SJC: Gelati Monastery Damage Indicates Alleged Malfeasance in Office

On February 27, the Social Justice Center (SJC), a local watchdog, issued a statement saying that the damage done to the World Heritage site of Gelati Monastery during the reconstruction and conservation works shows signs of possible malfeasance in office.

In particular, the SJC states: “Reconstruction and conservation works carried out during the tenure of Tea Tsulukiani [as Minister of Culture] and under her leadership appear to have caused damage which, given the chronological development of events, indicates an alleged official misconduct.”

The SJC cites the expert documentation provided by the Trade Union of the Georgian Ministry of Science, Education and Culture, and states that the examination of this documentation revealed that “additional irreversible damage was caused to the mural in 2021-2022”.

The SJC points out that at the time when the group of workers selected by Minister Tsulukiani began their work “not only for conservation, but also for reconstruction” they did so on the still not dry, wet plaster, which, according to the SJC, resulted in the critical state of the mural, as confirmed by the experts’ conclusions. The SJC notes that the Minister was aware of “a number of international expert conclusions” warning of the “severe” consequences that would have come with the chosen method of work. Nevertheless, the process continued until autumn 2022.

The SJC also points out that before the work began, “there was no action plan for the management of the Gelati complex, nor an effective monitoring mechanism”. It adds that the decision-making process regarding the works was “highly centralized and non-transparent”. It states that the Ministry of Culture failed to prevent and even caused additional damage to the cultural monument.

The watchdog also notes that the Ministry of Culture is responsible for the development and implementation of the common policy on cultural heritage, as well as for the selection of persons with appropriate qualifications to carry out work on cultural heritage monuments.

“The resulting damage, in view of the chronological development of events, is alleged to constitute maladministration,” the SJC concludes.

The SJC notes that the Prosecutor General’s Office has not yet opened an investigation into the possible malfeasance in office.

It therefore calls on the Prosecutor’s Office to open an investigation into the alleged abuse of office, to conduct the investigation objectively and in the shortest possible time, and to ensure that the public is informed to the extent that it does not harm the interests of the investigation.

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


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