Several soldiers were slightly hurt in a fist-fight that erupted in the military unit based in Vaziani outside Tbilisi, according to the official sources.
This official version of events, which has also been backed by soldiers themselves, who met with Public Defender, was questioned by whistleblowers and soldiers’ rights organization suspecting that soldiers could have been harassed by their commanders.
The news about the incident in the Vaziani-based 42nd battalion of the 4th brigade first broke on the morning of November 5 when Nana Kakabadze of human rights group Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights said she had received an SMS from a soldiers saying that at least 15 servicemen were physically harassed and verbally insulted by the commanders overnight on November 5.
Several hours later the Ministry of Defense confirmed the incident, but said it only involved a scuffle between several corporals, which originated from a verbal argument between them after it was found out that one assault rifle was missing from the unit. It said that the incident had been resolved and the military police was investigating the case.
The Georgian Public Defender, Giorgi Tugushi, informed about the incident by human rights groups, was able to visit the Vaziani military base and to meet with soldiers. After the visit he convened a press conference on the evening of November 5 and said that he had also met those soldiers, whose names were indicated in the message.
Tugushi said several soldiers had minor bodily injures, which were not serious. He said that one of the soldiers had “self-inflicted wounds.” “This soldier said that he himself cut up his hand,” the Public Defender said.
He said in overall the soldiers were not enthusiastic to speak, but what he had learnt from them was in line with the MoD’s official statement made before he met with soldiers. He said the soldiers told him they scuffled between each other because of missing assault rifle.
Irakli Sesiashvili of soldiers’ rights Association Justice and Liberty said the official version was not “convincing”. “Why would a soldier send a message requesting for assistance if there is only a trivial quarrel between the soldiers themselves? It seemed to be a more serious incident,” he told Maestro TV on November 5.