Georgian Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili and local civil society organizations released statements on October 30 urging the prosecutor’s office to investigate the alleged involvement of police officers into the death of 32-year-old Paata Pavliashvili, who died during arrest in Tbilisi.
The incident took place in the Nutsubidze Plateau area of Tbilisi on October 25, when patrol police officers were called to diffuse an argument between two neighbors.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, police officers had diffused the dispute between the neighbors when Paata Pavliashvili, who was supposedly drunk, approached them. He “behaved aggressively and verbally insulted the person who called the police and the people who were present at the scene, as well as the police officers,” the Ministry said, adding that the police officers decided to detain him following their repeated, but unsuccessful calls to observe order.
According to the police account of the incident, Pavliashvili “collapsed suddenly and died.” Eyewitnesses, however, said he asked for help, but police officers neglected his request.
The Prosecutor’s Office, which is investigating the case, said it retrieved two shoulder and one police car camera recordings from the Ministry, and added that only one - a shoulder camera - contained the incident-related footage, but the recording was incomplete as it only contained the incident between the two neighbors and the period after Pavliashvili’s detention.
In a statement released on October 30, Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili said the absence of video footage raises “legitimate questions on the legality of the patrol police officers’ actions.” Nanuashvili also called on the prosecutor’s office “to timely and effectively conduct all investigative and procedural actions and launch criminal proceedings against the law enforcement officers if their misconduct is confirmed.”
Local civil society organizations called for “a timely, effective and impartial investigation” as well. “The Prosecutor’s Office should conduct the investigation in a transparent manner and ensure the involvement of the victim’s family, so that they are properly informed on the case proceedings,” seven rights watchdogs said in their statement on October 30.
Speaking on the incident on October 30, Deputy Interior Minister Shalva Khutsishvili said the ministry was also “interested in impartial investigation of the case.” “If the investigation finds that a crime has been committed by our employee, we do not rule out that the issue of his liability will be raised,” he said.
The parliamentary opposition invited the Interior Minister to the Parliament to answer their questions on Pavliashvili’s death, but senior Georgian Dream MP Gia Volski rejected the calls as yet another attempt by the opposition “to stage a political circus.”