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To strengthen patrolling near occupation lines

By Messenger Staff
Monday, September 26
Georgia’s Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili stresses the importance of strengthening patrolling on the parts of the villages along the dividing line that are beyond the area of the Georgian checkpoints (the villages of Khurcha and Tskou in west Georgia, near de-facto Abkhazia), especially close to the dividing line, where population “is at increased risk”.

Last week, the Public Defender presented a special report to local non-governmental and international organizations in the city of Zugdidi, in western Georgia, about the socio-economic and security situations of people living along the dividing line between Samegrelo and Abkhazia, and reviewed the human rights situation of the population of the villages of Khurcha, Pakhulani and Tskou.

The Ombudsman said the village of Khurcha of the Zugdidi municipality borders the village of Nabakevi of the Gali district, the central area in de-facto Abkhazia.

“The village has been directly affected by violent conflicts several times. Khurcha is the only village on the other side of the Enguri River, which is controlled by Georgia. The Georgian police checkpoint is located at the entrance of the village and this creates safety problems for the rural population,” Nanuashvili said.

“A clear example of this was the murder of a young Georgian citizen at the Khurcha-Nabakevi checkpoint on May 19,,” Ombudsman said.

Nanuashvili said unlawful arrests on charges of "illegal border crossing" by the Russian occupants are frequent in the village of Khurcha, as well as other villages along the dividing line.

“Residents of Khurcha and Gali, including school children, have been amongst the detainees over the years,” Nanuashvili said.

The Ombudsman appealed to Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs to strengthen patrols around the villages along the dividing line.

The need for strengthening security along the border was never more apparent than earlier this year, when 31-year-old Georgian citizen Giga Otkhozoria was killed by Russian-controlled Abkhazian border guards. Otkhorozia was shot six times on territory currently controlled by Georgia in the village of Khurcha.

Otkhozoria was running and shouting for help according to local witnesses, but no one was able to help him.

If there has been a checkpoint or other official body, the guard might have hesitated to chase Otkhozoria.

One of the reasons why the authorities may refrain from additional security in the area is the possibility of escalating the situation, which is prudent to a degree but does little to help those ever at risk of kidnaping or death.