27 May 2013
Consolidated report on the conflict in Georgia
(October 2012 – March 2013)
Document presented by the Secretary General
1. At their 1080th meeting on 24 and 26 March 2010, the Ministers’ Deputies took the following decision: “The Deputies, restating the previous decisions of the Committee of Ministers, invited the Secretary General to prepare his consolidated report on the conflict in Georgia based on his outline and taking into account the comments made during the present meeting”.
2. It is recalled that the objective of the report is to take stock of the situation in Georgia following the August 2008 conflict, to report on the related activities of the Council of Europe and to propose further Council of Europe action. The report is composed of four parts:
- update on major developments in the period under review;
- assessment of statutory obligations and commitments related to the conflict and its consequences;
- human rights situation in the areas affected by the conflict; and
- current Council of Europe activities aimed at addressing the consequences of the conflict, their follow-up as well as proposals for future action.
3. This seventh consolidated report covers the period between October 2012 and March 2013. It builds on the six previous consolidated reports1, as well as Secretariat reports on the human rights situation in the areas affected by the conflict in Georgia2 and the report on the Council of Europe activities in the areas affected by the conflict3 and its updates4.
4. The Secretariat carried out a fact-finding visit to Tbilisi on
18-20 March 2013 and had the opportunity to discuss the situation with the Georgian authorities, representatives of civil society and international organisations. The Secretariat wishes to express its gratitude to the Georgian authorities for their support in organising the visit and to all interlocutors for their assistance and valuable contributions.
5. As for meetings in Abkhazia, the Secretariat, following the usual practice, requested the possibility to meet the de facto authorities and planned to organise meetings with local NGOs and international organisations present on the ground. However, the de facto authorities considered the visit impossible, as was the case in September 2012. Following its contacts with a view to visiting Abkhazia, the Secretariat was refused access to Abkhazia under the pretext expressed by the de facto authorities that the Secretariat’s request for a visit to Abkhazia “in order to prepare a report on Georgia [was] illogical and unreasonable” 5.
6. For the purpose of this report, the Secretariat was also not able to obtain the agreement of the de facto authorities to visit South Ossetia6.
7. The Secretariat, thus, had no opportunity either to discuss with the de facto authorities the human rights situation on the ground or to reflect on their position. Despite this regrettable development, the Secretary General will pursue his efforts in view of fact-finding visits to Abkhazia and South Ossetia for the preparation of future reports.
8. This report does not replace the monitoring procedures established in the Council of Europe. Nor should it be seen as prejudging any possible decisions in the cases related to the conflict and its consequences, which are currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
9. Nothing in this report should be interpreted as being contrary to the full respect of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders7, and to the six-point agreement of 12 August 2008 and the implementing measures of 8 September 2008.
10. This report does not prejudge or infringe upon a possible future political settlement of the conflict within the framework of the Geneva Discussions.
I Update on major developments in the period under review
11. The seventh consolidated report on the conflict in Georgia is the first consolidated report prepared after the change of the Georgian Government following the parliamentary elections of 1 October 2012. A number of decisions and announcements of the new government have been designed to have an impact on the climate of political talks and to broaden the scope for further engagement in negotiations on conflict-related issues.
12. On several occasions, Prime Minister Ivanishvili and members of his government have declared that Georgia would like to restore dialogue with Moscow and to develop good neighbourly relations. Specific steps were taken in this respect during the reporting period. On 1 November, PM Ivanishvili appointed Mr Zurab Abashidze as Special Representative in charge of relations with Russia. Since then, two meetings between Mr Abashidze and Russian Federation Deputy Foreign Minister Mr Grigoriy Karasin have taken place, where economic, humanitarian and cultural issues were discussed with an aim to improve the atmosphere between the two countries8. A number of other meetings between Georgian and Russian high-level officials have also taken place at the margins of other international events.
13. Moreover, the Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II conducted a visit to Moscow where he received a Russian Orthodox Church award. On this occasion, on 23 January 2013 he met President Putin in the presence of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill.
