NGO EMC Calls on Authorities to Find Congo-Captured Georgian Pilot

Georgia-based non-governmental organization Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC) is calling on the Georgian authorities to intensify their efforts in the search of Georgian pilot Soso Osorauli, who was captured by the Congolese rebels in January 2017 and whose whereabouts are unknown.

Information about Osorauli’s alleged death was released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Georgia last year, while the family claims he is alive.

EMC says 1.5 years have passed since Osorauli was captured and the family is unaware what, if any, measures were carried out by the State to bring him back to Georgia.

According to the NGO, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has handed over the case materials to the Chief Prosecutor's Office of Georgia for investigation.

“EMC appealed to the Chief Prosecutor's Office several times to grant victim status to Osorauli's family members and to give them the case materials. On May 1, 2018, the Chief Prosecutor's Office gave the pilot’s wife Nino Osorauli an opportunity to look through the case materials, but she has not been granted the status of victim as yet,” the organization says.

EMC added that in December, Osorauli’s brother went to Congo to find the pilot and bring him back to Georgia. The NGO added that the family found out Osorauli is alive but his brother cannot reach him and believes the State is not doing their best to return their citizen to his homeland.

The NGO calls on the government to take specific steps to protect their citizen and, under the supervision of the Prime Minister, to set up a special joint working group with the participation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, State Security Service, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Chief Prosecutor's Office and the missing pilot’s brother - Gia Osorauli.

EMC calls on the Chief Prosecutor's Office of Georgia to ensure that the case is investigated effectively, in a full and timely manner, and that the status of victim be granted to Soso Osororauli’s family.

The MFA and the Ministry of Defense (MoD) confirmed in February 2017 that one Georgian had been wounded and another captured after two helicopters of the Congo Air Force were shot down by rebels on January 27.

Georgia’s MoD stated that the reason for the Georgian citizens’ presence in Congo was unknown, but added that Osorauli once served in the Georgian armed forces, choosing to quit in 2015 for personal reasons.

In late May 2017, the MFA of Georgia held a special briefing, wherein Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Zviad Gonadze said that there were rumors that an attack had taken between the opposed parties in DR Congo and Osorauli was killed, but he added this information had yet to be confirmed officially.

On July 5, 2017,Georgian channel Iberia TV released a video of Osorauli who addressed his family members and asked them not to believe the accusation that he had killed many people.

Beka Dvali, the Ambassador of Georgia in South Africa, said that the video was old and had been shot in May.

Later, the MFA said they obtained a photograph which showed that Osorauli was dead, however, the family claimed it was not true.

The Ministry also said that despite the information received from various sources about Osorauli, it is not feasible to confirm his death.

In December, Osorauli’s brother went to Congo to find him. He says he was told his brother is alive but could not find out about his whereabouts.

By Thea Morrison

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14 August 2018 12:02