Consolidated report on the conflict in Georgia (April 2012 – September 2012); Document presented by the Secretary General [SG/Inf(2012)28 rev]

Introduction

1. At their 1080th meeting on 24 and 26 March 2010, the Ministers’ Deputies took the following decision: “The Deputies, restating the previous decisions of the Committee of Ministers, invited the Secretary General to prepare his consolidated report on the conflict in Georgia based on his outline and taking into account the comments made during the present meeting”.

2. It is recalled that the objective of the report is to take stock of the situation in Georgia following the August 2008 conflict, to report on the related activities of the Council of Europe and to propose further Council of Europe action. The report is composed of four parts:

- update on major developments in the period under review;

- assessment of statutory obligations and commitments related to the conflict and its consequences;

- human rights situation in the areas affected by the conflict; and

- current Council of Europe activities aimed at addressing the consequences of the conflict, their follow-up as well as proposals for future action.

3. This sixth consolidated report covers the period between April and September 2012. It builds on the five previous consolidated reports1, as well as Secretariat reports on the human rights situation in the areas affected by the conflict in Georgia2 and the report on the Council of Europe activities in the areas affected by the conflict3 and its updates4.

4. The Secretariat carried out a fact-finding visit to Tbilisi on
10-14 September and had the opportunity to discuss the situation on the ground with the Georgian authorities, representatives of civil society and international organisations. The Secretariat wishes to express its gratitude to the Georgian authorities for their support in organising the visit and to all interlocutors for their assistance and valuable contributions.

5. As for meetings in Sukhumi and Gali, the de facto authorities of Abkhazia considered the visit impossible this time (cf. also paragraph 30) although the Secretariat, following the usual practice, requested the possibility to meet de facto authorities and planned to organise meetings with local NGOs and international organisations present on the ground.

6. For the purpose of this report, the Secretariat was not able to obtain the agreement of the de facto authorities to visit Tskhinvali.

7. The Secretary General will continue his efforts in view of fact-finding visits to Abkhazia and South Ossetia for preparation of future reports.

8. This report does not replace the monitoring procedures established in the Council of Europe. Nor should it be seen as prejudging any possible decisions in the cases related to the conflict and its consequences, which are currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights.

9. Nothing in this report should be interpreted as being contrary to the full respect of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders5, and to the six-point agreement of 12 August 2008 and the implementing measures of 8 September 2008.

10. This report does not prejudge or infringe upon a possible future political settlement of the conflict within the framework of the Geneva Discussions.

I Update on major developments in the period under review

11. It was reported to the Secretariat that while the security situation on the ground during the reporting period remained mainly calm but volatile, a number of decisions and developments affected the climate of political talks and restricted the space for a further engagement in negotiations on conflict-related issues.

12. The 20th round of the Geneva International Discussions took place on 8 June. Discussions continued on the Non Use of Force and International Security Arrangements, but the issue remained open for the session of 10-11 October 2012. During the round in June, specific issues such as missing persons, education and cultural heritage were discussed. The participants also reviewed the outcome of the Information session held on 7 June on “the legal aspects of the concept of occupation”. In this respect, a joint declaration regarding the term “occupation” and “occupied territories” was issued by the de facto authorities in Sukhumi and Tskhinvali. According to the Co-Chairs of the Geneva International Discussions, the participants noted with serious concern the postponement of the meeting of the Gali/Zugdidi Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM).

13. Indeed, unlike the regular meetings of the IPRM in Ergneti, the Gali/Zugdidi IPRM meeting was cancelled at the last minute on 24 April, as Abkhaz de facto authorities declared the Head of the EUMM persona non-grata. In reaction, the spokesperson of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton stated that the determination of the composition of the EU delegation by another participant is unacceptable and that any challenge to established and agreed procedures of the Geneva International Discussions could have serious consequences.

14. Since April, the position of Sukhumi on the IPRM has remained unchanged. Currently, there is no regular mechanism (apart from a security desk officers’ hotline), providing actors with an opportunity to discuss thoroughly incidents and work out practical solutions in order to deflate potential tensions. The EUMM mandate was extended for one year on 14 September 2012 and the EU encouraged all participants to work for the resumption of the Gali/Zugdidi IPRM.

