In its May 12 decision on the conflict in Georgia, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe said “the Russian Federation continues to impede the peaceful conflict resolution process and to undermine the security and stability in the wider region.” The document welcomed the ECHR’s recent judgment in the Georgia v. Russia (II) case that established Russia’s responsibility “for grave human rights violations during the period of occupation of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia following the August 2008 war.”
Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani dubbed the decision “unprecedented,” highlighting that it marked the first time for an executive-level of an international organization to use the term occupation to describe Russia’s presence in two Georgian regions.
The CoE decision noted that multiple measures, among them incorporation of “illegal military units” of Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia into Russian armed forces, also the “joint group of armed forces” and the “common socio-economic space” with Russia in Abkhazia have no “legal effect and further aggravate the situation on the ground.”
The Committee expressed grave concern of the “lengthy” closure of crossing points between Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Regions on one hand, and Tbilisi-controlled territories on the other, “which led to severe humanitarian consequences for the local population.” It expressed particular concern over “the intensified discrimination of Georgians on the grounds of ethnicity” in both Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, particularly in the Gali and Akhalgori districts.
The document also expressed concern over continued illegal detentions along the dividing lines, highlighting the case of Georgian citizen Zaza Gakheladze who was shot and wounded during his detention and subsequently sentenced to more than 12 years in Tskhinvali prison.
The COE Deputy Ministers called on Russia to comply with the 2008 Ceasefire Agreement, including by withdrawing its military and security forces, and to uphold the European Court of Human rights judgment into the Georgia v. Russia case.
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