To the Government of Georgia
To the UN High Commissionaire for Human Rights To the Council of Europe Commissionaire for Human Rights To the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe
To EU Special Representative for Human Rights To EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia To the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
To the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) To the, All Diplomatic Missions accredited in Georgia
The public organizations in Georgia call the Government of Georgia and relevant agencies, as well as the International Organizations and Diplomatic Missions to take all necessary measures under their respective mandates to protect illegally detained Irakli Bebua’s security, life, and rights in occupied Abkhazia and facilitate the process of his transfer to the controlled territory of Georgia.
As you know, Irakli Bebua, a citizen of Georgia was detained on the 30th of September in the Gali region, 1 on the fact of burning Abkhazian flag in front of the Culture House. In the video recording, where Irakli Bebua is allegedly being interrogated by the Abkhazian de facto authorities, himself confirms the burning of the flag, but also points out that he has nothing against Abkhazians, he supports friendly relationship of these two peoples and he symbolically burned the flag as a sign of protest against their division.
On September 30, Irakli Bebua was detained by the Abkhazian de facto law enforcement authorities. On the same day, during the search at Irakli Bebua’s house, the de-facto militia found a grenade and claimed that they found it under the pillow.
The de facto law enforcement authorities of occupied Abkhazia accuse Bebua under several articles of the criminal code of de facto republic, including the insult to state symbols, punishable up to 1 year in prison, intentional damage or destruction to property in aggravating circumstances, punishable by 4 to 7 years in prison, and illegal possession of a weapon, punishable by 2 to 5 years imprisonment.
Irakli Bebua was sentenced with 30 days of imprisonment as a restrictive measure and he remains in Sokhumi custodial until now. The family has a restricted communication with Irakli Bebua and does not have reliable information on his treatment and state of health. The Treasury Attorney was probably appointed and the issue of his effective legal protection could also become problematic.
Irakli Bebua and his family are IDPs since the war of 1993. In 2016, Irakli returned to Gali to take care of his grandmother, but he could not come back to Tbilisi as he had not needed documents for the so-called border crossing. It is noteworthy, that his health condition is weak, he has chronic diseases and as he was locked down in Gali for 4 years, he could not take necessary treatment, which worsened his health conditions.
Illegal detention of Irakli Bebua is particularly alarming due to the political contexts and sensitivity of his case. The harsh comments were made in social networks, some of them request his severe punishment.
Illegal detentions and inhuman and cruel treatment during detention are characteristic of occupied regimes. In such conditions, we remember a number of dramatic cases, including the obscure death of Irakli Kvaratskhelia in the de facto penitentiary institution, the violations of the right to life in tragic cases of Giga Otkhozoria, Archil Tatunashvili, David Basharuli, and others.
The situation in Abkhazian prisons and the inadequate conditions of prisoners, who are deprived of basic rights and adequate living conditions in penitentiary institutions, are problematic. The hard and scarce prison conditions contain the high risks of spreading severe diseases and cannot create minimum guarantees for the protection and respect of privacy.2
The restriction of legal mechanisms in the context of occupation creates the feeling of impunity and inactivity. Therefore, the engagement of international actors with their political instruments has particular importance.
Taking into account the context of Irakli Bebua case and its related risks, we address and call for:
The government of Georgia:
to use formal and informal formats of communication with Abkhazia de facto authorities and all diplomatic mechanisms for the release and transfer of Irakli Bebua;
to take relevant administrative and legal measures to protect Irakli Bebua’s security and rights before his transfer;
to take preventive political measures so that Irakli Bebua’s case was not another reason for the oppression of ethnic Georgians living in Gali.
The International Organizations and Diplomatic Missions:
to take respective political, diplomatic, and administrative measures to facilitate the protection of Irakli Bebua’s rights, security, and life.
more specifically, the international organizations acting on the territory of Abkhazia, facilitate communication of Irakli Bebua with his family, and examine and monitor his physical and mental health conditions.
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC) Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA)
Human Rights Center
Democracy Research Institute (DRI) Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)
Center for Peace and Civic development
(1 )Note: On 30th of October, Abkhaz Community and de-facto authorities celebrate their victory in war, while 27th of October is celebrated as a day of mourning and the fall of Sokhumi.
(2) Human Rights in Abkhazia Today Report by Thomas Hammarberg and Magdalena Grono, July 2017