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EC: International observers are “absolutely necessary” in Abkhazia

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, February 16
Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, has stated that the presence of international missions in the Georgian breakaway regions is an “absolute necessity” now.

"All the interlocutors I have met have underlined the need for an international presence in Abkhazia" said Commissioner Hammarberg. "A mere technical extension of the UN mission for some months is not enough. The UN presence must be substantive and meaningful in terms of providing security and humanitarian and human rights protection to the population. The coming months must be used by the concerned parties to agree on concrete tasks in this regard for the UN presence in Abkhazia," he added.

“I want to believe that the Sokhumi de facto officials are truly interested in the continuation of the UN mission in Georgia, as they have told me,” said the Commissioner, answering The Messenger’s question.

The Commissioner also called upon all concerned parties to give free and unhindered access to international organizations to all war-affected areas, from all directions, at all times, so that the already victimized population can be provided with all necessary humanitarian assistance, including the provision of food and sustainable housing as components of their adequate standard of living.

Thomas Hammarberg arrived in Tbilisi on February 9 on a one week working visit. During his visit he conducted several meetings with Georgian officials and NGOs and with the de facto authorities of Georgia’s breakaway region Abkhazia. “This mission is my fourth to Georgia in the post-war period,” stated the Commissioner. “I can’t name another European country I have visited so frequently, so you can see that the Council of Europe pays special attention to the processes in Georgia,” he added.

Speaking about the situation in the separatist regions Hammarberg noted that violation of human rights is still a big problem there. The violations are especially sharp in the Abkhazian Gali region, home to compact settlements of ethnic Georgians. “There are instances of kidnapping, property abuse and other violations in Gali,” said Hammarberg, who noted that local NGOs are becoming active in Gali. He welcomed this, and stated that NGOs may assist in resolving the problems connected with the Georgian population being forced to take ‘Abkhazian’ passports and the status of the Georgian language in Gali schools.

"It is also imperative that the displaced persons are informed of their options and rights and consulted in the devising of any assistance plan to them," concluded the Commissioner.