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CoE Discusses Secretary General’s 28th Consolidated Report on Conflict in Georgia

On November 29, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers at Deputy level discussed the CoE Secretary General’s 28th Consolidated Report on the Conflict in Georgia. The Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia, Lasha Darsalia, participated in the meeting.

Deputy FM Darsalia also met with the Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić. “The Secretary General has confirmed her intention to keep the member states of the Council of Europe abreast of the human rights developments in conflict-affected areas through the bi-annual Consolidated Report on the conflict in Georgia,” the Council of Europe said in a statement.

The 28th Consolidated Report covers the period from April to September 2023, and includes updates on major developments, a review of implementation of legal obligations related to the conflict, an assessment of the human rights situation in the affected areas, and an examination of ongoing Council of Europe activities to address the consequences of the conflict.

According to the Georgian MFA, for the first time ever, the report uses the term “Occupation Line,” and by this the Council of Europe “highlights the occupation of the Georgia’s regions by Russia.” According to the same information, during the Ministers’ deputies meeting, the Secretary General “expressed grief over the killing of Georgian citizen Tamaz Ginturi by the Russian occupation forces and emphasized the importance of immediate execution of justice in this and previous cases.”

MFA reported that Deputy Minister Darsalia thanked the Council of Europe for preparing the report and for keeping Georgia on the agenda. Deputy Minister Darsalia discussed Russia’s violation of the 2008 ceasefire agreement, its strengthening of effective control over the occupied regions of Georgia, as well as Tbilisi’s commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia welcomes the 28th consolidated report of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and underlines the importance of keeping the mentioned issue on the political agenda of the Council of Europe,” the MFA wrote, adding that EU member states and around twenty non-EU countries, including Georgia’s neighbors Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, “made supportive statements.”

The European Union adopted the statement on the consolidated report, reiterating its support to the Reykjavík Summit Declaration, “which calls on the Russian Federation to comply with its international obligations and to withdraw its forces from Georgia and reasserts Council of Europe member States’ unwavering support for Georgia’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, within its internationally recognized borders.” The statement further reads that “the EU deplores that no effort has been made by the Russian Federation in response to these calls nor in implementing previous Committee of Ministers decisions on “The Council of Europe and the conflict in Georgia”.

Albania, Andorra, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, North Macedonia, San Marino, Ukraine aligned themselves with the EU statement.

The 28th Consolidated Report on Conflict in Georgia

The 28th Consolidated Report on the Conflict in Georgia by Secretary General of the Council on Europe published on November 15 states the overall human rights environment in the conflict effected areas of Georgia was generally assessed by the CoE “as not being conducive to the full and effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” further noting that “the security and humanitarian situation on the ground was further impacted by the repercussions of the consecutive crises of the covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

The Secretary-General continues to request access for fact-finding visits to the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions of Georgia for the preparation of consolidated reports. The Secretariat was not granted access on this occasion.

The report notes that “during the period under review, unilateral restrictions on free movement of people and goods continued to affect, in multiple negative ways, the human rights of the conflict-affected population.” According to the consolidated report, “the continuation of various forms of discrimination against ethnic Georgians and failure to address them – as illustrated by the fact that more than 4 600 conflict-affected children are now reportedly deprived of the right to an education in their Georgian native language – contributed to the sense of growing alienation and uncertainty for the future.”

“No progress has been made in ensuring access for international and regional human rights mechanisms, including those of the Council of Europe, to the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia,” the report said.

The CoE report also noted the lack of progress in the investigation into the deaths of Giga Otkhozoria, David Basharuli and Archil Tatunashvili, or regarding the deaths of Irakli Kvaratskhelia and
Inal Jabiev which “highlighted the issue of persisting impunity and the need to ensure accountability
for grave human rights violations.”

Based on the Georgian authorities, the report notes that the period under review was marked by a continuation of “borderization” activities on the Occupation Line (OL), notably through the installation of fencing, cameras and other surveillance equipment.

The report emphasizes that the the Georgian authorities shared with the CoE delegation their concerns about the state of the Georgian cultural heritage in the occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions.

Abkhazia

The report notes that the Gali Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) remains suspended. No IPRM meetings were held during the period under review. The importance of resuming them has been stressed by international actors and the Georgian Government. The EUMM-facilitated hotline continues to operate.

The delegation reports that despite regular cross-OL movement, challenges persist. While the main “crossing point” over the Enguri River nears pre-pandemic levels with 2500 daily crossings, delays and document-related issues, particularly with “foreign resident permits,” impede local residents’ freedom of movement.

Incidents involving illegal detentions continued to be reported. Georgian authorities reiterated deep concerns over the case of Irakli Bebua, who faced an illegal nine-year imprisonment since December 2020, given his reported severe health issues. The ongoing unlawful detentions of Kristine Takalandze and Asmat Tavadze since 2022 were also highlighted. Georgia has persistently called for their immediate release across international platforms.

The report also touches upon the persistent discrimination against Georgian language in the occupied Abkhazia where the education in native Georgian language is severely restricted, causing the condemnation from the central government of Georgia.

According to the report, emergency medical evacuations to Tbilisi-controlled territory have remained available throughout the reporting period, owing also to the effective facilitation via the EUMM-managed hotline.

Tskhinvali region

As for the Tskhinvali region, the report notes that the situation along the Occupation Line (OL) remained relatively stable, even during the anniversary of the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. However, despite this stability, security incidents, particularly related to detentions, continued to be reported. The Georgian authorities informed the delegation of a violent attempt to detain two local residents near the village of Chvrinisi, involving gunfire by Russian border guards. The CoE report says that the EUMM-managed hotline played a crucial role in defusing tensions and facilitating information exchange, as acknowledged by all the delegation’s interlocutors.

No new developments were reported regarding the security situation in the Chorchana-Tsnelisi section of the OL, which “remains unresolved and fraught with the risk of escalation.” Ongoing extensive discussions in the IPRM format persisted. The “borderization” process, with its adverse effects on the local population’s freedom of movement and livelihood, continued to raise concerns. The Georgian authorities reported 25 new instances, including the installation of observation posts, reinforcement of fencing, and the placement of “border signs,” along with fresh digging of anti-fire lines.

According to the report, freedom of movement remains significantly restricted due to the closure of the OL, despite the fact that the exception allowing for temporary crossings between the 20th and 30th day of each month continues to apply.

The delegation notes that the “prolonged periods of closure continued to significantly hamper the agricultural, farming and other traditional livelihood activities, affecting in particular the ethnic Georgian residents in the Akhalgori district.”

Additionally, the report maintains that difficulties with access to so-called “permission documents” used for crossing purposes continued to negatively affect freedom of movement.

The report note that “similar to the Abkhaz context, access to education in the Georgian native language remains unavailable in all seven schools in the Georgian-inhabited Akhalgori district, reinforcing the general perceptions of discrimination.”

When it comes to the Georgian IDPs and refugees voluntary, safe, dignified and unhindered return on the basis of internationally recognized principles, “no progress could be reported.”

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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