The Court: Status-Neutral ID Card Holders Have Social Rights Equal to Citizens

The Tbilisi Court of Appeals ruled on February 22 that holders of the status-neutral identity cards legally living in the occupied territories of Georgia have rights equal to citizens of Georgia when it comes to receiving state benefits.

In 2021, a person with disabilities living in Ochamchire (Abkhazia) who holds a status-neutral identity card of Georgia applied to the Social Services Agency for a disability pension but was denied due to the lack of Georgian citizenship.

The Center for Social Justice, a CSO, appealed the decision, arguing that the right of a person to provide minimum living conditions is a positive obligation of the state and cannot be linked to the type of identification document and/or the legal address. In addition, the Center argued, “the full protection, integration, and support of the people living in the occupied territory by the state of Georgia conform to the declared de-occupation policy of the country.”

The decision of the Tbilisi Court of Appeal to identify the long-term practice of denying social support to individuals with a neutral identity card by the Social Service Agency as illegal sets a precedent and can lead to expanding social security guarantees for persons with a status-neutral identity card and new legislative changes for this purpose, the Center for Social Justice stated.

Georgia introduced the status-neutral identity cards in 2011, aiming to integrate the citizens living in occupied territories without them having to accept the Georgian national IDs. The uptake of the new cards has been relatively limited with. Activists argue, one of the reasons was that they only provide limited access to social services. A vast majority of the residents of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia are known to hold Russian passports and receive their social benefits from that state.

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