a mitigating circumstance, the ethnic origin of the murdered may also hinder the objective investigation of the case.

The Democracy Research Institute believes that the circumstances related to the murder of Natia Bakhtadze and the investigation of the murder clearly show the alarming situation in the direction of women's rights in Abkhazia, where violence against women, femicide, abduction of women and minors for the purpose of marriage still remains unresolved problems.

The Democracy Research Institute calls on the Public Defender of Georgia:

  • in cooperation with Abkhazia's de facto ombudsman and the Abkhazian civil society, ensure the publicity of information about the investigation related to the murder of Natia Bakhtadze in order to achieve an objective verdict and punish the perpetrators
  • to ensure the monitoring of the rights situation of women in occupied Gali
  • in cooperation with Georgian and Abkhazian civil society, plan and implement awareness-raising campaigns to combat all forms of discrimination against women.