14. The Georgian Parliament unanimously adopted, on 7 March 2013, a resolution on “Basic Directions of Georgia’s Foreign Policy”, which confirmed that Georgia’s integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic structures represents the main priority of the country’s foreign policy course. The text also reaffirmed Georgia’s territorial integrity and its non-recognition policy towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
15. Mr Paata Zakareishvili has been nominated as State Minister for Reintegration in the new government. On numerous occasions Mr Zakareishvili stated that one of the key aspects of the government’s approach was to change rhetoric for direct dialogue and confidence-building between Sukhumi, Tskhinvali and Tbilisi. In this respect, the Secretariat has been informed by the Georgian authorities that a proposal for the change of the name of the Ministry has been submitted in the reporting period and is now pending approval by President Saakashvili.
16. Moreover, on 7 February 2013, Mr Zakareishvili informed the public of his plans to initiate legislative amendments to the Law on the Occupied Territories which aim to modify and liberalise the sanctions for entry into Abkhazia and South Ossetia via entry points other than the territory under the control of the Georgian authorities. According to the amendments proposed to the Parliament, an administrative penalty – rather than a criminal one – will be imposed against foreign citizens travelling in such manner and only in case of a second violation of the Law, would they be subject to a criminal sanction, providing for the possibility of imprisonment as well. As of March 2013, this proposal was still under discussion in Parliament.
17. The de facto authorities in South Ossetia reacted to this initiative: the de facto leadership’s representative, Murat Jioev, criticised the decision to soften the punishment for crossing the administrative boundary line (ABL) by amending the Law on the Occupied Territories. He stated that only the abolition of the Law and recognition of South Ossetia would be indication of the Georgian Government’s genuine interest in establishing relations with South Ossetia9.
18. In the reporting period the de facto authorities continued to insist on changing the existing format of the Geneva Discussions with the purpose of upgrading the status of its negotiators from “participants” to “delegations”. For the Georgian authorities the Geneva Discussions remain the main forum of discussions on conflict-related issues and their format should not be undermined.
19. Three rounds of Geneva Discussions took place in the reporting period, respectively the 21st round on 11 October 2012, the 22nd round on 12 December 2012 and the 23rd round on 26-27 March 2013. The issue of status upgrade was particularly problematic in the preparation of and during the 22nd round of Geneva Discussions.
20. In all three rounds of Geneva Discussions, the security situation on the ground was assessed as relatively stable and calm. The Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) was discussed and the participants reiterated the need to resume the Gali IPRM, which still does not function. In this respect, the participants of the 21st Geneva Discussions welcomed the increased use of the IPRM hotline and respect of other agreed measures. The participants at the 23rd Geneva Discussions also welcomed the positive dynamics of work in the IPRM in Ergneti.
21. The discussion continued on the issue of Non-Use of Force and International Security Arrangements on the basis of a Co-Chairs’ draft joint statement. The issue of freedom of movement has been revisited in all three rounds. At the 22nd round the Co-Chairs distributed a catalogue of Best Practices on Freedom of Movement from IPRMs, taking stock of the work already done within the two IPRMs. This document was reviewed in the 23rd session.
22. Specific humanitarian issues such as the needs and challenges of displaced persons and vulnerable populations, missing persons, the possibility of organising visits across the lines for persons affected by the conflict, special provisions in case of medical emergencies were also discussed by the participants of the Geneva Discussions. In the 23rd round, the participants exchanged views on the importance of preservation of cultural heritage.
23. The Georgian authorities informed the delegation that in the 22nd and 23rd rounds of Geneva Discussions, the Georgian delegation voiced an open and constructive approach of the new Government of Georgia aimed at gearing new dynamism to the process by concentrating on pragmatic approaches to address immediate security concerns and humanitarian needs of population. That included, inter alia, the Government of Georgia’s reciprocity with concrete steps on previously stalled issues, such as restoration of gas supplies to the Akhalgori district and resumption of potable and irrigation water systems.
24. Finally, the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued several statements in relation to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In particular, on 17 February 2013, the Ministry expressed its deep concern regarding reports quoting officials of the Russian Federation on plans to integrate South Ossetia into the revenue and tax administration systems of the Russian Federation. A Head of the Administrative Department of the Russian Federal Treasury refuted these reports in the press and clarified that the Russian Federation only provides an expert support to the development of the financial system in South Ossetia. In addition, on 28 March Georgia expressed its grave concern over the decision to conduct a series of Russian military exercises in the Black Sea, unannounced in advance.
