Is Beating a Soldier Punishable?
06 December, 2012
Are violations of the statute in armies of the Alliance punishable, even if the culprits wear general’s epaulettes? Crimes in armies of NATO Member States are not rare and receive due sanctions irrespective of titles and positions.
Leaders of National Movement and President Saakashvili thundered censures following the detention of Giorgi Kalandadze, former Commander of United HQ of Georgian Armed Forces. They claimed that the new Government delivered a severe blow to the image of Georgian army and hindered NATO
accession process of Georgia.
The General Prosecutor’s Office arrested former Minister Bacho Akhalaia and former Commander of United HQ Giorgi Kalandadze on specific charges related to verbal and physical abuse of military personnel. Kalandadze was released on bail. Yet, a few days later he was summoned on new charges. This time he was accused of torturing soldiers. Again, he was freed on bail.
The General Prosecutor’s office continues investigations of possible crimes committed in the armed forces in the last years and is likely to find a basis for more criminal charges against Akhalaia and Kalandadze. It seems they may have perpetuated systematic physical and verbal harassments and abuses of soldiers and officers in the Georgian Army. If so, the previous Authorities were likely to have been covering up these crimes.
What is the new Government supposed to do now? Should it cover up the facts of human rights violations against soldiers as their predecessors used to practice or launch an objective investigation? Certainly, all the facts have to be investigated, and they are. Protests of Nationalist Movement came as a no surprise. They try to dispel and belittle the seriousness of the violations. It was critical notes of NATO Secretary General that sounded really strange.
If even NATO armies are not immune to crimes and punish perpetrators, why should Georgian army with its NATO integration aspiration be an exception? We wonder more about the other thing. For years, the Alliance and other friendly countries have been intensively cooperating with Georgian Armed Forces. They certainly were very well aware of the situation in the Georgian Army. Then how come that they have not heard of the incidents or have not relayed the information to their countries? It is hard to believe that they have not. So, it is more likely that NATO knew about violations of soldier rights in the Georgian army. So, why do they look surprised about due punishment of criminals?