A group of eighteen civil society organizations, united under the Coalition for Euro-Atlantic Georgia, issued a joint statement on March 2, expressing their concern over the death of a Georgian citizen, Archil Tatunashvili, who died at the hands of the Russian-backed Tskhinvali authorities following his detention on February 22.
Archil Tatunashvili, who was “illegally detained on fabricated charges,” according to the organizations, “was deprived of his fundamental rights, was subject to torture and inhuman treatment, and ultimately, deprived of his right to life.”
“We believe that the delay in handing over his body serves the purpose of obstructing the investigation, and confirms the existing doubts on Tatunashvili’s intentional murder,” the CSOs also noted, adding that the responsibility for the murder “lies with the Russian Federation as the power exercising effective control over the region.”
The organizations then urged the international community to “hold the Russian Federation accountable” for human rights violations in the occupied regions, and called on the Russian-backed Tskhinvali authorities to immediately hand over his body, and allow the two other detained Georgian citizens to cross to the Tbilisi-administered territory.
Our appeal to #internationalorganizations to use every leverage at their disposal to free the two #Georgian citizens and to the the Russian Federation to hand over the body of Archil #Tatunashvili and to release the two Georgian citizenshttps://t.co/L0tVVIKhiQ pic.twitter.com/JzTM0YypgY— ISFED (@isfed_official) March 1, 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.