Human Rights House Foundation

Georgia

Image: Civil activist and journalist persecuted by the South Ossetia’s de-facto authority

Civil activist and journalist persecuted by the South Ossetia’s de-facto authority

On August 16, in Akhalgori, de-facto law enforcement officers of South Ossetia detained and have brought defamation charges against the Georgian activist and independent journalist Tamar Mearakishvili. Akhalgori municipality is located in Eastern Georgia and has been occupied by Russian armed forces in 2008, after Russian-Georgian armed conflict.

Wednesday, 06 September 2017

Image: Civil activist and journalist persecuted by the South Ossetia’s de-facto authorityTamar Mearakishvili“De-facto administration of South Ossetia wants to neutralize “problematic” persons. For that purpose, based on different motives, they commence criminal cases against unacceptable persons and try to force them to leave Akhalgori,” civil activist from Akhalgori, Tamar Mearakishvili reported. The activist openly reported about the problems in the region and this became reason of her perescution by the occupation regime.

On August 16, 2017 investigator of the de-facto prosecutor’s office of South Ossetia stopped Tamar Mearakishvili near her house in Akhalgori and took her to the prosecutor’s office without any explanations. In parallel to that, officers of the de-facto prosecutor’s office were searching Mearakishvilis house. As her family members were told, they were looking for “extremist literature.” As a result of the search, the law enforcement officers took computers, documents and Tamar Mearakishvili’s personal cell phone from the house. It is noteworthy, that before the above  detention, Tamar had been summoned to the Prosecutor’s office six times. According to Tamar, during the interrogation the investigators verbally insulted her.

After the hours-long interrogation, the Akhalgori civil activist was released from Tskhinvali de-facto prosecutor’s office. She was charged for defaming the ruling political party of South Ossetia’s de-facto republic – “United Osetia”. The charge was based on the article published in the newspaper “Ekho Kavkaza”, where Tamar Mearakishvili made comments about the illegal dismissal of the public servants in Akhalgori municipality, as well as harassment of doctors in local hospitals by ruling party representatives, where they also request free medical supplies, without doctor’s prescription. 

A short time before, on June 8, Tamar Mearakishvili was kidnapped from Akhalgori to Tskhinvali for the purpose of interrogation or intimidation. Dissemination of the information via social network and reaction of the international society had positive result. She was brought back home in Akhalgori on the same day.

In Tbilisi society evaluates the fact as persecution of the civil activist and attempt to expel her from the occupied region. Public Defender of Georgia evaluated the arrest of Tamar Mearakishvili as the illegal restriction of her freedom, oppression on the civil activist and restriction of freedom of expression. “This detention should also be assessed as a compulsion to leave Akhalgori permanently. It's worrying that pressure on civil activists and non-governmental organizations has acquired a regular character in the so-called South Ossetian region. The Public Defender calls on the de facto authorities to immediately release Tamar Mearakishvili. He also calls on the Government of Georgia to take all measures for the protection of the safety of Tamar Mearakishvili and her release.”

NGOs, including the HRHT member organizations Human Rights Center and the Article 42 of the Constitution, echoed the detention of the Georgian activist in Akhalgori and disseminated the statement which reads that “Detention and continuous harassment of T. Mearakhishvili during different periods based on political and different opinion, as well as ethnic identity, allegedly entail indications of persecution. Repressive means used against the activist have to be connected with the interest of intimidating her, creating obstacles for her journalistic activities and forcing her to leave the territory of Akhalgori.  Clearly, these efforts of harassment do have “chilling effect” affecting other activists, journalists or all ethnic Georgians living in that region.

For ensuring freedom and security of T. Mearakhishvili, timely and effective intervention of the Georgian Government and international organizations is crucial.

We call on the Georgian Government to use all available diplomatic and legal mechanisms, among others, negotiating formats, and resources of international organizations for ensuring security and protecting human rights of T. Mearakhishvili and her family members.”

HRHT Chairperson of the board, Nikoloz Legashvili, evaluated the fact as the purposeful policy of Russia: “Life is difficult in the de-facto South Ossetia for the people, who do not avoid expressing their opinions loudly and Tamar Mearakishvili is punished for these activities. After the military occupation of 2008, Akhalgori district has been under the control of the Russian Federation and in accordance to the international human rights law, this state is responsible for all human rights issues in that territory. However, regardless that, the Georgian state also bears positive responsibility to protect human rights within its jurisdiction. The Georgian side shall use all possible instruments, attract all diplomatic and international sources to defend the human rights and basic freedoms of the Georgian citizens.”

International communities also reacted to the detention of the civil activist in Akhalgori. In its public statement of August 21, “Amnesty International” wrote:  “The de facto authorities in Georgia’s disputed region of South Ossetia shortly detained and have brought defamation charges against a critical social media blogger in a move that constitutes a blatant violation of freedom of expression.”

Human Rights House Tbilisi and its member organizations are deeply concerned with the persecution and oppression on the Georgian activist, which is connected with her activism and journalistic activities and call on the Government of Georgia and international organizations to use all legal and diplomatic mechanisms to ensure safety and protected human rights of Tamar Mearakishvili and her family members. 

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