During the 1314th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies on April 18, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland presented his 17th consolidated report on the conflict in Georgia, which covers the period from October 2017 – March 2018 and takes stock of the security and human rights situation in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia.
The CoE Secretary General said in the report that “despite repeated efforts, the Secretariat was not given authorization to visit Abkhazia and South Ossetia for the purpose of this consolidated report,” that gave them “no opportunity to assess the human rights situation on the ground.”
As a result, the information presented in the document is based on previous consolidated reports, as well as the CoE Secretariat delegation’s discussions with the Georgian authorities and the Public Defender, and representatives of international organizations and local NGOs working on reconciliation.
The overall security situation on the ground, the document says, citing assessments by the participants of the Geneva International Discussions, “has remained stable and calm,” but “military exercises on both sides of the ABL have given rise to certain concerns.”
The security perceptions, according to the Secretary General, remained “vulnerable to incidents on the ground,” with the “tragic death” of a Georgian citizen Archil Tatunashvili in Tskhinvali custody, that “prompted grave concerns and was firmly condemned by international organizations.”
“The growing dynamism in trade, tourism, transport and humanitarian exchanges” between Georgia and the Russian Federation, “continued in 2017,” with both sides “acknowledging the impact of a pragmatic approach in the normalisation of ties, in view of the absence of diplomatic relations.”
In Abkhazia, “the security situation on the ground remained relatively stable as reported by various relevant interlocutors involved in the monitoring of the situation,” but “the general crime situation” was reported to have “worsened” during the period under review.
“Freedom of movement continued to be severely affected by the so-called “borderization” process,” the Secretary General noted, adding that the developments and other freedom of movement restrictions “along with the reported lack of crossing documents continue to complicate access to livelihoods, healthcare and education as well as family links.”
Thorbjorn Jagland spoke on the new “residence permits” as well, saying the scope of the rights and entitlements attached to the new document was “marked by ambiguity, giving rise to concerns about the rights of the local population.” “Effective implementation of property rights during property transfer transactions seems to be particularly problematic.”
Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia
The general security situation in Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia “was assessed by observers on the ground as relatively calm.” However, the period under review “was regrettably marked by a continuation of so-called “borderization” activities.”
“The human rights and humanitarian dimensions of the so-called “borderization” were unfortunately reflected in the inability of the local population to move freely, access livelihoods or collect firewood during the winter season remain of serious concern,” the report reads.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia welcomed the Secretary General’s 17th consolidated report, as well as the statements of the European Union, GUAM and other partners concerning the report, and expressed its hope that the issue would remain on the CoE agenda in the future as well.