memorandum, by Mrs Corien W. A. Jonker
The Parliamentary Assembly in January 2009 adopted Resolution 1647 (2009)
on the implementation of Resolution 1633 (2008)
on the consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia,
and Resolution 1648 (2009)
on the humanitarian consequences of the war between
Georgia and Russia. This report is intended as a follow-up to Resolution
1648, providing, in particular, a more in-depth examination of the
humanitarian situation in South Ossetia.Note
In order to prepare the report, the rapporteur visited North
Ossetia on 12 and 13 March 2009 and South Ossetia on 13 and 14 March
2009. The report is based on the findings of the rapporteur during
the course of her visit and also on the information she gathered
during her past work on the issue of the humanitarian consequences
of the war between Georgia and Russia (see her opinion on the consequences
of the war between Georgia and Russia (Doc. 11730
) and the report on the humanitarian consequences of
the war between Georgia and Russia (Doc. 11789
3. To enter South Ossetia, the rapporteur had to organise her
visit through Russia from the north (via the Roki tunnel). This
trip was organised with the assent of the Georgian authorities.
The Georgian authorities in giving their assent took into account
that the rapporteur had initially sought to enter South Ossetia
from the south (via Ergneti) in November 2008, but had not been
granted access by the de facto South Ossetian authorities.
4. The rapporteur would like to thank the persons who assisted
her in the preparation of her visit and her report. She would like
to thank the Georgian and Russian authorities and parliamentary
delegations for facilitating the visit. She would also like to thank
the North Ossetian authorities and parliament and the de facto South
Ossetian authorities and the de facto parliament for their co-operation,
hospitality and frankness, as well as for the logistical assistance
and security that they provided. The rapporteur was accompanied
throughout her visit to South Ossetia by Mr Juri Dzitstsoyty. The
rapporteur would furthermore like to thank the different non-governmental
organisations (NGOs), the International Committee of the Red Cross
(ICRC) and the de facto Ombudsman of South Ossetia for the information
and time that they provided.
5. The focus of this report is humanitarian issues. The rapporteur,
as in her last report, has chosen to steer away from political issues
arising from the conflict. She has not sought to adjudicate on human
rights violations or international humanitarian law violations committed
by both sides in the context of the war. The rapporteur supports
all calls, including by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the
Council of Europe, for an independent and impartial investigation
of all violations of international humanitarian law and human rights during
and after the conflict.
to the report
6. The rapporteur has, in the first part of this report,
focused on the current humanitarian situation in South Ossetia.
Where information has been available to her, she has provided information
on the occupied region of Akhalgori. In the second part of her report
she has provided a brief update on some of the most important issues
raised in the earlier report (Doc. 11789). For a full understanding
and a balanced view of the overall humanitarian consequences of
the war it is necessary to take into account both the earlier report
and this report.
3 Part 1 – South
3.1 Visit to South
7. The rapporteur, as part of her fact finding, travelled
to Moscow on Wednesday 11 March and had meetings with representatives
of the ICRC, Human Rights Watch and the NGO Memorial.
8. On Thursday 12 March she travelled to Vladikavkaz in North
Ossetia where she was hosted by the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament
of North Ossetia (Mr Gesayev) and by the de facto South Ossetian
Deputy Speaker (Mr Dzitstsoyty). She had meetings with persons from
the North Ossetian Ministry of Migration Affairs and met with displaced
persons and representatives of local NGOs to discuss the situation
of displaced persons and refugees from the recent and earlier conflicts.
9. On Friday 13 March, the rapporteur travelled to South Ossetia
via the Roki tunnel. She visited a number of villages previously
controlled by the Georgian authorities in the Didi Liakhvi Valley
(valley leading into Tskhinvali from the North) and the Prone Valley
(leading westward from Tskhinvali). She met with Mr Kokoity, the
de facto President, Mr Dzhioev, the de facto Minister for Foreign
Affairs, and Mr Gabaraev, the de facto minister responsible for
housing and health. She also had a meeting with the ICRC.
10. On Saturday 14 March, the rapporteur met with Mr Sanakoev,
the de facto Ombudsman, visited two collective centres for displaced
persons, had meetings with local NGOs and visited the Patara Likhvi
Valley, east of the city, visiting a number of villages formerly
under the Georgian authorities’ control. She ended her visit by
exiting from the south at Checkpoint No. 1 at Ergneti.
11. The de facto South Ossetian authorities were welcoming and
helpful and took the rapporteur wherever she wanted to go and arranged
for her to meet with whoever she wanted to meet. The only exception
was Akhalgori, which the rapporteur had requested to visit by helicopter.
The de facto authorities did not provide a helicopter for reasons
which they claimed were outside their control but they did agree
to provide the rapporteur with appropriate road vehicles to drive
her there. This alternative was, however, not practical due to the
time this journey would take (ten-hour round trip) and the length
of time available to the rapporteur.
3.2 The humanitarian
situation of the people living in South Ossetia
3.2.1 Immediate humanitarian
12. It is estimated that approximately 50 000 people
remain in South Ossetia, of whom 35 000 live in Tskhinvali.
