We call on the government to apply effective measures to secure the release of Zaza Gakheladze
NGOs call on the Georgian authorities to step up their political and diplomatic efforts to secure the release of Zaza Gakheladze, detained in Tskhinvali, and to develop a more effective human rights policy in the occupied territories.

A Georgian citizen Zaza Gakheladze has been detained in occupied Tskhinvali for almost a year. The detention of Zaza Gakheladze in Tskhinvali for crossing the so-called border is the longest and most continuous case of illegal violation of the freedom of our citizens and creates an alarming experience. The Georgian government has so far failed to enable Zaza Gakheladze's release despite his long incarceration and many public pledges.

On July 11, 2020, Russian forces apprehended Zaza Gakheladze as he was out in the woods for agricultural purposes near the historic Skhvilo Fortress in his village in Kaspi Municipality. During the arrest, Zaza Gakheladze was shot in the leg. The de facto prosecutor's office accused Gakheladze of crossing the border illegally and assaulting troops with a hunting shotgun to take their life. The de facto Supreme Court of South Ossetia sentenced him to 12 years and 6 months in prison. Despite the military's testimony that Zaza Gakheladze did not fire shots at them, the Tskhinvali court gave him the harshest penalty possible. It's worth noting that this is the most severe penalty the de facto regime has invoked throughout the many years of unlawful incarceration of our citizens.

The increased threats of human rights violations in Tskhinvali isolators and penitentiaries add to Zaza Gakheladze's family and the public's concerns over his illegal incarceration. Inal Jabiev, a defendant in a separate case, was reportedly beaten to death at a pre-trial detention center in Tskhinvali in August 2020, and his family has yet to obtain a fair trial. The cases of Davit Basharuli and Archil Tatunashvili's deprivation of life, which occurred under the effective control of the Tskhinvali de-facto law enforcement authorities, should also be noted here.

Although the Georgian authorities have been claiming for over a year that they will utilize all international diplomatic instruments to free Zaza Gakheladze, it is apparent that these procedures do not allow for the release of an illegal prisoner and his transfer to Georgian-controlled territory.

Even though family members were allowed to see the imprisoned Zaza Gakheladze with the assistance of the Red Cross a few months ago, their worries, helplessness, and despair only increase. In the coming days, they plan to organize a peaceful protest.

It is clear that the steps taken by the government in international formats and bilateral negotiations are insufficient to resolve the issue of Zaza Gakheladze's release. In light of the ongoing negotiations, the government has not appealed to international judicial mechanisms (such as the European Court of Human Rights) to protect the interests of Zaza Gakheladze's family.

We are aware of the difficulties in protecting human rights for the Georgian state in the territory of South Ossetia during the occupation. However, despite the lack of real control over a particular territory, our state has an obligation to take all possible political, diplomatic, administrative, and legal actions, both for the people living in the region in general and for the victims of specific rights violations.

Unfortunately, human rights policy in conflict regions is not effectively institutionalized and developed in our country. Despite many years of conflict experience, we still lack international mechanisms in the conflict regions that will be effective tools for monitoring, responding to, and preventing human rights violations. Human rights policy does not adequately address the resources for communicating and negotiating with de-facto governments, which would be in the format of regular dialogue and cover human rights, security, and humanitarian issues.

Given the above, CSOs call on the Georgian authorities to:
  • Strengthen the use of diplomatic, political, and legal mechanisms to facilitate the timely release of Zaza Gakheladze;
  • Establish lines of communication with the de-facto regime of Tskhinvali to guarantee the inviolability of Zaza Gakheladze's life and health and his timely release;
  • Based on best practices and expertise in this field, develop effective human rights policies in conflict regions.
Signatory organizations:
  • Social Justice Center (formerly EMC)
  • Rights Georgia
  • Georgian Young Lawyers Association
  • Institute for Democracy Research (DRI)
  • Human Rights Center
  • Open Society Foundation
  • Association "Consent"