25. In this respect, Georgia indicated its preoccupation with the potential use of facilities from Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Russian Federation formally denied any provocation/dangerous character of these exercises for the region’s stability. In turn, the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation expressed concerns that the joint military exercises of Georgia and the USA “Agile Spirit 2013”, conducted in March 2013 on Georgian territory, complicate the prospects of strengthening peace and stability in the region.
II Assessment of statutory obligations and commitments related to the conflict and its consequences
26. Below is an update on statutory obligations and specific commitments - as listed in PACE Opinions 193 (1996) and 209 (1999) - which have been selected for the purpose of reporting on the conflict in Georgia and its consequences. This part builds on Part 1 of the first and second consolidated reports on the conflict in Georgia (SG/Inf(2010)8 and SG/Inf(2010)19 final).
i. To accept the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to collaborate sincerely and effectively in the realisation of the aim of the Council of Europe
ii. To settle international as well as internal disputes by peaceful means (an obligation incumbent upon all member states of the Council of Europe), rejecting resolutely any forms of threats of force against its neighbours
27. Since the last report, the procedure of the European Court of Human Rights continues. There were no major developments regarding Inter-State application No. 38263/08 Georgia against Russia. There are no major developments to report with regard to the individual applications against Georgia, as well as individual applications against the Russian Federation.
iii. To respect strictly the provisions of international humanitarian law, including in cases of armed conflict on its territory
28. The coordination mechanism established for the issue of missing persons under the aegis of the ICRC continues its work.
29. The participants of the 21st round of the Geneva International Discussions took part in an information session on issues related to the search for missing persons and found this session very useful10.
30. On 18 March 2013, media sources of South Ossetia and Abkhazia reported that on 12 March 2013 the participants of the Geneva Discussions had handed to the General Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia appeals from relatives of South Ossetian missing persons11. Moreover, it was reported that on 19 March 2013, following requests from NGOs and citizens, the Public Defender of Georgia requested that the General Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia investigate the facts of the disappearance of people during the conflict of 2008.
iv. To co-operate in good faith with international humanitarian organisations and to enable them to carry out their activities on its territory in conformity with their mandates
v. To facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable groups of the population affected by the consequences of the conflict
31. According to the information provided by the Georgian authorities, nine new projects have been submitted in the reporting period, bringing the total number of projects submitted by international and local organisations in the framework of the Georgian Government’s “Modalities for Engagement”12 since 15 October 2010 to 134. All of them were registered.
32. The Liaison Mechanism continues to function. For instance it facilitates the delivery of medicines to Abkhazia. In this respect, the Georgian authorities underlined that the Georgian side would be open and supportive to any regular mechanism and channel beneficial for conflict resolution.
33. According to some interlocutors, the Law on the Occupied Territories nevertheless remains one of the obstacles for ensuring free access. Also the Russian Federation retains the view that the entry regime imposed by this law remains one of the main obstacles for ensuring such access.
34. It is also worth stressing that the Council of Europe’s exchanges with the Georgian authorities on the continuation of confidence-building activities were positive and constructive (cf. also section IV.3. Operational activities - Confidence-Building Measures activities and follow-up proposed).
35. At the same time it was reported to the Secretariat that, in the period under review, possibilities for international humanitarian organisations to carry out their activities in Abkhazia were restricted. A number of interlocutors reported that in late October 2012 the de facto authorities questioned the value and/or need of certain activities.
36. Furthermore, it has been reported that in February 2013 various international NGOs operating in Abkhazia, as well as the UNHCR, received a letter from the de facto authorities indicating that from April 2013 onwards they should concentrate their activities in the Gali district. Although some international organisations are more heavily affected by this decision than others, all interlocutors expressed their concerns about this development. As has been underlined by international interlocutors it is clear that humanitarian needs should be addressed wherever they occur and thus their formalisation would obstruct the prompt delivery of humanitarian aid based on the needs of the vulnerable populations of the region. The Georgian authorities emphasised that this development affects negatively the nature of international activities in the region.
37. Moreover, if in the past a number of ambassadors, representatives of embassies and international organisations had the possibility of visiting Abkhazia with a view to discussing practical co-operation, in the reporting period this possibility has also been reduced. Certain plans to implement projects were put on hold following the negative reaction of the de facto authorities, for instance in the sphere of culture and education.