15. On 3 July the UN General Assembly passed a resolution tabled by Georgia “Status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia6. In consideration of the draft resolution, the UN General Assembly also examined the UN Secretary General report on this matter7. The de facto authorities in Sukhumi criticised the Resolution and stated that this was “bypassing the Geneva talks” while underlining that the Geneva Discussions were in a crisis.

16. Another element which affected the climate of political talks was the fact that on 14 August, the de facto President of South Ossetia, Leonid Tibilov, announced plans to destroy the remnants of villages formerly populated by ethnic-Georgians displaced during and after the 2008 conflict and to strip them of their Georgian names as the settlements would not exist anymore. On 15 August, Georgian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kapanadze reacted, saying that “the destruction of the remaining villages is a continuation of the policy of ethnic cleansing”.

17. In September, a number of military exercises took place in the wider region, namely the Russian Federation Military exercises “Caucasus 2012” (17-23 September), military exercises held by the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) (15-19 September) and NATO/EAPC disaster response exercise “Georgia - 2012” (22-28 September 2012). Although, according to the Russian authorities, no units from the Russian military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia participated in the manoeuvres. The Georgian authorities have repeatedly considered that the concentration of Russian military forces endangers the security situation and the Russian authorities have repeatedly rejected claims by the Georgian officials.

18. On 17-21 September the Geneva Co-Chairs visited Tbilisi, Tskhinvali, Sukhumi and Moscow. Statements regarding the posture of Georgian security personnel on the South Ossetian Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) were issued by South Ossetia de facto authorities during this visit. On 21 September, the EUMM released a statement on the absence of evidence to support these claims.

The EUMM has at the same time observed a build-up of Russian Federation armed personnel along the South Ossetian ABL. The Mission raised its concerns about this activity with the relevant Russian command structures. The EUMM called on all sides to show restraint and to refrain from words and actions that could be considered provocative at this particularly sensitive time.

II Assessment of statutory obligations and commitments related to the conflict and its consequences

19. Below is an update on statutory obligations and specific commitments - as listed in PACE Opinions 193 (1996) and 209 (1999) - which have been selected for the purpose of reporting on the conflict in Georgia and its consequences. This part builds on Part 1 of the first and second consolidated reports on the conflict in Georgia (SG/Inf(2010)8 and SG/Inf(2010)19 final).

i. To accept the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to collaborate sincerely and effectively in the realisation of the aim of the Council of Europe

ii. To settle international as well as internal disputes by peaceful means (an obligation incumbent upon all member states of the Council of Europe), rejecting resolutely any forms of threats of force against its neighbours

20. Since the last report, the procedure of the European Court of Human Rights continues. There are no major developments to report with regard to the individual applications against Georgia, as well as individual applications against the Russian Federation.

iii. To respect strictly the provisions of international humanitarian law, including in cases of armed conflict on its territory

21. The coordination mechanism established for the issue of missing persons under the aegis of the ICRC continues its work. The delegation was informed that with regard to the fate of persons who went missing in relation with the August 2008 conflict, the work continues on exhumation and identification of human remains, as well as their transfer and handover to the families.

iv. To co-operate in good faith with international humanitarian organisations and to enable them to carry out their activities on its territory in conformity with their mandates

22. According to the information provided by the Georgian authorities, until now 125 project proposals have been submitted in the framework of the Georgian Government’s “Modalities for Engagement”8. All 125 received “non-objection orders”.

23. The Georgian authorities also informed the Secretariat that they are now exploring a concept of a Fund, which will provide a platform for financing various people – to – people projects and which will be established as non – profit legal entity.

24. It is also worth stressing that the Council of Europe’s co-operation with the Georgian authorities on confidence-building activities has so far proven positive and constructive (cf. also section IV.4.ii on “Proposals for further action” of the report).

25. The Liaison Mechanism remains the channel of communication and tool for the implementation of projects by the international community in Abkhazia. The Georgian authorities continue to consider it as a useful functional mechanism. Although the Liaison Mechanism continues to be used by the Abkhazian side, it was not possible for the Secretariat to have the views and the assessment on its work by the de facto authorities in Sukhumi since the Secretariat had no possibility to visit Sukhumi.

