Man, Displaced from Abkhazia, Jumps to Death in Protest

52-year-old Zurab Chichoshvili, displaced from Russian-occupied Abkhazia, jumped to his death yesterday, in protest of the dragged-out relocation of over 120 families from the run-down building of the former sanatorium “Kartli” in the capital city of Tbilisi, according to eyewitness accounts.

The internally displaced persons have demanded resettlement for years, with active protests sparking in December after a ceiling in one of the entrances of the Soviet-era former sanatorium collapsed.

Chichoshvili, himself a resident of the settlement, had according to his neighbors thought his death could have helped with the others’ relocation process.

The Interior Ministry confirmed to that it has launched an investigation under Article 115 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, involving incitement to commit suicide. 

In a press conference today, the newly appointed Minister of IDPs from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs, Zurab Azarashvili urged the public not to relate the man’s death to the problems of the IDPs and wait for the results of the probe.

“According to initial reports, this is an accident,” the Minister claimed.

In a statement released on January 16 after the incident, the Health Ministry expressed regret over the man’s death and pledged to “unconditionally” relocate the families to new housing in 2022. 

The Ministry highlighted that its IDPs, Ecomigrants, and Livelihood Agency had promised it would either purchase apartments selected by the families themselves or pay their rents elsewhere if they are willing to wait for construction works to conclude in apartments already bought by the state.

But the IDPs have concerns about the proposal. One of the residents of the former sanatorium doubted the agency’s commitment to rent subsidies, claiming other IDPs had their subsidies discontinued within two months and were forced to pay for housing themselves.

She also stressed that the agency is prepared to purchase flats that cost up to USD 550 per square meter, an amount she said makes it “almost impossible” to buy a proper house.

In response to the developments, the Public Defender’s Office on January 17 called on the Agency to take appropriate measures for increasing the IDPs’ confidence in the relocation process.

Particularly, the Public Defender stressed that Agency representatives should reassure the IDPs that their rent assistance will not be discontinued if they opt for temporary resettlement.

The Public Defender’s Office also underlined that it had previously found that the Agency “unreasonably” refused to inspect the technical stability of the building. An examination carried out after the Office’s request of December 21, 2020, found that the building “poses an increased risk to life and health” of its residents, according to the statement.

The Public Defender’s Office highlighted there are up to 90 buildings threatening the life and health of its IDP residents across Georgia.

The people who were internally displaced in the 1990s following armed conflicts in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia found temporary shelters in hotels, sanatoriums, kindergartens, schools, or hospitals, and some have had to remain there since. There are currently about 270 thousand IDPs in Georgia, with some 240 thousand hailing from Abkhazia and up to 30 thousand from Tskhinvali Region.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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