38. As for South Ossetia, it continues to remain mainly out of reach for the international organisations. Rare existing activities are humanitarian in nature. A package of water projects on both sides of the ABL – mentioned in the sixth consolidated report – has been implemented by the OSCE and funded by the EU in the reporting period. Moreover, the ICRC remains engaged in the area.
39. Moreover, the Secretariat was also informed that in March 2013, a group of representatives of South Ossetian NGOs visited Abkhazia for a series of meetings aiming at the interaction of two civil societies and an exchange of experience. This visit has been organised by a South Ossetian NGO with the support of one international non-governmental organisation.
III Human rights situation in the areas affected by the conflict
III.1 Reports on Abkhazia
40. The de facto authorities in Sukhumi considered the visit of the Secretariat impossible (cf. also paragraph 5). The information presented in Chapters III.1.i – III.1.v stems from and is based on the discussions with the Georgian authorities, civil society representatives, international organisations as well as open sources.
41. It was reported to the Secretariat by different interlocutors, including by the Georgian authorities, that during the reporting period the overall security situation remained calm and stable; there were no significant incidents. In the absence of the Gali IPRM, the hotline continued to function.
III.1.ii Freedom of movement
42. The Georgian authorities and international interlocutors informed the Secretariat that the crossing issue has become a pressing concern since October 2012. On the Abkhaz side of the ABL the crossing regime has been more scrupulously regulated and the crossing documentation had been checked thoroughly on the Rukhi bridge (for the moment the only official crossing point). According to interlocutors, it seems that there is a decline in people crossing due to this stricter control of papers.
43. Several interlocutors said that for the first time, in December 2012, a letter was addressed to de facto president Ankvab by a community along the ABL. In this letter the villagers expressed their dissatisfaction in writing as regards freedom of movement and the attitude of the forces exercising control on the Rukhi bridge. Mr Ankvab is said to have responded by setting up a Special Commission comprising, inter alia, the representatives of the forces exercising control on the Rukhi bridge, to look into the matters addressed in the letter. In the follow-up it was reported that villagers had noted a more respectful attitude to the local population and there was an improved perception of security, albeit the formal crossing regime remained complicated.
44. The crossing regime continued to affect the collection of pensions, salaries and state subsidies paid by the Georgian authorities. More specifically, during the reporting period it is reported to have affected the provision of medical care on the territory under the control of the Georgian authorities. Thus, the Georgian authorities drew the attention of the Secretariat to the several crossing incidents, when humanitarian visits from the Abkhaz side of the ABL are said to have been blocked and, as a result, four persons passed away without medical assistance. According to one interlocutor, these crossings were blocked due to the absence of the proper documentation requested by the Abkhaz de facto authorities for crossing and, in consequence, the persons were advised to seek medical care on the Abkhaz side of the ABL.
45. Short-term detentions continue to occur regularly, but according to the Georgian authorities there has been no increase in detentions during the reporting period, which might be linked to a decline in people seeking to cross due to the complicated crossing regime.
46. Plans announced in the past that the whole border construction would be secured have not yet fully materialised and the opening of four additional crossing points - announced for March 2013 - has not yet taken place. Once again, the Georgian authorities reiterated to the Secretariat that they categorically oppose the plans for “borderisation” and regularly request to agree on the modalities to facilitate the freedom of movement within the framework of the Geneva International Discussions.
III.1.iii Issuing of local IDs
47. As for the pace of issuing IDs in the Gali region, the estimations given by interlocutors vary, with a maximum of 20 000 “passports” mentioned by interlocutors (estimations between 14 000 to 16 000 were given for the sixth consolidated report). The issue of access of non-Abkhaz to “passports” continues to be a controversial matter.
48. Civil society interlocutors also informed the Secretariat that there are still persons who hold and use old Soviet passports. They are particularly motivated by access to Abkhaz documentation as the de facto authorities introduced the deadline of 2014 for any practical use of old Soviet passports.
49. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Status Neutral Identification Documents (SNID) and Status Neutral Travel Documents (SNTD) continue to be supported by Georgia. However, it has been underlined that SNID/SNTDs do not constitute an exclusive policy and all additional options aiming to avoid the isolation of the Abkhaz and Ossetian population would be welcomed and subject to consideration. Some interlocutors stressed that the requirement of these documents by the Georgian authorities continues to add difficulties to travel in the region.
50. As of the end of the reporting period, the Georgian authorities issued 207 SNIDs and 27 SNTDs (cf. 200 STIDs/SNTDs provided in the sixth consolidated report).
