CM(2009)164 10 November 20091
1070bis Meeting, 18 November 2009
1 General Questions
1.2 Stocktaking of the Slovenian Chairmanship and follow-up to the 119th Session of the Committee of Ministers (Madrid, 12 May 2009)
a. The Council of Europe and the conflict in Georgia
Report by the Chair on the action taken by the Council of Europe since the 119th Ministerial Session
At its 119th Session in Madrid on 12 May 2009, the Committee of Ministers stressed the importance of restoring democracy, human rights and the rule of law in all the areas affected by the conflict in Georgia, within the meaning of the values and standards of the Council of Europe. In this context, it gave its active support to the initiatives of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and to the full implementation of his six-point Action Plan. It called on all those concerned to facilitate and grant access by the Council of Europe and the international community to all persons affected by the conflict and in need of human rights protection.
Furthermore, in the Declaration which they adopted at the Session to mark the 60th anniversary of the Council of Europe, the Ministers, concerned by confrontations and unresolved conflicts that affect certain parts of the continent, affirmed that they would work together for reconciliation and political solutions in conformity with the norms and principles of international law.
In terms of procedure, the Committee of Ministers agreed to review the action taken by the Council of Europe following the conflict in Georgia at the meeting for the handover of the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers on 18 November 2009. Accordingly, the Slovenian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers has prepared the present report on the initiatives taken or planned within the Council of Europe with a view to dealing with the consequences of the conflict in Georgia.
Overview of the activities conducted in the Council of Europe
At Committee of Ministers political level, the consequences of the conflict in Georgia have remained on the agenda of all the meetings of the Ministers' Deputies since the Madrid Ministerial Session. The Secretary General presented two new quarterly reports2 in July and October respectively on the human rights situation in the areas affected by the conflict, as well as two updates3 on the activities carried out by the Organisation following the conflict. These reports have also been transmitted to the co-Chairs of the Geneva discussions. Furthermore, on 9 September 2009 the Ministers' Deputies held an exchange of views with Ms Corien Jonker, Chair of the Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population, following the three visits which she conducted to these areas, the most recent in March 2009. This exchange of views provided an opportunity for discussing the problems of human rights protection arising over one year after the conflict and the possible action by the Council of Europe to deal with these problems. In this context, the crucial question of access to people in need of assistance was underlined.
The Parliamentary Assembly has also continued to devote careful attention to the consequences of the conflict, holding a renewed debate on the subject during the fourth part of its 2009 Ordinary Session (28 September-2 October 2009). Following this debate, the Assembly adopted Resolution 1683 (2009) on “The war between Georgia and Russia: one year after”.
Following its Resolution 272 of 2 December 2008 on “Local consequences in the conflict zone in the South Caucasus: support from European local and regional authorities”, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities organised on 29-30 October 2009 in Kutaisi, jointly with the Association of Local Democracy Agencies, a conference aimed to promote networking and co-operation between associations of local authorities in the South Caucasus. Another activity in 2009 will be a training programme on active citizenship for local authorities and civil society organisations in Kutaisi.
On 15 May 2009 the Commissioner for Human Rights published a report4 on his fourth visit to the region, in February, to assess the progress in implementing the six principles which he had established in order to ensure human rights protection and emergency humanitarian aid for all persons affected by the conflict. Since then, the Commissioner has continued to closely monitor the evolution of the human rights situation on the ground through the intermediary of a human rights expert based in the Council of Europe Office in Tbilisi. The Commissioner’s next visit to Georgia, from 27 November to 4 December 2009, will produce a situation update relating to the aforementioned six points, and will also shed light on other issues arising in the wake of the conflict. The conclusions of the Commissioner’s visit will need to be carefully examined with regard to any further action to be taken by the Organisation.
In April/May 2009 the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) paid its first visit to Abkhazia, during which it examined the situation in a range of places of deprivation of liberty, including various pre-trial detention facilities as well as the region’s prison and psychiatric hospital. Unfortunately, the CPT has not yet been able to organise a similar visit to South Ossetia.
One of the recommendations made by the Commissioner for Human Rights in the framework of his six principles has been that the international observers sent to the areas affected by the conflict should be informed of the potential human rights problems and trained to deal with such problems. It was for this purpose that, following a first human rights training session in December 2008 for members of the European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM), a new training course, centring this time on trainer training, was held from 21 to 23 October 2009. Twenty selected trainers from all EUMM field offices across Georgia and the EUMM headquarters in Tbilisi participated. The aim of this course was to provide EUMM staff with the requisite knowledge subsequently to provide human rights training for new EUMM members, on the basis of a handbook specially prepared for the purpose by the Council of Europe.