26. Moreover, some interlocutors continue to express to the Secretariat their concern on limitations imposed by the Georgian law “on Occupied territories” which constitutes, according to them, an additional obstacle for ensuring access of international community to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

v. To facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable groups of the population affected by the consequences of the conflict

27. In the period under review, international organisations’ access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia has remained limited. Some international representatives
(UN agencies and international humanitarian NGOs) are generally allowed to visit Abkhazia and are present there for the purpose of implementation of their projects. A number of ambassadors and representatives of international organisations, including the European Union, visited Abkhazia in the reporting period, mainly with a view to discussing practical co-operation. For instance, in August, an EU delegation visited Sukhumi. Following this visit, the EU has voiced plans to implement projects in the sphere of education, health care and agriculture.

28. Projects which are carried out on the ground mainly target humanitarian needs, housing, economic and social rehabilitation, as well as support to civil society and “community security” issues.

29. As for South Ossetia, it continues to remain mainly out of reach. As a positive development, it could, however, be underlined that the EU announced on 6 September that it has launched a one-year project totalling €945 000, which will facilitate access to drinking and/or irrigation water to several hundreds of families on both sides of the ABL. The project will be implemented by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) under the guidance of its current Irish Chairmanship. This new project will be built upon the results of the €2 million Economic Rehabilitation Programme in South Ossetia that was running in the 1990s, interrupted due to the conflict in 2008 and resumed in 2010. This new project will run in parallel with the ongoing work of the ICRC, which informed the Secretariat about the continuity of its work for the construction of water pipelines in South Ossetian villages.

III Human rights situation in the areas affected by the conflict

III.1 Reports on Abkhazia

30. The de facto authorities in Sukhumi considered the visit of the Secretariat impossible this time. Indeed, the entry clearances delivered initially were suddenly recalled at the last minute “taking into consideration inappropriate political frameworks of proposed activities in Abkhazia9. The Secretariat, thus, had no opportunity either to discuss with de facto authorities the human rights situation on the ground or to reflect on their position. The information presented in Chapters III.1.i – III.I.vii stems from and is based on the discussions with the Georgian authorities, civil society representatives, international organisations as well as open sources. As far as references to statistics are concerned, since comprehensive statistics for Abkhazia are not available, the report refers partly to a publically available survey conducted by an NGO and which is considered by the Secretariat as relevant for the subjects examined hereafter. The survey was issued during the reporting period, in July 201210.

III.1.i Security

31. It was reported to the Secretariat by different interlocutors, first of all by the Georgian authorities, that during the reporting period the general security situation seemed to slightly improve following the de facto parliamentary elections in Abkhazia in March 2012. However, according to international and NGOs representatives, a series of violent incidents occurred in the Gali district in May 2012. They informed the delegation in particular about the murder of two Abkhaz “law enforcement” officials and one local resident on 28 May.
These incidents revealed, according to the interlocutors, that the situation remains volatile. A level of general crime seems still to be high and a subject of great concern.

32. To tackle the security issues, according to the previously mentioned survey, local residents are unlikely to contact the de facto authorities in Sukhumi, but they contact quite regularly de facto local authorities’ representatives and de facto police. The Secretariat was also informed by civil society representatives about the practice of de facto police being in contact with focal points in local communities. When there is an absence of contact with the de facto authorities, it seems that this is mainly due to concerns that they would be unwilling or unable to respond to the incidents.

33. NGOs active in the areas adjacent to the ABL continue to highlight the functional link between socio-economic and security issues and the need to address the former with a view to pre-empting the latter.

III.1.ii Freedom of movement

34. The ongoing process of “borderisation” keeps affecting negatively the local population, especially those living in the proximity of the ABL. The Secretariat was informed that the crossing issue is a pressing concern, especially when the Inguri River bridge is sometimes closed without any explanation. Indeed, this concern is particularly valid with regard to the collection of pensions, salaries and state subsidies paid by the Georgian authorities, as well as the provision of schooling and medical care on the territory under the control of the Georgian authorities.

35. On the side of the ABL under the control of Sukhumi, the crossing regime has been partly simplified. The single-exit permit is now free of charge and is reportedly easier to obtain from the head of the de facto local administration. However, it would seem that the awareness of the population about this procedure is not sufficient.

36. Lack of the appropriate crossing documents, or crossing outside the authorised crossing points results generally in short-term detentions, which occur regularly. Usually persons are released after paying fines. In July, one case was reported to the EUMM alleging ill-treatment by de facto special police in custody in Gali.