III.1.vi Educational issues, including teaching of/in the Georgian language
51. According to the Georgian authorities, the issue of education in general remains an acute problem and concerns also persist about teaching of/in the Georgian language in the Gali region.
52. It has been reported that after some problems at the beginning of the new school year in September 2012, temporarily a practical solution has been found for the crossings of school children. However, the Georgian authorities underlined that problems may arise again and the structural problem remains.
53. The Georgian authorities informed the Secretariat about several educational initiatives which are relevant for Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Thus, a special online learning course for the Abkhaz language has been prepared. There are also plans to develop a general policy in Georgia for the teaching of conflictology. An initiative to provide teaching for school children during the weekends is supported (currently five schools for children from South Ossetia are included in this programme).
III.1.v Military conscription
54. No specific developments have been reported by interlocutors with regard to the question of military conscription of ethnic Georgians in the Abkhaz de facto army. However, some interlocutors recalled that this problem remains acute for a fraction of the Gali population and their families.
III.2 Reports on South Ossetia
55. The Secretariat was not able to obtain the agreement of the de facto authorities to visit Tskhinvali. Therefore, it had no opportunity either to discuss with the de facto authorities the human rights situation on the ground or to reflect on their position.
56. According to interlocutors in Tbilisi, the main critical development over the reporting period concerns an intense “borderisation”. A significant number of signs with “Republic of South Ossetia” appeared (according to the interlocutors up to 50 by the end of the reporting period). Moreover, significant fence extensions were observed and barbed wire fence has doubled in recent months.
57. It has been reported to the delegation by the Georgian authorities that there are several locations/villages affected by these fences on either side of the ABL (in total an 18km line of barbed wire fence has been installed). In some villages households have been divided and consequently sometimes find their land or properties situated on the other side of the ABL. Fence extensions affect their normal daily life, freedom of movement and farming, especially with the spring agricultural season approaching. Also, according to the Georgian authorities, there have been occasions when the local Georgian population has been barred from reaching their orchards and land slots to do seasonal work.
58. The EUMM informed the Secretariat that it was encouraging both sides to co-operate with land registry, which could provide maps to illustrate the problems for certain households if a fence was raised in a particular spot.
59. The Georgian authorities stressed that it would be important to facilitate visits to graveyards and attendance at funerals, which for the moment continue to be problematic.
60. It is reported that South Ossetian residents are still not allowed to cross the ABL by the de facto authorities on the South Ossetian side into the territory controlled by the Georgian authorities, with the exception of residents of Akhalgori, Tsinagori and Kirzmani where they may obtain a special form for crossing. According to the EUMM there are also no significant changes in occurrences of movements since the last visit of the Secretariat.
61. The Georgian authorities underlined an increasing trend of internal detentions in South Ossetia of persons who try to cross the ABL in order to get in touch with relatives. Information was given by the Georgian authorities regarding 12 cases in January 2013, and double the number of internal detentions in the period from February to March 2013.
62. Moreover, according to the Georgian authorities, in the reporting period no prisoners were exchanged between the Georgian side and the de facto authorities.
63. As for the incidents on the ABL, on 2 December 2012, the EUMM closely monitored the situation and facilitated communication between all parties, regarding a shooting incident which took place close to the ABL, near the villages of Abano, Koda and Tsnelisi. In January 2013, there were two alleged helicopter intrusions and the hotline was activated.
III.3 The situation of Internally Displaced Persons
64. As regards the right of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to a safe, dignified and voluntary return, no progress has been reported.
65. During the reporting period, a new MRA, Mr David Darakhvelidze, was appointed. The Minster informed the Secretariat that 90 000 IDP families (approximately 270 000 individual IDPs) reside in Georgia and the policy of the Ministry is to continue to build a constructive environment for co-operation between the authorities and IDPs as well as to set up strategic planning work for addressing their needs. This is done through field visits and regular reception hours. The reception meetings are held on every day of the week and the Minister, Deputy Ministers and the Heads of Departments are attending them. During these meetings, four major problems and strategic areas of work were identified: housing; income generation activities and employment; health care (both physical and psychological issues), and education.
