Detention and defamation charges against Tamar Merakishvili by “the de facto authorities in Georgia’s disputed region of South Ossetia” is “a move that constitutes a blatant violation of freedom of expression,” the Amnesty International, London-based international human rights organization, said in its brief report on August 21.
Tamar Mearakishvili, a civic activist in the small town of Akhalgori in Georgia’s Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, was briefly detained on 16 August and charged for defaming the region’s ruling United Ossetia party. Mearakishvili was released the same day, but the charge of criminal defamation is still pending.
In a comment for Civil.ge on August 25, the Amnesty International’s representative on South Caucasus Levan Asatiani said: “Using a criminal charge of defamation to punish an activist because of her expression is against everything that freedom of expression stands for. Tamar Mearakishvili has the right to criticize those in power without fear of reprisals. De facto authorities must stop her prosecution immediately.”
The August 21 report, headlined “De Facto Authorities in a Disputed Region Stifle Freedom of Expression,” called for dropping the criminal charges against Tamar Mearakishvili and ending her harassment, adding that “defamation, if proven, should only be treated as a matter for civil litigation by the injured party.”
“Tamar Mearakishvili has often been harassed due to her social media activism. Before her recent detention, she had been summoned to the Prosecutor’s Office six times since 2008 and threatened because of her critical comments in social media and news outlets,” reads the report.
Detention of Mearakishvili was condemned as “illegal deprivation of liberty” and “restriction on freedom of expression” by officials in Tbilisi, with representatives of the Russian-backed Tskhinvali authorities responding with accusations of Tbilisi’s “interference into the republic’s internal affairs.”