The case of Vitali Karbaia: Another institutional proof of ethnic discrimination in occupied Abkhazia

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The Gali de facto district court released a police officer, who was involved in the murder of 44-year-old Vitali (Temur) Karbaia, a resident of the village of Tsarche, Gali district. This case is another institutional proof of ethnic discrimination in occupied Abkhazia.

Vitali Karbaia died on December 9, 2023 from injuries sustained as a result of a severe beating by employees of the Gali de facto militia unit. On December 6, 2023, he was severely beaten by the Gali de facto militia after he tried to defend his position. After being hospitilised, Vitali Karbaia was diagnosed with broken ribs, bleeding and concussion. Later, he was taken to the Sokhumi Republican Hospital in an unconscious state. The date of his death is December 9. 

Initially, the Gali de facto militia and the de facto ministry of internal affairs of Abkhazia named the detainee’s health condition and his alcohol intoxication during the arrest as the cause of death. According to the official information received from the de facto ministry of internal affairs of Abkhazia, "Karbaia addressed the police officers with obscene words and did not react to their remarks. After the inspection and identification, Karbaia was transferred to the Gali temporary detention center, where he tried to inflict injuries on his body, after which he was transferred to the district hospital for medical intervention."

The initial version of Karbaia's death as a result of self-inflicted injuries caused a lot of noise in the public. As a result of the efforts of the close relatives of Karbaia’s family and pressure of the population, the ministry of internal affairs of Abkhazia was forced to launch an investigation against the militiamen involved in the arrest of Karbaia, which was facilitated by the timely intervention of the de facto public defender of Abkhazia, Anas Kishmaria, who applied to the de facto prosecutor's office and the ministry of internal affairs regarding the Karbaia case. Later, the arrest of the militiamen involved in the case and their trial gave rise to hope for the restoration of justice, but in vain.

On May 28, 2024, the judge of the Gali district court ruled in a closed trial that the death of Temur Karbaia was not premeditated, but a result of negligent actions of the employees of the militia, and released the detained police officers, Albert Zarakua and Vianor Abshilava, from the courtroom. Those accused of murder will have to pay a fine of fifty thousand rubles (equivalent to one thousand six hundred GEL). They were also banned from holding public positions for one year. It is assumed that each arrested person paid a bribe of one hundred thousand rubles (about three thousand two hundred GEL) to the judge. The identity of the judge hearing the case is unknown to the Democracy Research Institute.

In addition, another person involved in the Karbaia case was arrested in Zugdidi in February - junior lieutenant Davit Kvekveskiri, a de facto police officer of the ministry of internal affairs of Abkhazia. According to the court's decision, Davit Kvekveskiri was arrested on the basis of Article 236 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, on the charge of illegal purchase, storage and possession of firearms. According to the de facto prosecutor's office of Abkhazia, Kvekveskiri has been declared a wanted person, and the criminal case materials have been separated as a separate case.

Ethnic Georgians in occupied Abkhazia are able to fight for their rights only with the help of their Abkhaz relatives. This is how the case of Albert Zarakua and Vianor Abshilava, employees of the de facto militia department of Gali, went back to the de facto court of Abkhazia, although without relevant results. The Georgians living in occupied Gali have a daily contact with the Abkhaz de facto administration or militia, which increases the mediator and protector role of Russia, especially against the background of the Georgian Government's passive policy, with no strategic vision, towards the occupied territories.