UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, who met with the Abkhaz leadership on February 27, said it would not be helpful to speculate on the circumstances surrounding the arrest of a Georgian journalist and two other people.
Arbour said that the detainees had been visited by Sokhumi-based UN human rights officers and the UN observers’ local human rights office was following the situation. She also said that she had no information when the three would be released.
“Frankly, I think, it is not particularly helpful to speculate about the circumstances of this particular case. I think what is helpful is that there is human rights office engagement on the issue and it will be followed and I think it is prudent to wait until we know what the facts are before drawing conclusions,” she said at a news conference in Tbilisi on Wednesday evening, following her return from Sokhumi.
When asked for her opinion on the arrest of the journalist, she replied: “I do not have any opinion about the circumstances surrounding the arrest of the journalist, because I do not form an opinion until I have facts; I do not have the facts.”
A Tbilisi-based Mze TV journalist and two others were arrested and charged with “illegally crossing the Abkhaz border” on February 26. Georgian Public Defender Sozar Subari said on February 26 that he had asked Arbour to raise the issue during her talks with the Abkhaz authorities in Sokhumi.
Robert Watkins, UNDP Resident Representative in Georgia, told journalists after the UN Commissioner’s news conference that the purpose of Arbour’s visit was to get an overall sense of the human rights situation in Georgia and “not to investigate individual cases.”
The UN human rights chief said she had told the Abkhaz leadership that it was important to work towards “sustainable and rights-based solutions for IDPs, including the protection of property rights.”
“I also think that it is really critical that education be provided in mother tongue and it is critical for all the local residents of the Abkhazia region to be able to exercise their rights of freedom of movement,” she added.