13. In the aftermath of the war, the immediate and urgent basic
humanitarian assistance was provided by the Russian Ministry of
Emergency Situations (EMERCOM) and by the ICRC.
14. The ICRC provided assistance to 14 000 priority cases, approximately
one third of the total population remaining in South Ossetia. At
the end of December 2008, the ICRC decided not to carry out a second distribution
of food and emergency assistance as the basic needs had been catered
for and this was not required. However, 100 vulnerable people were
identified and continue to receive direct assistance from ICRC.
15. Priority for the ICRC is now on recovery and creating income
generating projects, such as tools to allow farming to recommence.
They will support several hundred income generating projects with
grants of up to approximately US$1 000.
16. Over the winter the most pressing problem was heating, and
the supply of gas, electricity and water. Notwithstanding that the
gas-line dispute between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali appeared to have
been solved in February, with the assistance of the OSCE, gas supplies
remained cut off most of the time until the day before the rapporteur
visited the region on 13 March 2009. The rapporteur understands
that the immediate problem is now solved. For the future she has
been informed of plans to build a gas pipeline from the Russian Federation
to Tskhinvali, which, according to the de facto authorities, should
be ready by the end of 2009.
3.2.2 Medical assistance
17. Medical assistance is still needed, although there
are, reportedly, adequate supplies of medicines. Equipment and training
of medical staff is a problem. The main hospital in Tskhinvali was
damaged during the war and the ICRC plans to provide assistance
to ensure clean water supply to the hospital. The ICRC has facilitated
the evacuation of serious medical cases via the south, but for the
most part those in need of specialist treatment have to seek this
treatment in the Russian Federation. The South Ossetian de facto
authorities have a budget allocated by Moscow for such treatment
to be carried out. Notwithstanding these arrangements, it is clear
that the restrictions on crossing the administrative border have
severe implications for those with serious or urgent medical conditions,
and the rapporteur urges the authorities on both sides to take a
flexible stance, without discrimination on the basis of ethnicity,
where urgent or serious medical treatment is required.
18. One of the urgent needs is reconstruction. In Tskhinvali
a noticeable number of buildings have been re-roofed. There are
also new windows appearing in many buildings. There remains much
reconstruction to be done, however. The authorities informed the
rapporteur that an agreement was days away from being signed with
the Russian Ministry of Finance which would allow re-building not
just of war damaged properties but also of other properties which
have been neglected over the last decades. A figure of 10 billion
Russian roubles was given. This contrasts with the sum of 1.5 billion
Russian roubles which has already been provided by Russia from this
sum since the conflict erupted.
19. The rapporteur is, however, aware that differences exist between
the Russian and the South Ossetian sides over how this assistance
is to be provided and who is to be responsible for the implementation
of this assistance and recent reports in the press indicate that
agreement on the provision of this assistance might be delayed.
20. Fear of corruption is an issue in the distribution of aid
and assistance. The de facto authorities, when questioned on this
matter, explained that there was great difficulty “digesting” the
first aid received. There were no clear avenues of distribution
and mistakes were made. Indications were given that some criminal investigations
could be opened as a result of the mishandling of aid. The current
position is that a 15 member Inter-Agency Commission for Assistance
of the Wounded, Sick and Other Civilians has been established. This commission
is responsible for prioritising and categorising the recipients
of aid. About 10 000 people are being treated as priority cases
within seven categories (those with destroyed houses, vulnerable
persons, etc.). Most of the aid so far received has come from different
Russian regional entities and the authorities now claim to guarantee
transparency (publishing computerised lists of aid received and
distributed) in the distribution of this aid. Aid is welcome as
long as it is from the north.
21. The de facto authorities expressed concern that they wanted
to avoid creating a situation of aid dependency and destabilising
further the economy. They were anxious to create jobs and make good
use of the land, for example through organic farming.
22. The rapporteur welcomes the generous approach of the Russian
Federation in the provision of aid and hopes that the negotiations
under way for further aid are not delayed and that the aid and assistance
is implemented in a transparent fashion. The rapporteur urges the
de facto South Ossetian authorities to adopt a flexible approach
to the delivery of aid and assistance and to also allow this from
other countries, including via the south.
3.2.4 Reception centres
23. The rapporteur was given the opportunity to visit
two of the eight collective centres for long-term displaced persons
(the former tourist base “Ossetia” and the former “Technical School”)
where approximately 3 000 people still live from the earlier conflict.
These centres were shabby but relatively well kept inside. For example,
wiring had recently been updated and communal areas were clean and
tidy. Families were provided with more than one room. Residents
did not complain about the conditions in the accommodation but wanted to
know when long-term housing solutions could be found for them.
24. The rapporteur was made aware that the conditions in these
centres were probably better than in some of the other centres.
While the conditions she witnessed were relatively good, they were
still totally inadequate for the long-term accommodation of the
residents, and the rapporteur urges the de facto authorities to
ensure that, when reconstruction takes place, priority is also given
to re-housing all the persons resident in these collective centres.
