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Kokoity refuses to release Georgian teens

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, December 1
"There is rule of law in South Ossetia and anyone who violates the law should bear responsibility for doing so," de facto South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity said at the meeting with Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg on Monday. “The Georgian citizens will also be punished in accordance with South Ossetian legislation,” Kokoity said, referring to the four Georgian teenagers detained on November 4 in the village of Tirdznisi on 'border' crossing and illegal possession of explosives charges.

“We are ready to show them to their parents,” Kokoity stated. “We demand the same from the Georgian side, that they show the detained South Ossetian children to their parents,” he added. Kokoity claimed that Georgian law enforcers hold about 40 “South Ossetian citizens” in detention.

The de facto leader criticised European organisations for “pursuing a policy of double standards”. “South Ossetia is ready to cooperate with the CoE, EU and OSCE in order to normalise the situation in the Caucasus,” Kokoity noted. “However, unfortunately, we have some mistrust towards these structures. Our repeated expressions of concern, aimed at averting the 2008 tragedy, were ignored by these international organisations,” he said.

Kokoity said that the “exchange of prisoners proposed by CoE and the Georgian side” is an attempt to take South Ossetia back to the “Middle Ages”. “We are a civilized state and we will prove this to everyone,” he stated. “At this point I think it is better to show goodwill. When something concerns the destiny of people, especially children there is no need to make it a subject of PR and farce,” he said.

Hammarberg said that he is being criticised for being “objective” towards all sides, according to the Press and Information Committee of the de facto Republic. “Thanks to this I become able to play a certain role to help some individual victims of the conflict,” quoted Hammarberg as saying. The rest of the meeting between the de South Ossetian leader and Thomas Hammarberg was held behind closed doors, Ossetian news agencies reported.

Earlier on Monday the CoE Human Rights Commissioner met Dimitry Sanakoev, the de facto administration's Human Rights Representative. The sides discussed issues related to the detained and missing citizens of Georgia and the de facto republic. “Due to the post-conflict tensions in the region there is a problem with exchanging prisoners,” Hammarberg said. “We should do two things: ease tensions and defend the rights of private citizens,” he added, expressing hope that his visit to Tskhinvali would make these processes go faster.

The de facto South Ossetian authorities have announced that the court hearing of the detained teens will be held on December 2. “They are charged with the illegal possession of explosives and illegal border crossing,” the de facto Deputy Representative for Post-Conflict Regulation, Merab Chigoev, said on Monday. Georgian officials have refrained from making any comments on this issue.

Meanwhile the Russian “border” police have detained 45-year old Ramaz Makasarashvili in the village of Perevi, in the Sachkhere region, according to the local authorities. He was detained at Perevi checkpoint late Sunday while driving his bus along its usual route. Russian police officers claimed that he had passed the checkpoint without their permission. The Georgian side has described the incident as a “provocation”. “These actions are aimed at destabilising the region,” Sachkhere local council Chairman Nodar Abzhandadze said.