Why did Georgian special forces kill 19-year-old Temirlan Machalikashvili? New data and questions for the investigation
The investigation into the murder of 19-year-old Temirlan Machalikashvili at the end of 2017 during an anti-terrorist operation in the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia was carried out only formally, Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center experts say, who were given the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the classified materials of this case.
The murder of Temirlan Machalikashvili is one of the most troublesome cases to take place during the reign of the Georgian Dream government.
A 19-year-old Kist (ethnic Chechen) died as a result of a headshot by a special forces soldier of the Georgian State Security Service during an anti-terror operation on December 26, 2017. Without regaining consciousness, he died on January 10, 2018.
According to eyewitnesses, commandos broke into Machalikashvili’s house late at night, and Tamerlan was shot while still in bed.
According to law enforcement officials, Temirlan Machalikashvili maintained contact with terrorists, and a shot was fired at him when he tried to detonate a grenade. The family of the deceased categorically denies the connection with the terrorists, and the presence of a grenade.
Malkhaz Machalikashvili, the father of Tamirlan, has been investigating the death of his son for more than two years. In protest, he pitched a tent near the parliament building, in which he often sleeps.
Many questions remain unanswered for both the Ombudsman’s office and amongst human rights activists, who claim security forces did not provide convincing evidence of Temirlan Machalikashvili’s connection to terrorist groups.
Machalikashvili’s case is marked “classified”. EMC’s requests to view the contents of the file were rejected, up until the situation changed on January 10, when the European Court of Human Rights began to examine the case of Machalikashvili and Others v. Georgia, and demanded that the Georgian authorities declassify the case, after which it became available to the EMC experts.
The main question is whether the deceased did indeed have a grenade, and because of which he was shot by special forces.
“They threw in the grenade after they shot Temirlan,” says the father of the murdered Malkhaz Machalikashvili.
According to EMC experts, the already weak account of the state security representatives about the presence of a grenade at the very first stage of the investigation turned out to be unfounded.
A similar conclusion was made after studying the recording of the interrogation of a commando who carried out a fatal shot – the story is replete with incredible details. According to EMC experts, the testimony of 32 special forces soldiers appears in the case, however, the main questions remain not only unanswered, but unasked.
•The Strasbourg Court of Human Rights began reviewing the case of Temirlan Machalikashvili on October 1, 2019.
•The father of the victim, Malkhaz Machalikshvili, demands the creation of an interim parliamentary commission of inquiry. His main goal is to restore the reputation of his son, accused of having links with terrorists.
•The Pankisi Gorge is located 150 kilometers from Tbilisi and 30 kilometers from Chechnya. According to the census conducted in 2014, about 7,000 people live in the gorge, most of them Kistins (Chechens who resettled from Chechnya in the nineteenth century. During the 2000s, thousands of Chechens found shelter in the gorge, including fighters of paramilitary groups, it was then that Pankisi was first declared a “danger zone”.
During the conflict in Syria, the Pankisi Gorge again experienced a difficult time. According to various sources, 40-50 immigrants from Pankisi fought in the ranks of the Islamic State, including Omar Al Shishani, one of the leaders of the Islamic State.
Despite this, Kists are considered an integrated community – almost all of them, along with their native Chechen, are fluent in Georgian