3.2.5 Family reunification
25. Family reunification across the administrative border
has been promoted by the ICRC and since the end of the conflict
about 310 people have been transferred and reunited. This movement
has been both ways, but mostly from the north to the south. The
rapporteur hopes that both sides will continue to show understanding and
continue to facilitate this process.
26. De-mining was carried out immediately after the war
by the Russian forces. A recent incident in which two children from
a collective centre were injured has raised awareness that there
is an ongoing need to educate children of the dangers that still
exist from unexploded mines and ordnance. EMERCOM are undertaking
an education programme for all school children and the ICRC has
offered its support for this. The rapporteur is aware, however,
that a one-off education programme will not be sufficient and that
awareness-raising should be treated as an ongoing need for children
while risks still exist.
3.3 Destroyed villages
previously under the control of the Georgian authorities
27. The rapporteur drove through and visited a number
of villages previously under the control of the Georgian authorities.
These included villages on the road from the north towards Tskhinvali
in the Didi Liakhvi Valley, including Kekhvi, Kurta and Tamarasheni,
villages west of Tskhinvali in the Prone Valley, including Avnevi,
and villages east of Tskhinvali in the Patara Likhvi Valley, including
Eredvi and Vanati.
28. These villages no longer exist. There is only rubble and no
sign of any belongings left in the remnants of the houses. The rapporteur
did find occasional isolated houses which had been left intact.
In two of the houses still standing she spoke with residents who
were of mixed South Ossetian and Georgian background. They were
unable to tell her what had happened to the properties around them,
apart from indicating that they had been damaged by young men in
the night. The de facto authorities, when questioned on the issue, responded
that many of the houses had been destroyed in fighting and the Georgians
who fled had set fire to their own houses rather than have them
taken over by the South Ossetians. They did, however, acknowledge that
some damage was done by South Ossetian individuals after the Georgians
29. The rapporteur does not exclude that a number of houses were
damaged in the conflict before the Georgians withdrew. However,
the systematic destruction of every single house is a clear indication
that there has been an intention to ensure that no Georgians have
a property to return to in these villages. In the view of your rapporteur,
whether this was carried out following instructions by the de facto
authorities, or whether this was done by individuals with the de
facto authorities or the Russian Federation armed forces taking
no action, makes little or no difference. The end result has been
to ensure that no Georgians can return to these villages and supports
the accusation that these villages have been “ethnically cleansed”
30. The rapporteur is greatly concerned by the lack of accountability
in South Ossetia for acts such as the destruction of property and
looting. She understands that a tougher line on the issue is now
being taken. She understands that seven criminal cases have been
opened along with 70 administrative cases (less serious cases of
handling stolen or looted property).
31. In view of the nature and scale of damage and looting of property,
the number of cases opened is extremely low and disappointing. The
rapporteur insists that the de facto authorities prosecute the few
existing cases with firmness, and that they actively seek to prosecute
new cases for which they have evidence, in order to punish those
involved and pass on the message that people will be held accountable
for their actions.
32. The rapporteur raised with the de facto President,
Mr Kokoity, the issue of return of people of Georgian ethnic origin.
The latter explained that returns would be guided by principles
of international law and dependent on three conditions. The first
condition was that security needs to be guaranteed. The second condition
is that returns have to be voluntary and the third is that adequate
living conditions must be available. He explained further that certain
people, who were already under investigation by the Prosecutor’s
Office, would never be allowed to return in view of their criminal
activities before and during the conflict. This message was also echoed
by de facto Ombudsman of South Ossetia, Mr Sanakoev.
33. People from certain villages previously under Georgian control,
such as those directly north of Tskhinvali in the Didi Liakhvi Valley,
where the Georgian local administration was based, would appear
to be less welcome to return. By contrast, and as an anecdote, one
of the remaining South Ossetian villagers in a Georgian village
in the Prone valley said: “It would be nice to see people come back.
I lived my life with them. My Georgian neighbours never did anything
34. The de facto authorities have said they are prepared to provide
compensation to people who return and they have indicated that returns
will also be organised for people who have been displaced or sought
asylum in North Ossetia during the recent or earlier conflicts.
3.5 Georgians in South
35. The rapporteur was interested in finding out the
extent to which there were people of ethnic Georgian background
still remaining in South Ossetia. She met with two ethnic Georgians
of mixed marriages in two of the villages she visited. She also
met with four ethnic Georgians in the centres for displaced persons
she visited. She was informed by one independent source that there
were between 2 000 and 3 000 ethnic Georgians (mostly in mixed marriages
or elderly) living in Tskhinvali. None of the few ethnic Georgians
she met complained about their situation. The rapporteur does not
have sufficient information to draw any conclusion on the treatment
of the remaining ethnic Georgians in South Ossetia. The situation
of ethnic Georgians in the region of Akhalgori is examined later
in the report.
36. Security is one of the overriding concerns, not only
of the de facto authorities, but also of the people in the street,
many of whom the rapporteur spoke to. They fear a further attack
by the Georgian army. They are also concerned by cross administrative
border incidents. They believe that Georgian troops are once again building
up in zones close to the administrative border and they allege that
the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) is turning a blind
eye to this military build up.
