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SJC Criticizes SIS for Not Renewing Investigation in Machalikashvili Case

The Social Justice Center, a local human rights CSO defending the interests of the Machalikashvili family in the case “Machalikashvili and Others v. Georgia”, issued a statement today, June 20, criticizing the Special Investigation Service (SIS) for its decision not to renew the investigation in the case, saying that the SIS decision is “formal, not well studied, groundless” and “contradicts the obligation to respect the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.”

In March 2024, the Committee of Ministers of the CoE recommended that Georgia consider whether it was appropriate to reopen the investigation, which had been closed in January 2020. Previously, the ECHR had acknowledged that the investigative measures had been carried out, but also pointed out some procedural shortcomings, such as the involvement of an employee of the State Security Service in the investigation and the delayed interrogation of special forces officers. On June 19, the SIS concluded that there was no need to reopen the Machalikashvili case and that the initial investigation had been “comprehensive.”

The SJC notes that although the ECHR found no violation by Georgia of the substantive part of Article 2 (right to life) of the Convention and declared Article 3 inadmissible, the Court did find a procedural violation of Article 2. The SJC emphasizes that the ECHR could not even discuss several issues, including the possible violation of the substantive part of Article 2 only because of the lack of evidence. “For this very reason, it was important for the Special Investigation Service to recognize that the substantial violation in this case could not be found by the European Court due to fundamental shortcomings in the investigation and the lack of relevant evidence,” the SJC notes.

According to the SJC, the SIS did not take seriously the “fundamental violations” found by the Court and downplayed them as “minor procedural violations” as if they could not affect the outcome of the investigation. “For us, it is unjustified and raises doubts as to how the Special Investigation Service can consider as minor procedural violations the issues of institutional independence of the investigation, the failure of the investigation to find the factual circumstances crucial to the case, and the substantial errors in the testimonies of Special Forces officers,” the SJC says.

“The way the Special Investigation Service works and the arguments it puts forward once again highlight the problem of institutional independence and impartiality of this agency, which has been criticized on several occasions by the Venice Commission, the EU and local actors,” the statement adds.

The SJC insists that reopening the investigation could have a significant impact on the case.

The watchdog intends to “immediately” approach the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe with a request to publish the interim resolution on the Machalikashvili case at the Committee’s next meeting in September.

18-year-old Temirlan Machalikashvili was shot in the head during the special forces operation to detain potential terrorism suspects in December 2017 and died of his wounds in January 2018 in a Tbilisi hospital. The State Security Service of Georgia (SSG) operatives said the shot was fired as Machalikashvili tried to detonate a hand grenade. Machalikashvili’s family denied this claim and said Temirlan was asleep in his room when the officers opened fire.

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


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