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Council of Europe Discusses Report on Conflict in Georgia

By Khatia Kardava and Tea Mariamidze
Friday, November 10
The 1299th session of Council of Europe (CoE) Committee of Ministers' Deputies has discussed the 16th consolidated report on Conflict in Georgia this week.

The report was presented by Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland in Strasbourg on November 8. The document covers the period from April to September of current year.

In the 16th consolidated report, Secretary General focuses on the complicated situation regarding security, human rights and humanitarian issues in Georgia’s occupied territories. In addition, restriction of rights of ethnic Georgians and the situation after prohibition of education in Georgian language in the region of Abkhazia were considered.

The report puts an emphasis on the issues such as cases of destruction of Georgian residential houses in the village of Eredvi, closing checkpoints, so-called ‘borderization,’ restriction of freedom of movement, and ethnic oppression.

First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Davit Zalkaliani took part in the discussion and addressed the Committee of Ministers’ Deputies of the Council of Europe. In his speech, Zalkaniani focused on the difficult situation in terms of human rights in the occupied territories of Georgia and recent illegal actions carried out by the Russian occupation forces.

Within the framework of a visit, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Zalkaliani held meetings with Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland and Permanent Representatives of EU states.

At the meetings, Zalkaliani provided Secretary General and the Permanent Representatives with the detailed information on recent developments in breakaway Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions and reported on the efforts of the Georgian side to peacefully resolve the issues.

The Consolidated Report

The consolidated report on Conflict in Georgia is prepared by Secretary General of the Council of Europe twice a year and aims at reflecting the situation in the occupied Georgian territories. For the purpose of preparing a consolidated report and in order to hold meetings with different offices, the visit of the Secretariat delegation of Council of Europe (CoE) to Georgia takes place in spring and fall.

“Despite continued efforts, the Secretariat was not given authorization to visit Abkhazia and South Ossetia for the purpose of this consolidated report, which gave us no opportunity to assess the human rights situation on the ground,” the report says.

According to the document, the human rights and humanitarian situation of the conflict-affected communities remains worrying, notably due to persisting and newly imposed restrictions faced by the ethnic Georgian population with regard to freedom of movement, documentation as well as access to basic services, including education.

However, the report reads that informal talks with the Georgian Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, and Russia’s State Secretary, and Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin, are recognized to have a positive effect on the process of normalization of bilateral economic and humanitarian ties.

“At present, the Georgian Government continues to make available free access to healthcare, education and some other social benefits for all residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” the report says.

Moreover, the document reads that the situation in terms of human rights is also grave at the occupied territories, adding there remains an urgent need for regular and standards-based assessment of the application of principles and standards of the European Convention for Human Rights and other international human rights treaties.

The report says that so called ‘borderization’ activities at the breakaway regions and introduction of so called residential permits create additional barriers to the locals living there.

CoE Secretary General’s consolidated report, which is being published twice a year since 2010, was highly welcomed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia.

“It is important that the Council of Europe continues to monitor the obligations of the Russian Federation and Georgia related to the results of the 2008 war and to inform the international community about the human rights situation in the occupied regions of Georgia, as well as to describe all the facts and developments that have taken place during the reporting period,” says the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia.

On May 3 this year, at its 1285th session the Committee of Ministers' Deputies of the Council of Europe has reaffirmed its strong support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity holding Russia legally accountable for exercising actual control on Georgia’s occupied territories.

The statements supporting Georgia were made on behalf of the EU and GUAM, as well as Russia's illegal actions were assessed and condemned by 28 countries individually. The delegations underscored support to Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders once again and called upon Russia to respect the international law and to fulfill international commitments.

It is important for the Georgian side that the issues related to the occupied territories of Georgia are permanently on the agenda of the international community. In this regard, the Council of Europe‘s report on Conflict in Georgia is a significant document, which provides the international community with objective information on developments in Georgia’s conflict-torn regions.