The Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC) responds to the fact of wounding Temirlan Machalikashvili during the special operation conducted on the 26th of December, 2017 in Pankisi Gorge and calls on the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia to start comprehensive, effective and independent investigation of the alleged abuse of official authority by the members of the special purpose forces.
EMC, together with other private lawyers, will represent interests of a victim for the purposes of investigation on the fact of alleged abuse of authority against Temirlan Machalikashvili by the members of the special purpose forces.
On December 26, 2017, at around 04:00, employees of Counterterrorist Center of the State Security Service held special operations in several villages of Pankisi Gorge, as a result of which four persons were detained and Temirlan Machalikashvili, resident of Duisi village was heavily wounded by the members of the special purpose forces. According to the statement released by the State Security Service, 19-year old Temirlan Machalikashvili tried to resist the detention process and activate a grenade. This is when the members of the special purpose forces fired at him and wounded him in a head area. Members of Machalikashvili’s family, who witnessed the case, do not share the given version spread by the State Security Service. They note that the members of the special purpose forces fired at their son instantly, right after entering the room, when he was lying in a bed. Photo and video material taken at the place of the accident confirm that the bullet had passed through the head area of the bed, as well as through the back wall. It also confirms pillow and bed sheets covered in blood. According to the family members, the wounded did not have any firearms of grenades. They also note that for about 3-4 hours after the fire, they were not allowed to enter their son’s room and the full control over the situation was taken by the employees of the State Security Service (SSS); because of this, it is important that an independent expert is given an opportunity to confirm the presence of Machalikashvili’s DNA on the grenade. Family members also refer to the problem of a delayed (for about 1,5 hours) transportation of Temirlan Machalikashvili to the medical facility.
According to the information released by the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia, investigation has started on the fact of alleged abuse of authority by the members of the special purpose forces under the article 333, part 3, subparagraph ‘b’ of the Criminal Code of Georgia (abuse of authority by the civil servant or a person equal to him via violence or usage of weapons). Machalikashvili has not yet been granted status of a victim.
In parallel to the case of the alleged abuse of authority, the State Security Service is conducting an investigation of the alleged offence under the article 3311 of the Criminal Code of Georgia against persons detained on December 16th, 2017. During case proceedings, the SSS is actively releasing statements and video material trying to portray Machalikashvili as a supporter of terrorist activities and weaken public discontent with regards to his case as well as public solidarity expressed towards him. More specifically, on the 4th of January , 2018, the State Security Service published a video material showing Temur Machalikashvili together with Sh. Boriziev and A. Sastankhmadov – both detained and liquidated on November 21-22, during the special operation carried out on Beri Salosi ave. in Tbilisi. On the basis of this specific video material, as well as based on the bank information discovered in the apartment on Beri Salosi street, supposedly belonging to Machalikashvili, the investigative body, in its statement, speaks about Machalikashvili’s connection with Akhmed Chataev and other persons and also about alleged offense under the article 331 of the Criminal Code conducted by Machalikashvili.
It should be noted that this form of proving Machalikashvili’s guilt is particularly problematic due to several legal and factual circumstances: 1. In the first instance, it should be noted that Temirlan Machalikashvili does not have any procedural status on the case under the article 3311 of the Criminal Code – he has not been officially detained or accused, not allowing him/defenders of his interests to take control over the investigation and obtain evidence within the reasonable time. Consequently, in given conditions, defenders of Machalikashvili do not have any formal base to criticize accusations publicly presented against Machalikashvili or to self-defend and this puts accused and defense sides in unequal conditions from the outset; 2. Offence considered under the article 331 1 of the criminal code of Georgia is deemed to be committed in case the person is aware of assisting a terrorist organization or a person assumed to be a terrorist. The published video material does not clearly confirm the fact of supporting terrorism by Temirlan Machalikashvili. Furthermore, information spread in the media indicates that Boriziev and Saltankhmadov, people of Chechen nationality, shown in the video, had been living in Georgia, including the Pankisi Gorge, earlier as well, for about 2 years and, thus, a large circle of people would have had a communication with them. Besides, if mentioned people were/should have been identified with a terrorist organization, this was primarily a responsibility of the law enforcement agencies. 3. Additional evidence is needed for the information spread by the State Security Service on the discovery of Machalikashvili’s bank information in the apartment on Beri Salosi ave. Also, more solid evidence is needed for the note of State Security Service on discovering money in Machalikashvilis house, as, according to his family, this money was sent buy their daughter, residing in Germany with a purpose of purchasing a house. In general, leaving Machalikashvili’s without a procedural status as well as publishing the video material by the State Security Service, indicates to the investigative body’s interests to use insufficient standard of proof when speaking about Machalikashvili’s guilt and, in this way, to cover the public criticism towards demonstrative, violent and large-scale special operation in Pankisi Gorge and towards the alleged fact of using apparently disproportionate force towards Machalikashvili.
Deriving from all the afore-mentioned, EMC calls on the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia and the State Security Service to:
- Ensure conducting an effective and non-formal investigation into the fact of wounding Machalikashvili, fully satisfying standards of throughout, comprehensive and objective investigation. For this purpose, legitimacy and proportionality of applying lethal force towards Machalikashvili , as well as a delayed medical service provided for him, should fully be investigated; perpetrators should be identified and punished accordingly;
- Ensure timely manner of obtaining evidence and setting procedural approach for the case of alleged abuse of authority, including detailed scrutiny of the scene, surveying relevant people and conducting necessary expertise;
- In accordance to the article 56 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Georgia, ensure granting status of victim to Temirlan Machalikashvili in a timely manner, enabling us to monitor and actively engage in the ongoing investigation process. In addition, considering high public interest towards the case, regularly publish information about the progress of the investigation;
- Keep the presumption of innocence of Temiraln Machalikashvili and fully equip him with relevant procedural rights during the case proceedings under the article 331 1 of the Criminal Code and well as during the public communication.