Seven Georgian Civil Society Organizations, including Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC), Democracy Research Institute and Tolerance and Diversity Institute issued a joint statement on October 12, calling on the Government of Georgia, international organizations and diplomatic missions to protect and facilitate the transfer of Irakli Bebua – an ethnic Georgian Gali resident detained in Abkhazia after setting fire on a decorative banner in Abkhaz flag colors on September 30 to the Tbilisi-controlled territory.
In the statement, the CSOs called on the Council of Europe Commissionaire for Human Rights, the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, EU Special representative for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia, among others, to use all of the tools at their disposal to protect Bebua’s rights, security and life.
Noting that “inhuman and cruel treatment during detention are characteristic of the occupied regimes,” the CSOs said Bebua’s detention is “particularly alarming” given the political context and sensitivity of his case with the incident causing social media frenzy and calls for his severe punishment among the Abkhaz.
The CSOs underscored that prisoners in Abkhazia are “deprived of basic rights and adequate living conditions” and added that Bebua’s health condition is rather weak due to chronic diseases, placing his life and security under increased risk.
Georgian civil society outfits also recalled that Bebua, an IDP from Abkhazia since 1993 conflict, returned to Gali in 2016 to take care of his grandmother. Since then, Bebua has been unable to leave Abkhazia to Georgia proper due to lacking Abkhaz-imposed documentation, that made him unable to seek treatment for his own chronic diseases.
Abkhaz media reported on October that Bebua was sentenced to 30 days-long pretrial detention. Abkhaz police are leading investigation against him on charges of damage to someone else’s property, desecration of state symbols, and illegal storage of ammunition, envisaging penalties with imprisonment for a term of four to eight years, a prison term of up to two years, and imprisonment for a term of two to five years, respectively.
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