The messenger logo

The News in Brief

Monday, November 20
CoEHuman Rights Commissioner Wants Verbal Attacks on Georgia’s Public Defender to Stop

(TBILISI) -- The Human Rights Commissioner for the Council of Europe, Nils Muiznieks, condemned the recent verbal attacks by Georgia’s justice minister Tea Tsulukiani against public defender Ucha Nanuashvili after the latter released a report criticizing the government’s handing of a high profile attempted murder case that involved members of the powerful Georgian Orthodox clergy.

“I understand that a series of negative statements have been made by certain high-ranking officials in Georgia against the Public Defender. I am very concerned about the harm that such sustained verbal attacks can cause to the standing and effectiveness of this important institution. Like all Ombudsmen, the role of the Public Defender is to act in defense of human rights, be a check on government power and to help improve the quality of governance…their role is to independently identify all possible shortcomings in the law and issue reports and recommendations,” said Muiznieks. He later added “For I consider verbal attacks on the institution of the Public Defender unacceptable. I strongly urge all participants of the public debate in Georgia to demonstrate responsibility and to refrain from making any statements that could damage the reputation of the Public Defender or the Office, or have a negative impact on the public perception of their activities.”

In comments late last week, Tsulukiani labelled the ombudsman “unjust” and “incompetent”.

Three Deputy Interior Ministers Appointed

(TBILISI) – Newly appointed Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia on November 16 named three Deputy Ministers to serve in his administration.

The former Deputy Head of the Counter Terrorist Center of the State Security Service,

Kakhaber Sabanadze, was appointed First Deputy Interior Minister, as was Nino Javakhadze, who served as the Deputy Economy Minister under Gakharia.

According to the interior ministry, Javakhadze will be supervising the Ministry’s international relations, reforms, strategic communications and public relations activities. She will also be in charge of overseeing the work of the Interior Ministry’s Academy.

Gakharia retained Merab Malania as his only Deputy Interior Minister. Malania, who was appointed to the post in 2016, will be in charge of supervising the Special Tasks Department, the Strategic Pipelines Protection Department, the Migration Department, as well as the Emergency Situations Management Agency.

Gakharia became Interior Minister on November 13 as part of Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili’s recently announced structural and staff changes to the cabinet.

Memorial Dedicated to Abkhaz War to be Restored in Scottish Town

(KILMARNOCK, UK) -- A controversial memorial stone in Scotland and dedicated to victims of the1992-93 Georgian-Abkhaz will be restored, Tbilisi’s Deputy Foreign Minister David Dondua said late last week.

Located in the town of Kilmarnock was recently taken down after a complaint from Georgia’s ambassador to the UK because it was decorated with the green, red and white rebel flag of the pro-Russian breakaway republic of Abkhazia.

The stone will be placed in the same location, Dondua said Thursday, presumably without the secessionist flag that symbolizes the breakaway region (pictured right).

Dondua added that Tbilisi never demanded that Kilmarnock’s authorities take down the memorial.

“Nobody meant for it to be demolished or dismantled,” Dondua said. “We simply pointed out to the local authorities [in Kilmarnock] that the memorial contains politicized symbols and does not correspond to the policy of the UK with respect to the territorial integrity of Georgia. In view of this, the local authorities promised to bring everything in line. As a result, the memorial was temporarily dismantled and will be restored to its place once its changed.”

Tamar Beruchashvili, Georgia’s ambassador to the UK, said she became aware of the monument through the internet and persuaded Scottish authorities to look into the issue during her visit to Scotland in October.

“They fully accepted the information provided and agreed with the approach by the British state regarding Georgia’s territorial integrity. The local council decided to dismantle the monument a few days ago,” Beruchashvili said.

The removal of the monument sparked outrage in Abkhazia, where rebel authorities released an angry statement on November 10.

“The Republic of Abkhazia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs regards such barbaric moves by the Georgian leadership as another vivid confirmation of the aggressive and inhumane character of Georgia’s policy towards Abkhazia and its people. We regard this as an act of vandalism aimed at destroying the historical memory of the Abkhaz people, against whom Georgia committed ethnic cleansing and genocide,” the statement reads.

Although the separatist government referred to the monument as “dedicated to Abkhaz warriors”, the text on it does not contain a reference to ethnicity and in not seen as anti-Georgian from Tbilisi’s perspective. The only problem is the separatist flag toward the top of the memorial stone.

“In memory of those from our twin town of Sukhumi who died in the Abkhazian/Georgian conflict 1992-1993,” the text on the monument reads.

Nearly 60,000 people were killed or wounded during the bloody 14-month war between Georgian government troops and Russian-backed separatists in Abkhazia. War crimes were committed by both sides during the war, including massacres and forced deportations. After Georgian forces were defeated by Abkhaz rebels and regular Russian military units in September 1993, more than a quarter of a million ethnic Georgians were ethnically cleansed from the region