37. Plans announced in the past that the whole “border” would be secured by the end of 2011 have not yet fully materialised. The opening of four additional crossing points has not yet taken place. It is not yet clear from open sources and information provided by interlocutors how the de facto authorities in Sukhumi – having the objective to reduce smuggling – will regulate the commercial transaction of goods.

38. The Georgian authorities reiterated to the Secretariat that they categorically oppose the plans for “borderisation” and regularly request to agree on the modalities facilitating the freedom of movement within the framework of the Geneva International Discussions. The Georgian authorities also stressed that although the hotline is regularly activated in the absence of the IPRM mechanism (since April), this everyday mechanism is not sufficient for facilitating the freedom of movement in a comprehensive manner. Moreover, it was stressed that the hotline was not an appropriate mechanism for resolving, if they arise, sensitive issues.

III.1.iii Issuing of local IDs

39. According to the above-mentioned survey, ID delivery problems as well as unemployment and bad roads remain issues of concern for the local Gali population. The enjoyment in Abkhazia of social rights and benefits - such as education, health services, property, civil registry - in most cases are reported to continue to depend on the holding of Abkhaz “passports”. Civil society representatives remark that after the de facto elections, the de facto authorities reiterated their willingness to promote a policy of full integration. However, it seems that the issue of access of non-Abkhaz to “passports” is controversial and divides the public opinion in Abkhazia. It was reported that the introduction of “resident permits” for non-Abkhaz is discussed as an alternative option.

40. Civil society representatives from Gali mention cases of people waiting for three years to receive a response to their “passport application”. For “passport application” the problems arise, in particular, for the documents obtained and certified by the relevant Georgian authorities, such as documents issued by the “government of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia (in exile)”. These documents are not recognised by the de facto authorities.

41. As for the pace and conditions of issuing of the IDs, it has been reported by civil society representatives that after the de facto elections, a system of “one window” has been created in order to reduce the bureaucracy and corruption. By the time of the visit, different statistics were given by interlocutors for the total number of “passports” issued to ethnic Georgians residing in Gali. The estimations vary from 14 000 to 16 000 “passports” (a number of 10 000 given for the fifth consolidated report).

42. It should be recalled that the Georgian authorities keep objecting firmly to the issuing of Abkhaz “passports”, which they see as an illegal document. Following the adoption in 2011 of the Georgian legislation on Status Neutral Identification Cards (SNID) and Status Neutral Travel Documents (SNTD), the Georgian authorities continued to raise awareness about these documents. According to data provided by the State Ministry of Reintegration during the visit, a number of requests for SNIDs/SNTDs increased: in total 200 have been issued.

43. According to the Georgian authorities, by introducing the SNTD, the Government of Georgia pursues the aim of ensuring that the eligible persons enjoy the right to travel abroad. The Georgian authorities consider the document in question as neutral to the Georgian citizenship. The Secretariat was informed that since the fifth consolidated report, four additional countries have recognised the SNTDs as a valid travel document, bringing a total number of such countries to ten. According to the State Ministry of Reintegration some persons have already travelled abroad with these documents.

44. On the other hand, the Abkhaz and South Ossetia de facto authorities have publicly declared on a number of occasions (e.g. on 9 and 18 June 2012) that issuance of these documents constitutes a policy of isolation and collective punishment of the population. A number of interlocutors from the international community in Tbilisi have continued to express their concern in relation to the documents’ potentially restrictive character. However, this assessment is not supported by the Georgian authorities.

III.1.iv Health care

45. The Georgian authorities informed the delegation that in the reporting period, particular attention was paid to the health care segment of the Action Plan for Engagement. According to them, as from 1 September, the State Health Insurance Programme has been brought into operation throughout Georgia and this system covers also all persons coming from Abkhazia and South Ossetia. According to the Georgian authorities, the receipt of medical treatment on the Georgia controlled territory is not conditioned by the possession of any specific document, including the SNID/SNTD.

III.1.v Property-related issues

46. The issue was addressed by the 20th Geneva Discussions, Working Group II. It was reported that no progress had been registered on the property rights of refugees, internally displaced persons and their descendants.

47. During the Secretariat visit, the Georgian State Ministry of Reintegration expressed its concern with a non-transparent procedure of the restoration of property in Abkhazia and instances of refusal of applications by ethnic Georgians.

