Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) in breakaway Abkhazia’s Gali district, which was suspended four years ago after the Abkhaz side’s boycott, resumed with a meeting on May 27.
The meeting came eight days after a local Georgian man, Giga Otkhozoria, was shot dead on the Georgian-controlled territory at the Khurcha crossing point with breakaway Abkhazia.
This fatal shooting topped the agenda of May 27 meeting of IPRM, which involves officials from Tbilisi, Sokhumi, as well as representatives of the Russian troops on the ground.
“The discussion took place in a constructive and engaged atmosphere,” said the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM), which facilitates Gali IPRM meetings along with the UN envoy.
“The participants agreed to further investigate this tragic incident, including sharing information through the Hotline and other instruments that EUMM offers,” said EUMM, which has unarmed monitors on the ground, but they are not able to access the breakaway regions.
The Georgian prosecutor’s office has identified suspected murderer as Rashid Kanjiogli, an Abkhaz border guard serviceman, and launched criminal proceedings against him; but Tbilisi is not able to detain him on the territory of breakaway Abkhazia. The authorities in breakaway region say that Abkhaz military prosecution service has also filed murder charged against the Abkhaz border guard serviceman.
“They [the Abkhaz side] did not confirm reports that the person accused of the murder was arrested,” Irakli Beraia, head of information and analytical department at the Georgian State Security Service, said after the IPRM meeting.
He said that Tbilisi seeks to bring the perpetrator of the Khurcha fatal shooting to justice in Georgia, but the Abkhaz side argues that there should be a “a legal basis” in place between Tbilisi and Sokhumi in order to consider any possible hand over of the suspect.
“There is no entity of international law on the other side of the Enguri river,” Beraia said, referring to Abkhazia.
“It is an occupied territory under the control of the occupying power [Russia]. We will keep on raising in frames of IPRM as well as other formats the issue of bringing killer of Giga Otkhozoria before the Georgian justice,” he added.
Breakaway Abkhazia’s foreign ministry said that the meeting was held in “a constructive atmosphere” during which the Georgian side handed over to the Abkhaz side information on ongoing investigation into the fatal shooting as well as CCTV footage of the incident. The footage, which emerged on the internet and was also aired by the Georgian televisions, shows the moment when Giga Otkhozoria was shot point-blank.
The next meeting of Gali IPRM has been scheduled for July 6.
IPRM was established in frames of the Geneva talks with the purpose of addressing security concerns and developments on the ground on a regular basis. While on the South Ossetian direction IPRM meetings, co-facilitated by EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) and OSCE, involving officials from Tbilisi, Tskhinvali, as well as representatives of the Russian troops on the ground, are held on the regular basis (it was only suspended for some time in 2010), such meetings on the Abkhaz direction in Gali were suspended since April, 2012. Initially the Abkhaz side was refusing to participate after denouncing then head of the EUMM as “undesirable person on the Abkhaz territory”; but IPRM Gali meetings remained suspended up until now even after then EUMM head’s two-year tenure came to an end in summer 2013.
Tbilisi and Sokhumi agreed to resume IPRM meetings at the recent, 35th round of Geneva talks on March 23.