37. The rapporteur considers that these concerns need to be addressed
as rapidly as possible, in particular for the sake of the general
population of South Ossetia. More openness by the EUMM on the results
of its monitoring would help, and other steps have to be taken to
show that the EUMM is acting impartially. The proposals for joint
incident reporting which were agreed in the February Geneva talks
represent a possibility for improving security, but the rapporteur
is informed that little or no action has been taken to put these
38. It is the view of the rapporteur that the issue of security
is tied in with the issue of international monitoring. The rapporteur
considers that until such time as a monitoring and peacekeeping
formula acceptable to all parties is agreed, little progress can
be made on the issue of security on both sides.
3.7 Missing persons,
detained persons and family reunification
39. The rapporteur was made aware that the missing continued
to be an issue of major concern to the population at large in South
Ossetia. According to the ICRC several dozen Georgian and Ossetian
people were still missing. One Russian officer was still missing
in action and attempts were being made to establish the identity
of this missing officer using DNA samples.
40. The issue of missing persons on all sides is being followed
up by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the South
Ossetian de facto Ombudsman and the Georgian Public Defender. The
rapporteur encourages all parties concerned to continue their work
to solve the issue of the missing, which is of major importance
not only to the families concerned but also deeply affects the population
41. In terms of people in detention, the rapporteur was informed
by the South Ossetian de facto Ombudsman that 15 South Ossetians
were being held in detention by the Georgian authorities (four people
from the hostilities, the remainder from after the end of the hostilities).
The Georgian authorities, according to him, have accepted that they
hold eight of the people concerned but indicate that they hold no
record of the seven other people. Recent reports that three of the
seven unidentified prisoners have been identified in a Georgian
prison have not been confirmed by the Georgian authorities. Your
rapporteur understands that clarification on the whereabouts of
the three people allegedly found is still underway, also with the
involvement of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights,
and she hopes that these and other unidentified people on all sides will
ultimately be identified.
The rapporteur also understands that the problem of hostage
private detention continues to exist, and reiterates her call for
this practice to be stamped out and prosecuted.
43. The rapporteur is aware that both the Georgian side and the
South Ossetian side disagree on the motives of detention (terrorism,
hostage taking, mistaken administrative border crossing, etc.) for
many of those being held. The rapporteur is not in a position to
judge on this issue and considers it extremely important that the
respective ombudsmen and the Council of Europe Commissioner for
Human Rights continue to work on this issue.
44. The rapporteur did raise with the de facto President, Mr Kokoity,
the issue of two people from Akhalgori – a school teacher, Tamar
Charaeva, and a member of the local administration, Givi Chigoev
– who had recently been arrested on charges of treason. The rapporteur
was informed that the two people concerned would be treated with
clemency and that charges would not be pressed. These people were
released a week after the rapporteur’s visit.
45. The rapporteur understands that the ICRC has been able to
visit these people and continues to monitor their situation. It
is extremely important that the de facto South Ossetian authorities
agree to the ICRC having free access to all persons in detention
in accordance with the ICRC’s procedures. The rapporteur understands that
discussions are underway on this issue and she encourages the de
facto authorities to conclude these discussions positively with
the ICRC as soon as possible.
46. In the same light, the rapporteur considers that the European
Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment (CPT) also has an important role to play
in visiting persons in detention in South Ossetia, and she encourages
the de facto authorities to co-operate fully with the CPT and to
provide them with full and unhindered access to all places of detention.
3.8 Mistrust of the
47. Within South Ossetia, there is clearly great mistrust
of the international community. This is mentioned as the reason
why access to the region by international organisations is such
a problem. This mistrust is manifested both at the level of the
de facto authorities but also in the streets. During the visit,
the rapporteur’s attention was constantly being drawn to the fact
that Georgian troops attacked Tskhinvali and that the international
community allegedly did nothing to prevent these attacks, notwithstanding
the different warnings they received. The international community
and the European community are seen clearly as being pro-Georgian
and anti-Russian and anti-South Ossetian.
48. While the rapporteur considers that the de facto South Ossetian
authorities shoulder at least partly the responsibility for this
ongoing mistrust amongst the general population (for example, they
have not engaged with the international and European community),
the situation remains that the general population continues to be
deeply mistrustful of the international and European community.
49. The international and European community need to take steps
to build up trust. This can be done in small ways but, for this
to happen, the isolation of South Ossetia needs to be tackled and
both the de facto South Ossetian authorities and the Georgian authorities
need to be more flexible in their demands in this respect.
3.9 Access to South
Ossetia from the north and from the south
50. There is no sign of the de facto authorities in South
Ossetia easing their restrictions on access to South Ossetia from
the south. Similarly there is no sign of Georgia easing their restrictions
on access to South Ossetia from the north. While this deadlock continues,
it will have negative implications on humanitarian assistance and will
further entrench positions on both sides of the administrative border
and do nothing to remove the distrust that exists on both sides.
