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4 years after the murder of Giga Otkhozoria

By Khatia Bzhalava
Thursday, May 21
Citizen of Georgia, Giga Otkhozoria in exile from the region of Gali was killed in the neighboring municipality (Zugdidi) of occupied Abkhazia on May 19th 2016 by Rashid Kanji-Ogli, an Abkhaz border guard. After the murder, The military prosecution of de-facto Abkhazia commenced an investigation, which was promptly terminated due to the absence of evidence. Kanji-ogli has been sentenced in absentia to 14-year imprisonment and is declared as internationally wanted by Georgian Court. The location of Kanji-ogli remains unknown for this day, However, some sources claim that he has been put up by Russia. The Georgian side has been demanding handing over of the accused from the Abkhazian side in vain. Neither of Kanji-ogli’s companion border guards has been brought to justice by the de-facto authorities.

Otkhozoria was trying to transport food into the breakaway region for a funeral ceremony of his late aunt on May 19th, 2016. Locals said the border guards demanded bribes from Otkhozoria in exchange for transporting the goods, which caused a dispute. Otkhozoria ran away from the border guards but was shot as he retreated.

Otkhozoria, father of two, was shot six times and died soon after he had been rushed to the hospital.

On May 19th 2020, on the day of 4th year death anniversary, Georgian Young Lawyers Association(GYLA) published a statement, laying all the responsibility of the murder and improper investigation on the Russian federation since “Russia is exercising effective control over Abkhazia.”

As the statement notes, the case is presidential, since the court will have to consider whether the Russian Federation exercises effective control over Abkhazia and what responsibility is imposed on it for the actions of the de-facto authorities in Abkhazia. Successful completion of the case also has significant value for Otkhozoria’s family members for restoring justice and their violated rights.

“The case of Otkhozoria – a violation of the right to life is being considered by the European Court of Human Rights. GYLA and EHRAC represent the interests of Otkhozoria’s family members. The internal communication between the parties in the European Court has already ended and the announcement of the judgment is pending,” reads the statement.

According to GYLA, the case of Otkhozoria clearly represents an alarming human rights situation in the territories of occupied Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region and surrounding villages along the occupation line.

The complaint with regard to the case was submitted to the European court in January 2018. Prior to that, human rights defending organisations had applied to Russian Federation and the de-facto republic of Abkhazia to investigate the case, numerous times, However, as GYLA states, Russia avoided the responsibility by saying that Abkhazia is an independent state and the de-facto republic of Abkhazia did not even respond at all.

Georgian opposition party European Georgia shares their approach to the case and states, that apart from the individuals committing murder, the occupation regime and Russian Federation are also responsible for the crime since they have been concealing the offenders and hindering the execution of justice.

European Georgia accuses the Georgian government of ineffectiveness and remarks that they do nothing to punish the murderer as well as his accomplices and guardians even though their identities are known.

The Minister of Reconciliation and Civic Equality, Ketevan Tsikhelashvili stated that the government would not tolerate the impunity of the offenders. As she said the case of Otkhozoria is one of the main priorities in the agenda.