“The United States is deeply concerned by the death of a Georgian citizen, Archil Tatunashvili, during his February 22nd arrest and detention in the Russian-occupied Georgian territory of South Ossetia,” State Department’s Spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a press briefing on February 27.
“The United States is also deeply concerned by the arrest of other Georgian citizens, Levan Kutashvili and Ioseb Pavliashvili, and call for them to be allowed to return freely across the administrative boundary line,” the Spokesperson also noted.
Nauert reiterated the U.S. Embassy’s earlier calls for “a full accounting of circumstances of the tragic incident,” and encouraged “all sides to agree on additional measures to strengthen mutual confidence and transparency in the affected region.”
.@statedeptspox: US is concerned by the death of Georgian citizen Archil Tatunashvili during his Feb. 22 arrest & detention in the Russian-occupied Georgian territory of South Ossetia. US is also concerned by the arrest of Georgian citizens Levan Kutashvili & Ioseb Pavliashvili. pic.twitter.com/CcWDXFJLpc— Department of State (@StateDept) February 27, 2018
Archil Tatunashvili, a thirty-five-year old native of Akhalgori Municipality in Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, was detained in Akhalgori town by the region’s Russian-backed authorities on February 22. He was then taken to Tskhinvali, where he died, with local authorities claiming he had resisted the guards and “rolled down the stairs.” Tatunashvili’s family denies the version, saying he was tortured and killed by the Tskhinvali security forces.
Archil Tatunashvili’s family members, who live in Tsilkani settlement of internally displaced persons from Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, have been requesting the transfer of his body to the Tbilisi-administered territory, but Tskhinvali representatives have rejected the request, saying the body would not be released to the family until an “independent examination” of Tskhinvali autopsy’s materials was conducted in Russia.
Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria, who claims Tatunashvili was already dead when he was taken to hospital, said the delay was intentional “so that examination [in Georgia proper] is unable to determine cause of death.”
Archil Tatunashvili’s death was condemned by Tbilisi and the international community, including the European Union, Lithuania, the United States Embassy in Georgia, the United Kingdom, Latvia, Estonia, Germany, CoE Congress President, PACE Rapporteurs for Georgia, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the human rights committee chair at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.