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UN Human Rights Council Demands “Immediate Access” to Abkhazia, South Ossetia

The United Nations Human Right Council (UN/HRC), the key human rights body, adopted a resolution “On Cooperation with Georgia” during the final day of the Council’s 34th session, held in Geneva on February 27-March 24.

Reaffirming its commitment to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders, the Council has called for granting the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other international and regional human rights mechanisms “immediate access” to Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia.

Eighteen out of the Council’s 47 members voted in favor of the Council’s resolution. These included all of the Council’s members from Europe (Albania, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and the United Kingdom), the United States, as well as Botswana, Japan, Panama, Paraguay and Togo. Five delegations have voted against (Bolivia, Burundi, China, Cuba and Venezuela). 24 have abstained, notably including Switzerland which acts as a mediator between Georgia and Russia following the 2008 war.

Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized that “this is the first resolution adopted with respect to Georgia by the UN Human Rights Councilthe UN body primarily responsible for protecting human rights.”

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has fired back in an official statement, saying the resolution “was clearly politicized and aimed against Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Russia”. The same statement accused Georgia of sabotaging the upcoming round of the Geneva International Discussions (GID) – the multilateral mediation forum co-Chaired by the EU, OSCE and UN, which was created after 2008 war to address security and humanitarian issues. GID involves representatives from Tbilisi, Moscow, but also Tskhinvali and Sokhumi in their individual capacities. The United States are an observer.

Russia has lost its seat at the Human Rights Council in October 2016, as the UN General Assembly members, dismayed by its actions in Syria, supported Croatia and Hungary to represent the Eastern European region instead. Georgia was voted into the HRC in October 2015, for the term of 2016-2018. In December 2016, the Head of Georgia’s delegation at the UN organisations in Geneva was elected to fulfil the duties of the Vice President of the Council in 2017.

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