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Family of slain Pankisi teenager appeals to European Court of Human Rights

6 June 2019
Temirlan Machalikashvili (facebook)

The family of Temirlan Machalikashvili, a 19-year-old ethnic Kist from Georgia’s Pankisi Valley killed in a special operation, is taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights. The teenager was fatally shot while in bed in December 2017 during a counterterror sweep in Pankisi.

The Human Rights Education and Monitoring Centre (EMC), a Tbilisi-based rights group, announced on Thursday that they were taking on the case on behalf of the family.  

The group said they were challenging the Georgian Government for infringing on Temirlan’s right to life, the family’s right to an effective remedy, and the prohibition of torture.

They claimed that the use of lethal force against Temirlan, who they said was wearing earphones and therefore could not have known what was happening around him, was ‘disproportionate’ and ‘unnecessary’.

Georgia’s State Security Service (SSG) has maintained that the task force was forced to open fire after Machalikashvili reached for a hand grenade. His family has insisted he was sleeping at the time.

The family has also claimed that Temirlan was not provided with medical care immediately after being shot.

‘He was hospitalised 40 minutes late and by the SSG, instead of an emergency vehicle’, the EMC’s statement said.

The family has also claimed that the investigation into the killing was neither objective nor efficient and that the SSG had ‘unlawfully interfered with the evidence’.

‘The most important evidence, such as the hand grenade and the rifles, were destroyed and replaced. The parents of Temirlan Machalikashvili have still not been granted the status of the victim’s next of kin, and therefore don’t have access to the most important evidence, including the testimonies of the special operation policemen or the plan of the special operation’, said the EMC’s statement.

The family has also claimed that they have been mistreated by the authorities since the shooting and that it this has not been thoroughly investigated.

‘The family has been fighting for more than a year and a half for justice and to determine the truth in the murder of Temirlan Machalikashvili. However, their efforts have not gained any legal or political recognition. They constantly face negligence and dehumanising rhetoric from the government. All things considered, the only mechanisms for restoring the rights of the Machalikashvili family are international legal mechanisms’, said EMC’s statement.

On 29 May, parliament voted down an initiative to set up a parliamentary group that would look into the Machalikashvili killing.

The creation of a parliamentary inquiry was initiated by the opposition United National Movement Party, was supported by just 30 MPs.

Malkhaz Machalikashvili accused of plotting a terrorist attack

Since May 2018, Temirlan’s father, Malkhaz Machalikashvili, has camped in a tent in front of the Parliament building in Tbilisi demanding a proper investigation into his son’s death.

A year ago, the SSG launched a terrorism investigation into Machalikashvili, after in May 2018 he spoke to a rally in front of Parliament and said that he and several hundred other people had sworn to go to the SSG and blow themselves up.

He added that he had changed his mind because of his love for the Georgian people, so nobody would get hurt.

One year later, in May 2019, the SSG released an audio recording which they claimed revealed the Malkhaz Machalikashvili planned to organise ‘terrorist acts against several individuals’.

The SSG claimed that the recorded conversation, in Chechen, depicted a conversation on 23 March between Machalikashvili and his nephew, identified as Moris (Husein) Machalikashvili.

According to the SSG, Malkhaz Machalikashvili ‘instructed’ Moris Machalikashvili to uncover the addresses and routine movements of Ioseb Gogashvili, the former first deputy head of the SSG.

Subtitles of the recording provided by the SSG suggested that Malkhaz Machalikashvili tasked his nephew to go to Zemo Machkhaani, a village in the Kakheti Region of Georgia, to identify and take pictures of a burial ground where Soso Gogashvili’s father was laid to rest.

The security service claimed ‘there was a plan to commit a terrorist act’ against Gogashvili during his expected visit to his father’s grave.

THe Machalikashvili family has accused Gogashvili and current SSG head Vakhtang Gomelauri of being responsible for his death, demanding they be punished ‘for a terrorist act’.

On 7 May, Malkhaz Machalikashvili wrote on his Facebook page that the recording was ‘something said in the heat of the moment two months ago’ but insisted he ‘never deviated from peaceful and legal means of struggle’.

‘Constant surveillance and airing bitter words said by a father whose son was killed — is this the role of the state?!', Machalikashvili complained. The following day, he appeared at his usual site of protest on Rustaveli Avenue and gave an emotional speech in front of journalists.

'I  am a Vainakh, a Chechen, a Kist man… They killed my son in my own house, my only son… I have my honour and manhood, but despite all this, I still respect Georgia and still do everything within the law to punish these people’, Machalikashvili said.

He said he might have said what was in the SSG’s recording, but that he was not sure.

He alleged that as a father who lost his son, he frequently had ‘thoughts like those’ but ‘always found the strength to suppress them’ as he ‘saw support from society’.

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