3.10 The occupied district
51. The rapporteur was unable to visit Akhalgori (referred
to strictly as Leningori by the de facto South Ossetian authorities)
for the reasons mentioned in the introduction to this report. She
was, however, able to speak to a number of sources, including independent
sources, about the situation in Akhalgori. These conversations have
allowed her to have a picture of the situation. However, she considers
it essential to visit the region at some stage in the near future
in order to have a clearer picture of the exact situation.
52. Before the conflict erupted there were estimated to be around
7 700 people in the district. It has now been estimated that there
are around 2 000 to 3 000 people remaining in the district, including
people both of South Ossetian and Georgian ethnic origin. According
to the Georgian authorities 5 348 people have left the Akhalgori
53. Much of the remaining population of ethnic Georgian origin
is elderly. Many people prefer not to remain in the region and travel
in and out. The administrative border is open for locals and there
are one bus and five minibuses a day crossing the administrative
54. Schools are open and functioning and all students are required
to learn the Ossetian language and have history taught in Ossetian.
55. The medical infrastructure is poor and medical services are
limited and people who used to have easy access to Gori for medical
treatment (including many people of South Ossetian ethnic origin
from villages such as Tsingari) have problems of passage and have
to rely on the limited medical services available in Akhalgori, go
to Tskhinvali by a long back-route through the mountains or seek
medical treatment in Russia.
56. According to the de facto South Ossetian authorities, and
also according to independent sources, the South Ossetians do not
want people of Georgian ethnic origin to leave and empty the area.
They would like people to return and do not want to administer an
57. According to independent sources, while there were paramilitary
and security problems after the occupation of this territory, and
while security concerns do remain, including instances of looting
reported by the Georgian authorities, the remaining population of
Georgian ethnic origin is no longer being physically threatened
and forced to leave.
58. Criminal cases have been opened concerning the beating of
two people of Georgian ethnic origin, one of whom died. The rapporteur
calls on the de facto authorities to ensure that those responsible
for these attacks or other attacks are brought to account. It is
important that Russian occupying forces present in the region and the
de facto authorities in South Ossetia take measures to guarantee
the safety of the residents.
59. The de facto South Ossetian authorities have sought to ensure
that the local administration is carried out by local people from
the region of Akhalgori of South Ossetian ethnic origin and not
by people from Tskhinvali, and a new budget for the region has been
60. According to information received by the rapporteur, the main
concerns of the remaining Georgian ethnic population include the
uncertainty of future restrictions on crossing the administrative
border (contacts with family, access to pensions, trade, etc.),
the uncertainty about the education system (the curriculum, language of
instruction, etc.), the current passport policy (with people being
forced to take South Ossetian passports and the lack of information
on the implication of having to take up South Ossetian passports)
and health care. There are reports of discrimination but, according
to independent sources, this is not carried out in an organised fashion
by the authorities, but is rather due to actions by individuals.
61. The rapporteur considers that the de facto South Ossetian
authorities, if they do not want people to continue to leave the
territory and if they want people to return, need to take urgent
measures to meet the concerns of the local population.
62. There are reportedly many Russian troops in the Akhalgori
district. Some of these troops would appear poorly fed and hang
around in an undisciplined fashion begging for food. While they
are not directly threatening, the request for food from armed military
is an unsettling and indirectly threatening experience.
63. There is very little external access to the district. The
ICRC has access and travels regularly to the district and has been
providing humanitarian aid and assistance. The rapporteur understands
that there are ongoing discussions on the ICRC opening up a branch
office in Akhalgori, and the rapporteur strongly encourages both the
ICRC and the de facto authorities to agree on this.
64. Researchers from Human Rights Watch did enter the region at
the end of 2008 to collect information, but they were forced to
leave by the authorities in the course of their work. The rapporteur
considers it essential that NGOs should be allowed to carry out
civil rights work freely in the region and provide first hand independent information
on the situation in the region.
65. The situation in Akhalgori remains preoccupying for the rapporteur
and it is for this reason that she would like the opportunity of
visiting the district in the future. She intends, with the agreement
of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population and the Assembly,
to return to the district. However, for this to happen she would
also need the agreement of the relevant authorities.
66. The rapporteur understands that the situation in
Perevi remains unchanged and that Russian occupying forces remain
stationed outside the village, controlling the road and bridge leading
from Perevi, thus making it difficult for locals to return to their
normal life. She did not visit Perevi personally.
3.12 Refugees and displaced
persons in North Ossetia
67. The rapporteur, during the course of her visit, also
had the possibility of collecting information in North Ossetia on
the situation of refugees and displaced person in this region. This
included information on those who arrived during the recent conflict
and those who arrived following the previous conflicts.
68. According to the Ministry of Migration in North Ossetia, there
are 12 490 displaced persons from the earlier conflicts and a further
70 people have been given refugee status.
69. Following the August 2008 conflict, 33 000 to 38 000 people
from South Ossetia sought refuge and were registered by the authorities.
Approximately 1 200 people remain, staying in private residences.
These are mainly elderly people, those whose houses have been destroyed
or children or other people who remain for economic reasons.