48. The State Ministry of Reintegration also stated that Georgia follows carefully the arrival of Syrian refugees of Abkhaz origin, especially taking into consideration that their housing issue may infringe the property rights of the IDPs. On 21 September, the de facto authorities in Sukhumi announced that 53 persons have already obtained “Abkhaz citizenship” and by the end of September, a total of 100 persons would be repatriated.

III.1.vi Teaching of/in the Georgian language

49. The findings of the previous report concerning the teaching in the Georgian language in the Georgian-populated areas of Abkhazia (i.e. the Gali district) were confirmed again by various interlocutors. Discrepancies between the de jure and the de facto situation in relation to the teaching of/in the Georgian language remain. The Secretariat was also informed that there is a general lack of kindergartens, teachers and education materials in the Gali district and thus the issue of education in general remains an acute problem.

50. As regards secondary education, while in practice in the town of Gali teaching in Georgian is limited only to a few hours per week, all schools in lower Gali are reported to use in practice Georgian. Indeed, many teachers do not have the necessary languages skills to teach in Russian. This practice is, however, not formally authorised. The Secretariat was informed that ethnic Georgian teachers continue to report on persisting discrimination against them, in particular in terms of career perspectives and additional examinations.

51. On 17 September the school season started in Georgia and on 18 September Eka Tkeshelashvili, Georgian State Minister for Reintegration, stated that children from Saberio were no longer allowed to cross the ABL to attend Georgian schools. This information was confirmed by the Abkhaz de facto authorities as an effort to integrate ethnic Georgians into Abkhaz society.

III.1.vii Military conscription

52. The question of military conscription in the Abkhaz de facto army, compulsory for all male “citizens”, continues to raise concern. With young men required to apply for a “passport” and register with the local “military authorities” as soon as they reach the legal age, cases are reported of ethnic Georgians fleeing the Gali district to avoid being drafted. It has been reported that school graduates are under pressure to enrol in the Abkhaz army and bribes are paid to avoid conscription.

III.2 Reports on South Ossetia

53. The Secretariat was informed by international interlocutors that the human rights situation remains critical. Humanitarian organisations highlight the region’s extreme poverty and the local de facto authorities’ inability to tackle basic social security needs. International organisations and INGOs do not have access to the area. Only medical evacuations of individuals living in and around Tskhinvali were facilitated by the ICRC for the provision of treatment in the hospitals of mainly Gori and Tbilisi.

54. The Akhalgori valley continues to remain a cause for concern, given the reported depopulation, occasional freedom of movement restrictions, limited access to some public services and problems of water management.

55. In the territory close to the ABL with South Ossetia, the Georgian authorities and international interlocutors stated a greater sense of security and this confidence in the security situation seems to be reflected in the (increased) cultivation of land along the ABL. However, some local residents still reported having feared to cultivate lands near the ABL due to the existence of mines and unexploded ordnances (UXOs). The EUMM repeatedly confirmed the identification of individual UXOs until the spring 2012.

56. According to the interlocutors in Tbilisi, the reporting period has been characterised by an increasing “borderisation”, stricter control at official crossing points and an active movement of military equipment (cf. above paragraphs 17-18). As far as the crossing of the ABL is concerned, since April 2012 a special authorisation form to cross the ABL from South Ossetia (Form No. 9) has been replaced by Form No. 9a and the international interlocutors drew the attention of the Secretariat to the fact that all present Forms will expire at the end of the year. It still remains unclear how the issue could be resolved and what would be the solution for the persons who crossed the ABL and missed the expiry date.

57. In the summer, several regulations are reported to have been issued in Tskhinvali with regard to the crossing. In particular, on 3 August, the de facto authorities adopted a Resolution on the determination of the border zone, which defined the rules on entering and moving within the “border zone”, including when conducting agricultural activities.

58. International interlocutors note that visits from the side of the ABL under the control of Tskhinvali are more frequent than visits in the opposite direction. A considerable number of such visits (e.g. related to funerals, graveyards) are undertaken clandestinely.

59. In the reporting period, a number of crossings to the South Ossetia have been related to agricultural works, stray cattle, maintenance of mini irrigation channels, collection of firewood and jonjoli. According to the EUMM there are no significant changes in occurrences of movements since the last visit of the Secretariat.

