Irakli Toidze, a forensic expert at the Tbilisi-based Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture – Empathy, says a 29-year-old Georgian national Irakli Kvaratskhelia, who died under unclear circumstances in Abkhazia, had marks of strangulation and a number of bruises around the body.
Toidze, who attended the preliminary examination at the National Forensics Bureau on behalf of the Center, told the media outlets on March 15 that Kvaratskhelia’s body had a strangulation cut in the neck area, which – in his words – “is characteristic to hanging by a rope- or wire-like cord.”
The expert also said there were hemorrhages in the neck area, on the right shoulder and on the left elbow, which he claims could have developed “shortly before” Kvaratskhelia’s death.
“Determining the [exact] origin of these injuries was difficult as the body was already in the state of decomposition, so tissue samples were collected and sent to a forensic lab for further examination, which will establish whether they have developed before or after death,” he noted.
No bone fractures were recorded, according to Toidze. He also said there were no signs of use of electric shock weapon (Taser-type) on Kvaratskhelia’s body – a version proposed by some media outlets in Georgia.
Asked whether the evidence pointed at the likelihood of death by suicide, Toidze said the probable cause of death would be determined after full forensic examination, which will be available tentatively in a month.
At a press briefing on March 15, Mariam Jishkariani, director of the Empathy Center, said Kvaratskhelia’s death “in all likelihood,” was a result of inhuman treatment during his detention at the Russian base in Abkhazia.
“Regardless of whether this was a suicide or not, the fact of death followed either psychological or physical pressure; therefore, in terms of international law, this amounts to violation of the United Nations Convention against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights,” she noted.
“So, if Russian authorities fail to conduct investigation and fail to identify perpetrators, we will lodge a complaint against the Russian Federation to the European Court of Human Rights,” Jishkariani added.
She also said, to determine the exact manner and cause of death, the Empathy Center will carry out a multi-disciplinary analysis in line with international standards, including the Istanbul and the Minnesota protocols.
The Georgian authorities, media and public remain highly skeptical of this version of events. A suspicion is largely driven by past incidents involving the death of Archil Tatunashvili in Tskhinvali custody as well as Giga Otkhozoria at the occupation line near Abkhazia. In both cases, suspects were not brought to justice.
There were also several reports from Kvaratskhelia’s acquaintances and local residents that his death could have resulted from beatings after an altercation with Russian troops. Kvaratskhelia’s family shares the version as well, saying the injuries at his body point at the likelihood that he was tortured to death.
The body of Irakli Kvaratskhelia was handed over to the Georgian authorities on March 13. He was buried in Senaki Municipality in western Georgia.