70. In addition to these displaced persons, there is apparently
a group of 1 500 people, who, according to the ministry, have applied
for refugee status after fleeing Georgia. Amongst these people there
are 990 ethnic Ossetians, 221 ethnic Georgians (including a number
of people who refused to be drafted into the Georgian army and deserters)
and 30 ethnic Russians. On these cases, 887 decisions have been
taken and 22 people have been recognised as refugees. There are
also 446 ethnic Chechen Kists who have sought refuge in North Ossetia
71. The rapporteur is greatly concerned by the conditions in which
the long-term displaced persons and refugees live in North Ossetia.
The North Ossetian authorities themselves recognise that these conditions
are not decent. Thirty-nine compact centres for these people exist,
with accommodation provided in former hotels, warehouses and farm
buildings. Ten thousand people are waiting to receive housing. To
this can be added the problem that certain people are stateless
and others have lost their displaced person status and have restricted access
to assistance. The rapporteur has insufficient information to be
able to comment further on the situation of these people, but considers
that their plight and those of other displaced persons in the Northern
Caucasus should be examined in the future by the Assembly and by
the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population.
72. In relation to people who the North Ossetian authorities claim
to have fled Georgia after or during the recent conflict, the rapporteur
is concerned to understand further the reasons for their departure
in such numbers.
4 Part 2 – Update
on some of the most important issues raised in the November 2008
report on the humanitarian consequences of the war between Georgia
and Russia (Doc. 11789)
4.1 Internally displaced
persons (IDPs) and humanitarian aid in areas under the control of Georgia
Out of 130 000 Georgians who were registered as IDPs
after the August conflict, 104 000 returned to places of permanent
residence after the withdrawal of Russian troops from Gori and Kareli
districts, leaving 26 000 people displaced in collective centres
in Tbilisi and other regions of Georgia.Note
74. In addition to these recent IDPs, the Georgian authorities
indicate that there are 225 000 IDPs from the earlier conflicts,
notably people from Abkhazia. The lack of adequate housing remains
the biggest concern for the “old” IDPs. An estimated 70% of the
collective centres do not meet minimum living standards and may negatively
affect the health and well-being of IDPs, especially the children
75. In February 2007, the Georgian Government adopted the State
Strategy for IDPs in order to address the main needs of the IDPs,
passing the Action Plan on the IDP Strategy on 30 July 2008. In
December 2008 an annex to the strategy was introduced in the light
of the post-August war situation. The main goal of the strategy is
to provide durable housing solutions and increase the self-reliance
of displaced persons. It is mainly focused on the process of self-privatisation
of living units in collective centres by IDPs themselves. Although
the international community welcomes this initiative (envisaged
as one of the durable solution options in the Action Plan on IDPs
that was annulled through the same ordinance that passed the annex
to the strategy) the approach toward the overall process remains
of concern. Self-privatisation has been initiated swiftly and independently
from the rehabilitation of collective centres. As there was no accompanying
information campaign elaborating the provisions of privatisation
or informing of alternative options, IDPs are not in a position
to make an informed decision regarding privatisation. Given that
this approach (self-privatisation of collective centres) does not
provide adequate or suitable space per family, there is still a
need to pursue the search for durable solutions for IDPs currently
residing in collective centres.
76. According to the Georgian authorities, residential houses
have now been constructed in different regions of Georgia, mainly
in Shida Qartli, Qvemo Qartli and Mstkheta-Mtianet and, in addition,
already existing buildings have been transferred into residential
buildings. Currently there are 38 new settlements where 18 000 IDPs
reside. Some 1 000 families have received monetary aid and the rest
of the IDPs remain in collective centres and with host families
around Tbilisi, waiting for the reconstruction of their destroyed
homes, to be moved to the new settlements or to receive compensation.
This group of IDPs, who are living in temporary places and whose
housing issues are not yet decided, is a particularly vulnerable
group in need of assistance.
77. The rapporteur welcomes the efforts of the government to provide
housing and shelter for the IDPs and also its attempts to get people
back into their homes. She is, however, concerned at some reports
of people being forced to return to their homes.
4.2 The Law on the
78. The rapporteur welcomes that the European Commission
for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) has provided expert
comments on this law and its compliance with international human
rights and international humanitarian law standards. This law restricts
access to South Ossetia and Abkhazia for foreigners and stateless
people. The law applies to third-country nationals, including personnel
from international organisations and NGOs and Russian citizens.
Whether the law applies to those living in the concerned regions
and who recently obtained Russian citizenship is unclear. The Venice
Commission notes that if the law is applied to personnel from international
organisations and NGOs, it must be assured that this will not hinder
or complicate the provision of humanitarian aid. The Venice Commission
further notes that, if Russia is considered to be an occupying power,
then Russia is obliged to provide aid and shelter and must not be
hindered in fulfilling this duty.
79. The law prohibits a large range of economic activities and
seeks to create criminal responsibility for those undertaking such
activities. This provision has been criticised by the Venice Commission
along with provisions which restrict the provision of humanitarian
aid and also the specific concerns mentioned in relation to free movement,
real estate property rights, economic activities and the non-recognition
of the acts of state of non-recognised states. The rapporteur urges
the Georgian authorities to take note of the comments by the Venice Commission
and amend the law and ensure that in its implementation, the Venice
Commission’s concerns are taken fully into account.
