Op-ed: Crime and provision of justice in Abkhazia
Crime and justice in Abkhazia
The authorities in Abkhazia are getting concerned, as the beginning of tourist season was marked with a shooting incident. A local resident injured two Russian tourists in the restaurant of the Samshitovaya Roscha, an elite boarding house in Pitsunda, and, as a result of the incident’s coverage by Russian media, Abkhazia’s reputation as a favorable tourist destination has been damaged.
The president took the investigation under his personal control and made a promise that the offender would be punished. The minister of internal affairs proposed to tighten the legislation for illegal possession of weapons.
I don’t know whether Aslan Bzhania will have enough patience to personally oversee the investigation of this particular sensational case. I think that he also has no confidence that the person responsible for it will be punished in full.
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Even if Dmitry Pilia, who shot at tourists, is given the maximum punishment prescribed by law, there are a thousand options to cut off his sentence as if he were being punished for shooting at something other than people – at windows with a slingshot, for example.
Alas, the Abkhaz law enforcement system usually operates as follows: the triumph of justice occurs only if there is no money coming from outside.
They will not take bribes in the police – because there is still an investigator, prosecutor, judge. Some of them will definitely “get into the situation” and help. But if there (an unheard-of thing) does not work out, then there are still plenty of options. For example, recently tested ones:
- You can buy a phony certificate from a doctor, according to which the allegedly convicted person is about to die, and he urgently needs an operation in a foreign clinic.
- You can negotiate with the prison authorities and they will arrange an escape for you.
In general, Abkhaz criminals are lucky. The authorities here (no matter who is at the very top) are compassionate, they are ready to give even the most inveterate recidivist a chance for redemption, and for any reason and without one, they regularly announce amnesties.
In general, no matter what you have done – if you have connections and money, you will not be in prison for long.
These people then walk free and keep doing exactly the same things.
So why be surprised at the chronically difficult crime situation in the country? After all, its parameters are directly linked to the actions of the authorities themselves.
For example, the two most recent high-profile murders: the shooting on the Sukhumi embankment of two ‘thieves-in-law’ and a young waitress who happened to be there in November 2019, and the murder of Kamal Ardzinba, nephew of the first President of Abkhazia Vladislav Ardzinba in May 2021.
In both cases, those responsible for the incident should not have been physically able to do that, as at the time they were placed under house arrest.
In any country, house arrest is a real arrest at the place of residence. In Abkhazia, it is a legal opportunity to release a suspect, even for a particularly grave crime.
So, if it were not for the compassion of the Abkhazian court, which gave a sentence of house arrest to hardened criminals as a preventive measure, there might not have been these four corpses.
There also would not have been a shooting in a boarding house in Pitsunda and two wounded tourists, if a month earlier the investigator had not released the detainee with an unregistered weapon Dmitry Piliya on recognizance not to leave.
For me, such judges and investigators are no less criminals than those who are involved in these high-profile cases. But not only will they not be imprisoned, but they will not even be removed from their posts.
If President Bzhania is really concerned about the dire crime situation, I would advise him not to waste energy supervising the case of the shooting in Boxwood Grove.
I would suggest focusing instead on punishing officials directly or indirectly involved in these high-profile crimes.
Then it is almost certain that there will be fewer tragic accidents.
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