60. Alleged violations of the “border” regime by the local population keep resulting in detentions by the de facto authorities in Tskhinvali. However, according to the Georgian Ministry of Interior, the number of detentions did not change significantly since the last visit of the Secretariat. The issues were resolved – on a regular basis - within the framework of the IPRM with Tskhinvali, which still functions. A number of ad hoc IPRM meetings took place in the summer. The Georgian authorities informed the delegation that, on several occasions, they have raised in the IPRM meetings the issue of ill-treatment of detainees.

61. Tensions increased in August following a divergent interpretation of the release of three Georgians detained for “border” crossing violations and the subsequent release of three Ossetians sentenced in Georgian prisons since mid-2000.

III.3 The situation of Internally Displaced Persons

62. As regards the right of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to a safe, dignified and voluntary return, no progress has been reported (cf. also paragraph 15).

63. Likewise, there are no further developments for the definition of status of IDPs, stipulated in “the Law of Georgia on IDPs from the Occupied Territories of Georgia”: the 2011 amendments were mentioned in the fifth consolidated report and met with criticism by the Public Defender of Georgia and international NGOs active on the subject11. On 3 July, a suit was filed to the Constitutional Court on behalf of two Georgian citizens who are from the villages, which are not in the “occupied territories” and are not controlled by Georgian law enforcing agencies either. The plaintiffs insist that the exclusion of IDPs coming from such villages from the scope of the aforesaid legislation breaks Article 14 of the Georgian Constitution, which deals with equality.

64. During the reporting period, a new MRA, Ms Dalia Khomeriki, was appointed. As a former IDP she expressed the intention of establishing a constructive environment for the authorities-IDPs co-operation. It has been reported that since July a better communication strategy with IDPs has been established, both for issues of settlement and facilitation of integration in a local setting. Open days are organised by the Ministry itself or upon requests coming from the regions. At the time of the visit, the Ministry was in the process of collecting information and mapping the needs, including housing needs, with an objective to focus more future action - despite the MRA’s limited technical capacity - on economic sustainability.

65. As for the implementation of the State strategy on internally displaced persons, it has been reported that the IDP Action Plan for 2012-2014 - aiming to address durable housing solutions and socio-economic integration - was adopted by the Government Decree #1162 on 13 June 2012.

66. Although the time frame for measures defined by the current Action Plan 2009-2012 has not been duly met, the Georgian authorities and international NGOs active on the subject acknowledged that in the reporting period the pace of the privatisation process advanced. The registration for privatisation is also advancing actively as it is now part of a new communication strategy of the MRA, which pays particular attention to the information given when IDPs consider a privatisation agreement (e.g. voluntary basis of privatisation, rehabilitation, housing standards, etc.). The Secretariat was informed that currently the files of 14 000 families are in the pipeline and 2500 families have already finished the registration.

67. The pace of privatisation has been conducted jointly with the rehabilitation of collective centres and their transfer of ownership to IDPs. It should also be indicated that no evictions have taken place since March 2012.

68. At the present stage, major concerns for housing and sheltering were expressed with regard to the situation of persons in private accommodation12: although approximately half of the IDPs from the collective sector have been provided with property, the majority of IDPs living in private sector are still unsettled. Being in rented or borrowed accommodation, many of them complain about significant “housing insecurity”.

69. Critics also continue to draw attention to poor leaving conditions of IDPs as well as to the low quality of construction works and housing provided. Part of IDPs live in hazardous living conditions (i.e. buildings on the verge of collapse). Given the draining of economic resources, many are pessimistic that this situation will be resolved in the nearest future. In 2011, the Public Defender already defined the situation as “deplorable”.

70. Taking into account that the construction of residential buildings continues (it was announced that ten buildings of 320 apartments were to be built in Zugdidi in 2012), concerns persist with regard to unclear criteria used by the authorities during the selection of IDP families for allocation process.

71. As for the absence of heating in the winter season – the subject of concerns in previous years – the MRA reported not having identified any specific winter care urgency for this season: if necessary, work with local government authorities on individual needs and requests will be conducted with a general objective to move from humanitarian assistance to more sustainable development stage.

72. In parallel with accommodation, various social integration activities were mentioned as being implemented in co-operation with partner organisations. A number of community-type projects are conducted for women and youth participation, and computer literacy is advanced. The representatives of the Georgian Government informed the Secretariat that the access of IDPs to education, health care and other basic social services facilities is ensured.