As part of the drive to assist the victims of the conflict, two projects, one on the psychological rehabilitation of children traumatised by the war and the other on support for displaced persons were launched in March 2009 for a one-year period, thanks to contributions from the Council of Europe Development Bank. The former project, which centres on teacher training in 50 pilot schools in Georgia, is geared to combating violence at school following the trauma suffered by the children owing to the conflict. The latter project is intended to facilitate the integration of persons displaced by the conflict in the communities in which they have been resettled, by training social service staff and community leaders in a number of Georgian villages. The results of these actions will have to be analysed in due course in order to ascertain whether any additional measures are needed.
In March 2009, the Venice Commission adopted an opinion on the Georgian Law of October 2008 on the occupied territories, in which it pointed to the impact that this text could have on the provision of humanitarian assistance in the areas affected by the conflict. Following the recommendations set out in this opinion, the Georgian authorities have transmitted draft amendments to the Law to the Venice Commission for additional opinion. In the interim opinion5 published on 13 October 2009, the Venice Commission welcomed the fact that a number of previous concerns had been taken into account, while pointing out that some issues remain problematic. The opinion simultaneously notes the desire of the Georgian authorities to alter the draft amendments in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission.
Beyond the initiatives taken in the human rights field, the Organisation has also acted to restore relations based on trust following the conflict, thus helping stabilise the situation. For instance, following a meeting between delegations of the Moscow and Tbilisi schools of political studies in Paris in February 2009, a further meeting of delegations of both schools was held in Batumi on 30 and 31 October last. This encounter, which was attended by over 30 experts and representatives of civil society from Russia and Georgia, provided an opportunity for discussing the political, economic and humanitarian challenges facing the region over one year after the conflict. A follow-up meeting is to take place in St Petersburg in the first half of 2010.
As a follow-up to a meeting hosted by the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on 16-17 February 2009, there is an on-going dialogue between Russian and Georgian civil society organisations on the human rights and humanitarian issues in the conflict-affected areas. Several project proposals have been developed jointly and are being considered by the Council of Europe for possible further action.
Activities to foster contacts between young people and youth organisations have also been organised, including a meeting between leaders of Georgian and Russian non-governmental youth organisations in Strasbourg on 18-22 July 2009 with the aim of promoting mutual understanding between them and the development of joint projects.
The Secretariat has also launched a project targeting the economic and social revitalisation of the communities and the cultural environment in the Gori region, in co-operation with the Georgian authorities. Two of the three elements of this project have already been completed, i.e. the formulation of guidelines for the reconstruction and establishment of a rehabilitation plan for the village and monastery of Nikozi. The development plan for the Gori region, which constitutes the third element of the project, will be continued in 2010.
Finally, the consideration by the European Court of Human Rights of the various applications which it has received following the conflict, including the second Inter-State application from Georgia against the Russian Federation, is still under way.
The Organisation’s contribution to the efforts of the international community to address the consequences of the conflict and promote a climate of dialogue, which is vital for any future solution, must continue. Much remains to be done, both in situ and at the political level, to restore the values and standards of the Council of Europe along the lines advocated by the Ministers at the Madrid Session.
In order to achieve this goal, greater efforts should be expanded over the coming months, based on a forward-looking strategy ensuring complementarity between the activities, seeking to achieve long-term impact and taking optimum advantage of the Organisation’s expertise. In this context, very special attention should be paid to the issue of access to the victims of the conflict, including through a Council of Europe presence in the field. The constructive engagement of both Georgia and the Russian Federation will be essential.
The Organisation should conduct this reinforced action in close coordination with other international and bilateral initiatives so as to create maximum synergy and prevent duplication.
On the basis of the orientations given by the Committee of Ministers, the Secretary General should play a frontline role in this mobilising effort, ensuring the co-ordination of the various projects in terms of both conception and implementation, with a view to maximum efficiency. In this respect, the Secretary General has announced that he intends to propose a more ambitious and forward-looking approach regarding the future action of the Organisation. He could be invited to prepare, as soon as possible, proposals to this end, including their financing.
1 This document has been classified restricted until examination by the Committee of Ministers.
2 See documents SG/Inf(2009)9 and SG/Inf(2009)15 final.
3 See documents SG/Inf(2009)5 addendum and SG/Inf(2009)5 addendum 2.
4 See document CommDH(2008)33.
5 See document CDL-AD(2009)046.