4.3 The situation in
the former so-called buffer zone with South Ossetia
80. The security close to the administrative border remains
problematic notwithstanding that the frequency of incidents has
diminished during the winter months. Some people have still not
returned to the area and many people continue to feel insecure and
fear sniper fire, kidnappings and roaming militia from South Ossetia. Collection
of firewood remains a problem for some families. On 10 February
2009, an OSCE military monitoring patrol was detained by South Ossetian
militia. On 16 January a policeman was fatally shot and on 27 February two
ethnic Georgians were allegedly kidnapped by South Ossetian separatists.
The South Ossetian de facto authorities maintain that these people
were arrested when illegally crossing the administrative border.
The rapporteur considers that this issue should be sorted out as
a priority by the relevant ombudsmen with the help of the Council
of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, as appropriate.
81. The rapporteur considers it necessary to recall the concerns
she raised in her previous report on the very real danger and ease
with which confrontations at the administrative border could quickly
get out of hand. Many of the checkpoints have armed Georgian police
and South Ossetian forces facing each other over short distances.
There is a clear need for other solutions, such as international
peacekeepers and a demilitarised zone on the administrative border.
82. The rapporteur repeats her concern for progress to be made
on the joint proposals on incident prevention and response mechanisms
put forward at the Geneva talks on 17 and 18 February 2009.
4.4 The situation in
Abkhazia and the Kodori Valley
83. The Commissioner for Human Rights visited Abkhazia
from 9 to 11 February 2009. He concluded after his visit that an
international presence was of the utmost importance and that the
technical extension of the UN mandate up to 15 June 2009 was insufficient
to ensure security in the former conflict zone. He expressed the view
that an international presence must be more meaningful and substantive
in terms of providing security and humanitarian and human rights
protection for the population and he also underlined the need for
enhancing security measures and for informing IDPs of their rights
84. The rapporteur agrees fully with the Commissioner for Human
Rights on this issue. She furthermore considers that the main concerns
raised in her earlier report, notably restrictions on movement across
the administrative border, rights protection, including education
rights for ethnic Georgians in the Gali region, and passport and
citizenship issues, remain relevant and in need of urgent attention.
85. The rapporteur continues to urge the Council of Europe to
be fully involved in Abkhazia and to provide support for any international
presence negotiated for the region. The rapporteur welcomes the
recent visit of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
to the region in February 2009, and looks forward to the publication
of his report.
86. Concerning the Kodori valley, according to the Abkhaz de facto
authorities, 180 civilians still live in the region (130 according
to ICRC, 150 according to Georgian authorities). The humanitarian
situation in the Kodori valley has been severe due to the harsh
winter conditions at high altitudes. Public services, such as drugstores,
were destroyed and have not been rebuilt. The road connecting the
valley with Georgian central government controlled territory remains
closed and the rapporteur calls for this road to be reopened so
that humanitarian access can be guaranteed more easily and to allow
residents to travel freely.
87. The rapporteur considers that the return of the people who
fled should be a priority now that spring has arrived and pressure
should be put on the de facto Abkhaz authorities and the Russian
authorities to ensure that this return takes place in safety and
88. The rapporteur condemns the recent incident in which 50 Georgian
families were evicted from the village of Otobaia in the Gali district
by Abkhaz militias. According to the Georgian Interior Ministry,
but disputed by the Abkhaz de facto authorities, the families were
prevented from returning to their homes until they handed over a
young resident who had refused to enrol in the so-called Abkhaz
army. The rapporteur understands that the families have now returned,
although there is still a dispute over the return of the young resident
over whom the dispute started.
4.5 The role of the
European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM)
89. The rapporteur notes that the EUMM monitors still
have no possibility for crossing the administrative border into
South Ossetia or Abkhazia. She also regrets that the monitors only
have a monitoring mandate and not a protection mandate. With uncertainty
as to the future of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG)
and with the closure in process of the OSCE Mission to Georgia,
the role of the EUMM will become even more important.
90. There is an urgent need for monitoring of the situation in
and around the former conflict areas and for protection to be offered
to the civilian population on both sides of the administrative borders.
91. The rapporteur is frustrated and puzzled over the fact that
the EUMM still does not share its reports. At the moment its work
is carried out largely in a vacuum with reporting being made available
to only a privileged few in Brussels. More openness by the EUMM
in its reporting would not only help international actors such as the
Council of Europe in following security concerns, but could also
lead to a greater understanding by people in the region of the realities
on the ground and give them more confidence in the work of the EUMM.