66. Regarding housing, the budget of the Ministry has been doubled by the government and its major part – jointly with internationally received funds – will be used for construction and renovation of buildings. This activity is conducted in co-operation with the Ministry of Economy (provision of buildings for rehabilitation) and Ministry of Defence (allocation of land for construction). The major novelty concerns the capital Tbilisi where construction/rehabilitation will also take place13. The housing allocation will be conducted in accordance with the document – “Guiding Principles, Criteria, and Procedures Governing the Process of Durable Housing Allocation”. The document has been approved by the MRA Steering Committee and after piloting it in the Imereti region (West Georgia), relevant changes will be made to it based on the lessons learned and will be officially adopted in the form of the Minister’s Decree. The document ensures the transparent process of housing allocation; it determines criteria, which during the Durable Housing Solution process define the priority of IDP family needs. The criteria are expressed in certain points, which will be summed up while assessing the needs of IDP families and the IDP family with the most points will be given priority.
67. Preparatory work has been carried out by the Ministry – with the support of the EU - for the preparation of a census of all IDPs and an assessment of their needs in the framework of the general census of the Georgian population. This is in line with the Ministry’s declared aim to apply an equal approach to the IDPs in collective centres and the private sector. As for the latter, interlocutors underlined that information on privately accommodated IDPs remains limited and the census would be beneficial for the assessment of their situation and needs. In parallel with the census, the needs assessment of the IDPs will be conducted, the results of which will be used in planning further support measures. Overall, the arrangements of privately accommodated IDPs with owners remain unsecure and the subject of concern.
68. In the reporting period, the Ministry also reported having established working groups, which addressed issues of criticism by the previous Public Defender of Georgia and international NGOs active on the subject (also mentioned in the fifth and sixth consolidated reports). In particular, one of the working groups developed criteria for the selection of IDPs for housing solutions (mentioned above in Section 3). Housing allocation based on these criteria began in March 2013. Another working group is in the process of elaborating a new version of the draft law on IDPs.
69. Regarding livelihood opportunities and income generation activities, it is planned to set up a special legal entity of public law (LEPL) in the Ministry for coordination of projects for livelihood opportunities for IDPs, to be funded by the European Union and the World Bank. Initiatives are taken to create a network of “IDP friends”. This network of civil society, church, business and public institutions aims to assist IDPs in their needs and to facilitate their integration into local communities.
70. On this matter, a number of civil society representatives underlined that the issue of IDPs’ livelihood opportunities and income generation activities is closely linked to the urgent need to develop in Georgia a general strategy on the reduction of poverty and prevention of social exclusion.
IV Activities of Council of Europe organs and institutions and their follow-up
IV.1. Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
IV.1.i Monitoring Committee (AS/Mon)
71. On 5-7 December 2012, Mr Cilevičs (Latvia, SOC), co-rapporteur on Georgia carried out a fact-finding visit to Tbilisi and Kutaisi in the course of which he discussed with the authorities the preparations for the upcoming information report by the rapporteurs for Georgia and Russia “on the consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia”14.
IV.1.ii Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons (AS/Mig)
72. On 9-11 October 2012, further to her previous visits, Ms Tina Acketoft (Sweden, ALDE), rapporteur on “Georgia and Russia: the humanitarian situation in the conflict- and war-affected areas” carried out a fact-finding visit to Moscow in the context of the preparation of the report.
73. On 23 January 2013, the Assembly adopted Resolution 1916 (2013) and Recommendation 2008 (2013) on Georgia and Russia: the humanitarian situation in the conflict- and war-affected areas (Doc. 13083 (2012))15.
IV.2 Commissioner for Human Rights
74. The Commissioner continued to follow up human rights issues following the August 2008 armed conflict in Georgia, including the situation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and other persons affected by the conflict. On 31 October 2012 he addressed a letter to the Prime Minister of Georgia (published on 4 December 2012) on the need for effective investigations into serious human rights violations by public officials following the prison abuse scandal which came to light in September 2012. In that letter, the Commissioner referred to the recommendations contained in his 2010 report on monitoring of investigations into cases of missing persons during and after the August 2008 armed conflict in Georgia16.
75. The Prime Minister of Georgia replied by his letter to the Commissioner on 29 November 2012 (published on 4 December 2012).
IV.3 Operational activities - Confidence-Building Measures activities and follow-up proposed
76. The Council of Europe continued to work in close co-operation and consultation with relevant actors to implement the projects proposed by the Secretary General in the previous consolidated reports.
