Amnesty International express Georgian IDP concern
By Salome Modebadze
Monday, January 31On January 28, Amnesty International released a report urging the Georgian Government to comply with international standards on eviction. Discussing the violations that took place during the resettlement of 600 IDP families from 22 buildings in Tbilisi, the organization was worried that not all the eligible IDPs have been provided with financial assistance prior to their removal. Besides that, not all the alternative housing offered to evicted families fully met with the standards of adequate housing.
Summarizing the eviction processes of IDPs occupying the buildings “without the appropriate permission from the authorities” which took place from January 20-24 Amnesty International said that monitors observing the eviction under the terms of the SOPs were prevented from entering the buildings. They were also hindered from speaking with evicted persons without the presence of a police officer or representatives of the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia (MRA).
Welcoming the adoption of the Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) aimed at regulating evictions and allocating durable households, Amnesty International worried that the above-mentioned regulations hadn’t been followed during the recent evictions. Moreover the monitors also lacked full and unhindered access to the people affected by conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Introducing the principles of international law, Amnesty International stressed that “evictions may be carried out only as a last resort, once all feasible alternatives have been explored in genuine consultation with the affected communities”. Notwithstanding the type of tenure, whether they rent, own, lease or even occupy the premises without appropriate permission “all persons should possess a degree of security of tenure which guarantees legal protection against forced eviction, harassment and other threats.”
Amnesty International called the Georgian authorities to ensure the access of the internally displaced persons to “unimpeded and immediate access to effective monitoring mechanisms” in line with the approved SOPs. Explaining the reasons for their refusal to move to rural villages offered by MRA IDPs told Amnesty International how seriously their lives would be disrupted by moving to villages lacking essential infrastructure and access to basic services there.
Stressing that the “housing alternatives need to ensure an adequate standard of living, security of tenure and access to essential services and livelihoods” Amnesty International called for the Georgian Government to inform the individuals of the exact date of eviction and hold consultations with IDPs; follow national and international human rights standards while carrying out eviction; provide evicted families with eligible financial assistance and adequate housing in collective centres meeting the criteria of habitability, as well as access to water, sanitation and other basic infrastructure in a suitable location and ensure full and unhindered access for the monitors in observing the eviction process.
Tamaz, an IDP from Tskhinvali, South Ossetia, who has been living in the former customs department building since he fled the region during the August 2008 war, told Amnesty International:
“The police came in around midnight and told us we had to leave…They were back at 7:00 am the same morning, moving all our things out. I still have not received the promised monetary assistance from the state and at the moment I have nowhere to go. I am staying with my relatives in Gori together with my wife and two sons. We do not know when we will receive the promised assistance.”
The eviction process resumed on 20 January, 2011 was followed by detention of IDPs’ supporters and continues with rallies supported by some opposition parties protesting against evictions in front of Parliament. Complaining that the evictions violated Georgia’s Law on the Internally Displaced People Human Rights Watch and Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia) also paid much attention to violations from the Government during the eviction while the Public Defender Giorgi Tugushi worried of the “number of problems that could influence the IDPs’ condition negatively” in rural villages offered by the MRA.