73. As for employment, one of the ongoing initiatives of the Georgian Government is the setting-up of an Employment Database, to be integrated by each Ministry, including the MRA, for its purposes. The MRA informed the Secretariat that the setting-up of such database should bring economic prospective to approximately 60 000 families of IDPs.

74. Such international organisations as the UNHCR, ICRC, NRC and DRC are conducting a number of capacity-building projects for IDPs and returnees in order to support them and improve their self-reliance.

75. Reference should also be made to the publicly available survey for returnees to the Shida Kartli region, published in August 201213. Almost all respondents in the 40 villages under review stated that Georgian private banks refuse to afford credit to the residents of the villages near the ABL given that they are a high security risk and unpredictable in terms of loan repayments. Thus, agricultural inputs (e.g. fertilizers, fuel) could not be obtained and income generation activities are in danger. It has been reported that returnees expressed the wish that the government launch targeted projects for agricultural development in the returnee areas.

IV Activities of Council of Europe organs and institutions and their follow-up

IV.1. Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

IV.1.i Monitoring Committee (AS/Mon)

76. The Monitoring Committee decided in 2011 that:

- the consequences of the war, as well as the implementation of Assembly recommendations and demands made on Georgia and Russia in the relevant resolutions on this issue, would be followed by the respective
co-rapporteurs for Georgia and Russia in the framework of the ongoing monitoring procedures for both countries.

- The co-rapporteurs, under the responsibility and coordination of the Chairperson of the Monitoring Committee, would present on an annual basis a joint information note to the Committee, in which they would outline relevant developments concerning the conflict and their findings with regard to the implementation of Assembly demands, as expressed in its resolutions on this subject.

- This information note would be discussed by the Committee in a specific sitting in which it would also be updated, inter alia, on relevant developments in other international fora.

The fact-finding visit of the co-rapporteurs on both countries and the Chair of the Committee to Moscow, Tbilisi, Tskhinvali and Sukhumi in the framework of the preparation of the information note is foreseen for February 2013.

IV.1.ii Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons (AS/Mig)

77. The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons was given a new mandate to carry on its work on “the war between Georgia and Russia: the humanitarian situation in the war-affected areas” by the Assembly on 29 June 2012. Ms Tina Acketoft (Sweden, ALDE) was re-appointed Rapporteur on this issue and was given a mandate by the Committee to visit Moscow and Tskhinvali by the Committee14.

IV.2 Commissioner for Human Rights

78. The Commissioner continued to follow human rights issues following the August 2008 armed conflict in Georgia, including the situation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and other persons affected by the conflict. The Commissioner published a Human Rights Comment on 4 September entitled “Internally displaced persons in Europe: another lost generation?” which refers, inter alia, to the situation in Georgia.

IV.3 European Court of Human Rights

79. As regards the Inter-State application No. 38263/08 Georgia against Russia, the Chamber relinquished jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber on 3 April 2012.

80. In the reporting period, there were no major developments in the state of play with regard to individual cases (cf. also paragraph 20).

IV.4 Operational activities

IV.4.i DG II Democracy Directorate of Human Rights and Anti-discrimination

81. Covering the period 1 January – 31 December 2012 - and in partnership with the Georgian Public Defender’s Office (PDO) and UNHCR, which also provides co-financing – the DG II Migration Coordination Division is contributing to a project in support of human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Georgia. The project aims at monitoring the general situation of IDPs in Georgia and at identifying and subsequently suggesting remedies to particular shortcomings in policy areas, such as living conditions, health care and security guarantees15.

82. The expected results are improved awareness among the IDP population about its rights as well as a fairer and a more efficient delivery of public support for IDPs, such as accommodation.

83. In the reporting period, meetings had been organised between the PDO and local NGOs aiming at information sharing and identification of problems in the context of the provision of housing for IDPs (Gori, Kutaisi, Zugdidi and Batumi). Likewise, a series of trainings about the rights of IDPs has been organised for students in the aforesaid locations.

IV.4.ii Confidence-Building Measures activities and follow-up proposed

(a) 2012

84. The Council of Europe continued to work in close co-operation and consultation with relevant actors to implement the projects proposed by the Secretary General in the previous consolidated reports.

85. In the period under review, one of the projects proposed by the Secretary General in the previous consolidated reports was implemented and one planned workshop - on “Training teachers for their work in a multicultural environment”- was cancelled at a very late stage due to the withdrawal of Abkhaz participants, without clear explanations for the reasons of the withdrawal.

