CoE releases post August War Human Rights report
By Salome Modebadze
Monday, October 11
In a report on human rights issues following the August 2008 armed conflict in Georgia released on October 7, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg stressed that all sides should ensure a faster improvement in the human rights situation in the areas affected by the conflict.
Emphasising the need to release all remaining detainees apprehended while crossing the administrative border, Hammarberg spoke of the importance of implementing the six principles for urgent human rights and humanitarian protection in the war-affected areas. These are: the right to return; right of displaced persons to care and support; right to be protected against dangers from explosives and other remnants of war; right to protection against lawlessness; protection and release of detainees and prevention of hostage-taking; international assistance and presence.
“All the relevant players must ensure a safe, voluntary and dignified return, as well as unimpeded freedom of movement in the areas affected by the conflict. Hardly any progress has been achieved regarding the return of the displaced persons,” stated the report. Also include in the document was the fact that nearly all the 100,000 temporally displaced people from Shida Kartli region including the areas of South Ossetia had returned to their homes by the end of 2008 while the great number of ethnic Georgians who fled from South Ossetia had not had the chance to go back.
Urging the Georgian authorities to continue granting the status of internally displaced persons (IDPs) without discriminating those affected from earlier conflicts, the Commissioner pointed out that access to food, water, sanitation and basic services should be provided as well as durable housing solutions for tens of thousands of IDPs.
“Viable security arrangements and confidence-building measures must be adopted. Civil society players have a crucial role to play, and all the relevant authorities should allow them to work without hindrance,” Hammarberg said introducing the security situation in the conflict-affected areas, which according to his report have become stable with incidents occurring at several places along the administrative boundary.
The CoE Commissioner ensured the secure release of number of detainees from both sides by submitting a memorandum in March 2010 calling upon Tbilisi and Tskhinvali to release every detainee without delay, conditionality or bargain. His efforts were followed by the release of six people arrested after the August war in detention in Tbilisi and the release of six out of the thirteen Georgians held by the South Ossetian side.
The Commissioner welcomed the release of the detainees while noting that a number of people were still deprived of their liberty in Tskhinvali. He encouraged both sides to refrain from arresting people crossing the border and to help clarify the fate of missing persons. “Some of the detainees in Tskhinvali are in bad health, thus the relevant decision-makers must treat these cases as a matter of priority on humanitarian grounds,” stated the report. Regretting that little progress has been achieved in allowing international humanitarian workers to operate within the areas affected by the conflict, Commissioner Hammarberg encouraged the sides to cooperate to protect the human rights of the population and support the activities of the International Community.
Analyst Paata Zakareishvili, working on conflict issues called the report “objective and professional” and said it covered the most burning issues concerning the post war situation in Georgia’s breakaway regions. “Georgian men were killed by locals who claimed they had simply found their corpses. The so-called Government of South Ossetia has been trying to avoid its responsibilities concerning the missing Georgians, while Georgia has been trying to prevent the local Ossetian police becoming deeply involved in the missing persons’ case to let the neutral international community investigate the issue,” Zakareishvili told The Messenger. The analyst also pointed out that the report on human rights issues released by the CoE Commissioner also considered the violations of the Georgian side regarding the release of Ossetian detainees as well as giving recommendations to both sides for further cooperation within the framework of the signed memorandum.