Two applications have been lodged with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against the Russian Federation over the death of Archil Tatunashvili, a thirty-five-year-old Georgian citizen, who died at the hands of the Russian-backed authorities in Tskhinvali.
In the first – interstate – application, submitted by the Ministry of Justice on August 21, Georgia claims the Russian Federation has been deliberately targeting the ethnic Georgian populations through its “continued occupation” of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions.
The authorities argue that “mass pressures, detentions, attacks and killings in and around the occupied territories” amounts to administrative practice, and that the Russian Federation, as the power exercising “effective control,” is responsible for such practice.
The Ministry of Justice also says that the administrative practice against ethnic Georgians has particularly intensified in the aftermath of the Russo-Georgian war in 2008 and “reached its critical level with the torture and killing of Archil Tatunashvili.”
The country claims violation of several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, including right to life; prohibition of torture; right to liberty and security; right to respect for private and family life; right to an effective remedy; protection of property right to education; freedom of movement; prohibition of discrimination; limitation on use of restrictions on rights.
The second – individual – ECHR complaint was filed on August 22 by the Empathy Center, a Tbilisi-based watchdog, which represents the interests of Archil Tatunashvili’s family.
At a press briefing today, Mariam Jishkariani, director of the Empathy Center, said the applicants claim violation of five articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, including right to life; prohibition of torture; right to liberty and security; right to respect for private and family life; and right to an effective remedy.
She also explained that the application was submitted together with the results of a multi-disciplinary forensic examination carried out by the Empathy Center in line with international standards, including the Istanbul and the Minnesota protocols.
Jishkariani said the examination showed that Tatunashvili was tortured “using various means of torture.” “He was brutally and repeatedly beaten with police batons in various areas of his body, including his head and sexual organs,” she noted, adding that the man was tied in the process.
She also stressed the underlying cause of Tatunashvili’s death was torture, defying the version of Tskhinvali authorities that the man died of heart failure.
“Although Tatunashvili’s internal organs have not been transferred [to Tbilisi], we have concluded using the Minnesota Protocol that what initiated the train of morbid events leading to death was torture, followed by traumatic neurogenic shock which then lead to cardiac arrest and eventual death,” Jishkariani said, adding that the man would have survived had there been timely medical assistance provided.
A day later, Tskhinvali authorities reported that during his transfer to a detention cell after being questioned, Tatunashvili fought back and “sustained injuries, was knocked down and rolled down the stairs,” after which he was taken to hospital, where he died of heart failure. Tatunashvili’s body was transferred to the Georgian side a month later, but without internal organs, rendering it difficult to determine the exact cause of his death. He was laid to rest at Mukhatgverdi military cemetery with full honors.