Artists for dialogue

86. Twenty-two young artists met in Sinop (Turkey) from 24 to 27 August to discuss various forms of visual art and artistic works that could constitute a joint exhibition.

87. Participants agreed to further discuss the format of a joint exhibition on the basis of a concrete proposal to be provided by the end of the year after further contacts with the organisers of events in possible venues.

Cultural heritage

88. Currently, the Georgian authorities are considering a proposal made by the Secretariat aimed at addressing issues related to the conservation of cultural heritage.

Other projects proposed by the Secretary General in the fifth consolidated report

89. The Secretariat is still exploring proposals to continue the work with journalists. Likewise, the Seminars on Patients’ Rights and the Training for teachers dealing with children suffering from psychological distress are still under discussion.

(b) Reflection on further action

90. The bilateral format of the events is increasingly questioned by the Abkhaz interlocutors and participants during the implementation of these projects. Moreover, the question of the use of status neutral travel documents (SNTD) is regularly raised in the sense of paragraph 44 of the present report. The common denominator to these two concerns is the desire of those who voice them to widen the range of contacts and break the isolation of the population, in particular for some key professional groups like journalists, teachers and artists.

91. The desire of interlocutors and participants from Sukhumi is to enlarge participation to countries notably from the region and to hold events in European countries, including in the EU.

Appendix

List of acronyms and abbreviations

ABL Administrative Boundary Line

COBERM Confidence-Building Early Response Mechanism

EUMM European Monitoring Mission to Georgia

IDs Identity Documents

IDPs Internally Displaced Persons

IPRM Incident Prevention and Reaction Mechanism

MRA Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia

PDO Public Defender’s Office

SNID Status Neutral Identification Cards

SNTD Status Neutral Travel Document

1 SG/Inf(2010)8, SG/Inf(2010)19 final, SG/Inf(2011)8, SG/Inf(2011)24 and SG/Inf(2012)5

2 SG/Inf(2009)7, SG/Inf(2009)9 and SG/Inf(2009)15 final

3 SG/Inf(2009)5

4 SG/Inf(2009)5 Addendum and SG/Inf(2009)5 Addendum 2

5 It is a fundamental objective of the member states of the Council of Europe to uphold the territorial integrity of Georgia. However, the Russian Federation recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states on 26 August 2008.

6 A/Res/66/283. Resolution passed by a vote of 60 in favour and 15 against, with 82 abstentions. The UN General Assembly has passed four similar non-binding resolutions in the last four years – one in 2008 (in respect of Abkhazia) and three others in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

7 A/66/813, 22 May 2012, Report of the Secretary General “Status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia”.

8 Cf. Regulation of the Government of Georgia No. 320 Tbilisi October 2010 “Modalities for Engagement of Organizations Conducting Activities in the Occupied Territories of Georgia”, http://www.smr.gov.ge

9 The explanation given by the Protocol Department of the de facto Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

10 The survey “Potential for change – A survey of community security in eastern Abkhazia” was prepared by the organisation Saferworld (based in London) with the advice and support of a number of NGOs from Sukhumi and Gali. It covers 400 people from the towns and villages of four target districts and compares the situation of 2012 with 2011. The overwhelming majority of respondents (78%) identify themselves as ethnic Georgians, followed by Abkhaz (20%) and Russians and Ukrainians. According to the authors of the survey, these numbers are not statistically precise, but they present a fairly reliable picture of the proportion of the population in the areas in the proximity of the ABL.

11 Issue raised in particular in the Report of the UN Secretary General, Status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia, dated 22 May 2012, A/66/813, para 16. Also Annual report of the Public Defender of Georgia: 2011 Report on the situation of Human Rights and Freedoms in Georgia, Rights of Internally Displaced Persons in Georgia, p. 141-142.

12 According to MRA statistics: 157 256 IDPs are living at present in the private sector and 101 323 in collective centres.

13 UNHCR in Georgia, “Returned but still reintegrating”, Participatory Assessment of the humanitarian situation and progress made in the re-integration process of IDPs who returned to the Shida Kartli region, Georgia, August 2012, p. 15.

14 The visit to Moscow took place from 10 to 11 October 2012.

15 For further information: http://www.coe.int/t/democracy/migration/Projects/georgia_idps_project_en.asp

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