Two 16-year-old high school students were brutally murdered by their own peers in a tragic incident on December 1st in the centre of Tbilisi.
Following a violent conflict during school hours involving up to 20 teenagers, one victim was killed at the scene. The second victim was rushed to hospital in critical condition. Due to the severity of his injuries the doctors were unable to save his life; he died of his injuries the following day. Both victims had suffered numerous stab wounds to the chest and abdomen.
According to the investigation, the conflict began in the #51 Public School before moving to nearby Khorava street and escalating into a fight involving students from the #51 and 1st Experimental Schools in Tbilisi.
Two 16 year-old suspects have been arrested by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, both being tried under Article 109 of the Criminal Code which constitutes intended murder.
Additionally, three individuals have been arrested for obstruction of justice by covering up the crime and assisting one of the suspects in hiding.
The investigation process has been challenged by the reluctance of witnesses to cooperate with officials. Out of the 150 individuals interviewed, including parents, relatives, and legal representatives of the students, only a few agreed to provide information about the incident.
Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia says this poses a serious problem and indicates that perception of crime in society is still flawed.
Minister of Education Mikheil Chkhenkeli also spoke about reforms that are needed to prevent such incidents in the future. According to his statement, multiple strategies are being developed in improving security systems in schools, including reinforcement of the role of resource officers and their cooperation with law enforcement structures.
Chkhenkeli also spoke about the intention to create a working group which will involve government structures, the non-governmental sector, and international organisations which will work on juvenile delinquency and its prevention.
The minister emphasised the importance of the availability of psychological services for school students. A 24/7 psychological hotline will be launched for all schools across the country, involving leading specialists in the field, he says.
Various public figures, including President Giorgi Margvelashvili, have spoken out to express their condolences to the families of the victims. According to the President, “we need to think about who we are and what kind of society we want to live in.”
The day after the tragedy, people gathered outside the #51 School bringing candles and flowers to honor the deceased students and express solidarity and support to their families.
The tragic incident has triggered heated discussions in Georgian society and especially in social networks. People have expressed outrage and grief, discussing the causes and effects of violence in schools and among younger citizens.
Georgian writer Lasha Bugadze spoke about the root causes and underlying issues of such tragic events. Bugadze said the deaths of these schoolchildren is a national tragedy which will persist if it is erased from our memories like many such events have been.
“It is not moral for these two schools to function normally - responsibility is not and should not be an abstract concept. It is important for us to concentrate on this tragedy so it is not a mere drama remaining in the affected families…”
Bugadze spoke about the harmful legacy of the 1990s, stating that this tragedy is a result of other national disasters such as the idealization of oppression and criminal mentality, misguided parental influence, the lack of education, indifference, disordered values, and passion for spreading and indulging on aggression. According to him, the murderers themselves are the main hostages of this oppressive culture.