77. An expert mission was conducted in Tbilisi on 29-30 January 2013. It aimed to discuss with the Georgian authorities, and in particular, with the representatives of the Ministry for Reintegration, further to their request, ways in which the implementation of the current legislation can be further improved in order to bring it better in line with European and international standards. As a result of these discussions, an expert report has been prepared and transmitted to the Georgian authorities.
78. The Secretary General stands ready to discuss appropriate follow-up to the report with a view to facilitating the implementation of CBMs.
79. Moreover, during the fact-finding visit to Tbilisi for the preparation of the seventh consolidated report, the Georgian authorities expressed their wish to develop CBM activities in the area of education, possibly via teachers’ and students’ networks. The Georgian authorities also underlined that the development of CBMs should take into account the situation and needs of refugees, IDPs and persons with humanitarian status.
80. It is also understood that the Abkhaz side would be interested in enlarging participation to countries from the region and to hold events in other places in Europe, including in EU countries.
(b) Reflection on further action
Projects proposed by the Secretary General in the fifth consolidated report
81. During the period under review, considering the wish of the Georgian Government to improve the implementation of the existing legislation and normative acts and the desires expressed by interlocutors in Sukhumi to have a new format for activities, reflections were undertaken on the suitable framework for projects, both in terms of content and format, in order to attain their objectives.
82. The Secretariat is exploring proposals to follow up on previous work with journalists and artists. Seminars for teachers and for professions involved in the restoration of architectural heritage are under discussion, with a view to enlarging contacts for participants from both sides of the ABL within the respect of the existing legislation.
List of acronyms and abbreviations
ABL Administrative Boundary Line
COBERM Confidence-Building Early Response Mechanism
EU European Union
EUMM European Monitoring Mission in Georgia
IDs Identity Documents
IDPs Internally Displaced Persons
IPRM Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism
MRA Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia
PDO Public Defender’s Office
SNID Status Neutral Identification Document
SNTD Status Neutral Travel Document
UN United Nations
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
1 SG/Inf(2010)8, SG/Inf(2010)19 final, SG/Inf(2011)8, SG/Inf(2011)24, SG/Inf(2012)5 and SG/Inf(2012)28 rev
2 SG/Inf(2009)7, SG/Inf(2009)9 and SG/Inf(2009)15 final
4 SG/Inf(2009)5 Addendum and SG/Inf(2009)5 Addendum 2
5 Message received by the Secretariat on 14 March 2013 from State Protocol Department of the de facto Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Abkhazia.
6 For the preparation of the consolidated reports, the Secretariat was hitherto never able to obtain the agreement of the de facto authorities to visit South Ossetia.
7 It is a fundamental objective of the member states of the Council of Europe to uphold the territorial integrity of Georgia. However, the Russian Federation recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states on 26 August 2008.
8 Meetings took place respectively in Geneva on 14 December 2012 and in Prague on 1 March 2013.
9 Statement reported in the week of 22 February by “Information Agency of the Republic of South Ossetia” www.cominf.org
10 Press communiqué of the Co-Chairs of the Geneva Discussions, 21st round, 11 October 2012.
11 Cf. “Information Agency of the Republic of South Ossetia”, www.cominf.org and “State information agency of the Republic of Abkhazia”, http://apsnypress.info
12 Cf. Regulation of the Government of Georgia No. 320 Tbilisi October 2010 “Modalities for Engagement of Organizations Conducting Activities in the Occupied Territories of Georgia”, http://www.smr.gov.ge
13 Approximately 100 000 IDPs (30 000 families of which 20 000 are said to be “in need”) are reported to be residing in Tbilisi.
14 On 12–18 May 2013, a joint delegation composed of the Chair of the Committee, Mr Herkel (Estonia, EPP/CD), the co-rapporteurs on Georgia, Mr Cilevičs (Latvia, SOC) and Mr Jensen (Denmark, ALDE), and the co-rapporteurs on the Russian Federation, Mr Gross (Switzerland, SOC) and Ms Bakoyannis (Greece, EPP/CD), will visit Moscow and Tbilisi in the context of preparing the information note on developments with regard to the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia and the follow-up given to the Assembly resolutions on that subject.
15 Cf. www.assembly.coe.int
16 Cf. http://www.coe.int/t/commissioner/