92. The rapporteur understands that there has recently been a
rotation of monitors in the EUMM, as the term of duty of a number
of monitors has come to an end. Many of the new monitors are not
trained in human rights monitoring and the rapporteur considers
that it is essential that they receive appropriate training, either
from the Council of Europe, as in the past, or from other international
4.6 The role of the
93. The rapporteur welcomes that the OSCE participating
states have agreed to extend the presence of the organisation’s
unarmed military monitoring officers until 30 June 2009. She regrets,
however, that no consensus could be reached on the continuing presence
of the full OSCE Mission to Georgia, as Russia would not accept
the proposed scheme of parallel field offices in Tbilisi and Tskhinvali,
but called for separate presences of the OSCE in Georgia and in
94. The rapporteur welcomes the availability of OSCE daily reports
and weekly reports provided by OSCE monitoring officers and recognises
the valuable role recently played by the OSCE in ensuring that gas
supplies resume to the population of Tskhinvali. She hopes that
the monitoring work of the OSCE will be extended further.
95. The humanitarian consequences of the war between
Georgia and Russia are far from solved. Tension remains high and
there is ongoing fear on all sides of a renewal of hostilities.
96. While the immediate urgent humanitarian needs were dealt with
over the winter, there is now a need to find solutions for the displaced
persons and refugees who cannot return in the near future. Voluntary
return should be treated as a priority where this can be guaranteed
in accordance with international law standards.
97. The future for international assistance, monitoring and peace
keeping in the region remains unclear and, as a priority, solutions
need to be found to ensure an effective international presence remains
in the region providing guarantees for security, human rights and
the humanitarian needs of all.
98. One of the greatest dangers is that the administrative border
closes completely. This will not only create isolation, it will
also cause an exodus of people of Georgian ethnic origin from the
Gali and Akhalgori regions.
99. South Ossetia and Abkhazia are isolated regions, politically
and geographically. This has repercussions on aid and assistance
and also on information going into and coming out of the regions.
This means that the world is not well informed about what is happening
in the two regions and the population living in the two regions
is not well informed about the concerns and position of the international
100. New solutions need to be found to open up dialogue between
the international community and the de facto authorities and people
of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Both Georgia and Russia have a responsibility
to see this happen.
Reporting committee:Committee on Migration, Refugees
Reference to committee:Reference No. 3326 of 30 January
Draft resolution and draft recommendation adopted
by the committee on 27 March 2009, with one abstention.
Members of the committee:
Mrs Corien W.A. Jonker (Chairperson),
Mr Hakki Keskin (1st Vice-Chairperson), Mr Doug Henderson, (2nd
Vice-Chairperson), Mr Pedro Agramunt,
(3rd Vice-Chairperson), Mrs Tina Acketoft, Mr Francis Agius, Mr
Ioannis Banias, Mr Alexander van der Bellen, Mr Márton Braun, Mr
André Bugnon, Mr Sergej Chelemendik, Mr Vannino Chiti, Mr Christopher
Chope (alternate: Mr Bill Etherington),
Mr Boriss Cilevičs, Mr Telmo Correia, Mrs Claire Curtis-Thomas, Mr David Darchiashvili, M. Arcadio Díaz Tejera, Mr Mitko Dimitrov,
Mr Vangjel Dule, Mr Tuur Elzinga (alternate: Mr Pieter Omtzigt), Mr Valeriy Fedorov, Mr Oleksandr Feldman,
Mrs Doris Fiala, Mr Bernard
Fournier, Mr Paul Giacobbi, Mrs Gunn Karin Gjul, Mrs Angelika Graf,
Mr John Greenway, Mr Andrzej
Grzyb, Mr Michael Hagberg, Mrs Gultakin Hajibayli, Mr Davit Harutyunyan,
Mr Jürgen Herrmann, Mr Bernd Heynemann, Mr Jean Huss, Mr Tadeusz Iwiński, Mr Mustafa Jemiliev (alternate:
Mrs Oksana Bilozir), Mr Tomáš
Jirsa, Mr Reijo Kallio, Mr Ruslan Kondratov (alternate: Mr Ivan Savvidi), Mr Franz Eduard Kühnel,
Mr Andros Kyprianou, Mr Geert Lambert, Mr Pavel Lebeda, Mr Younal Loutfi,
Mr Arminas Lydeka, Mr Andrija
Mandić, Mr Jean-Pierre Masseret, Mr Slavko Matić, Mrs Nursuna Memecan,
Mrs Ana Catarina Mendonça, Mr Gebhard Negele,
Mr Hryhoriy Omelchenko, Mr
Alexey Ostrovsky, Mr Grigore Petrenco, Mr Jørgen Poulsen, Mr Cezar Florin Preda,
Mr Milorad Pupovac, Mrs Mailis Reps,
Mr Gonzalo Robles, Mr Branko
Ružić,Mr Giacomo Santini, Mr André Schneider,
Mr Samad Seyidov, Mr Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, Mrs Miet Smet, Mr
Dimitrios Stamatis, Mr Florenzo Stolfi, Mr Giacomo Stucchi, Mr Vilmos
Szabó, Mr Dragan Todorović, Mr Tuğrul Türkeş,
Mrs Özlem Türköne, Mr Michał
Wojtczak, Mr Marco Zacchera, Mr Yury Zelenskiy,
Mr Andrej Zernovski, N ...
(alternate: Mr Frank Fahey).
NB: The names of the members who took part in the meeting
are printed in bold.
Secretariat of the committee: Mr
Neville, Mrs Odrats, Mr Ekström.