B Explanatory memorandum, by Ms Corien
The Assembly has, with the assistance of the Committee
on Migration, Refugees and Population, examined many humanitarian
issues which are directly relevant to the consequences of the war
between Georgia and Russia. Of particular interest in this respect
is Resolution 1497 (2006)
refugees and displaced persons in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia
and its Resolution 1553
on missing persons in Armenia, Azerbaijan and
Georgia from the conflicts over the Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and
South Ossetia regions.
Your rapporteur in preparing her opinion has taken into account
this past work of the Assembly and has drawn heavily on her first-hand
experience in the region during the visit of the ad hoc committee
to study the situation on the ground in Georgia and Russia during
the period 21 to 26 September 2008. She has also relied extensively
on the information contained in the Council of Europe Commissioner
for Human Rights’ visit report to the conflict region in September
She endorses fully the six principles
for urgent protection of human rights and humanitarian security
developed in the Commissioner’s report.
3 Your rapporteur would like to pay tribute to the work of all
those in the humanitarian field helping to meet the humanitarian
needs of those affected by the conflict. She would also like to
thank the many different organisations with which she had contact,
and in particular the various offices of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Committee of the Red
2 Statistics on displacement
The humanitarian consequences of the recent conflict
have been vast. According to recent figures from the UNHCR,Note
000 persons were displaced by the conflict. Of these, 127 000 were
displaced within Georgia, excluding South Ossetia. Another 30 000
persons were displaced within South Ossetia and 35 000 persons sought
refuge in the Russian Federation.
To date, approximately 65 000 persons have returned within
Georgia, but outside of South Ossetia, and 33 000 of the 35 000
refugees in the Russian Federation have returned to South Ossetia.Note
6 According to the UNHCR about 50 000 internally displaced persons
(IDPs) in Georgia may not be able to return before the winter, although
a further 23 000 IDPs should be able to return after the winter.
This therefore leaves many IDPs who will not be able to return in
the short term or medium term, notably to the so-called “buffer
zone” regions of South Ossetia and Upper Abkhazia. Furthermore,
there are some IDPs who may never be able to return, even in the
Approximately 56% of IDPs are female and 44% are male.Note
In Georgia the greatest number of IDPs are accommodated in
collective centres in Tbilisi, although there are also many in the
regions and in private accommodation.Note
9 Gori has become a halfway house for those wanting to move
back to their homes in the so-called “buffer zone” and also those
leaving their villages because of intimidation by roaming militia
in the so-called “buffer zone”.
10 According to recent UNHCR reports, Gori is full and many persons
are being moved on to other regions.
11 Notwithstanding the desperate situation of these internally
displaced persons and refugees, the plight of the estimated 222
000 persons who remain displaced from the earlier conflicts over
Abkhazia and South Ossetia needs to be kept in mind. While it is
important to tackle the immediate urgent needs of the recent IDPs, durable
solutions for all IDPs, from both the earlier and recent conflicts
need to be tackled together.
3 Persons killed or wounded
12 The number of persons killed in the recent conflict
appears lower than first feared.
According to statistics provided by the Georgian authorities,Note
the total number of Georgian citizens killedNote
to 364 persons (170 military personnel and 194 civilians).
14 In terms of wounded, the Georgian authorities have indicated
a total number of 2 234 persons, with 69 persons currently being
treated in hospital.
15 In South Ossetia, the Russian authorities have informed the
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights that there were
133 confirmed deaths. Concerning wounded persons, 220 persons were
treated in Tskhinvali and 250 persons in Vladikavkaz. During your
rapporteur’s visit she received revised indications from Russian
NGOs that 300 persons were killed and approximately 500 persons
4 The missing
On the Georgian side, 54 persons remain missing from
and six persons are missing
on the South Ossetian side.
17 The ICRC continues to receive tracing requests from families
of the missing and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human
Rights continues to keep pressure on the relevant authorities to
co-operate with each other to clarify the fate of the missing.
18 Parties to the conflict need to solve the issue of the missing
as soon as possible, taking into account also the missing from the
previous conflict, which includes 10 Georgians and 122 South Ossetians.
The issue of the missing from the conflict over Abkhazia also needs
to be taken into account.
19 Your rapporteur considers, as a priority, that the parties
to the conflict should be called upon to treat the issue of the
missing as a humanitarian and human rights issue and not a political
20 A number of steps should be taken by the relevant authorities,
including establishing a multilateral co-ordination mechanism with
co-operation between commissions for missing persons (which have
to be created where they do not exist).
21 The authorities should also collect all relevant data and
take all necessary steps in order to identify, recover and exchange
the remains of missing persons, provide material social and psychological
assistance to the families of the missing and support the important
work of the ICRC in this field of activity.
5 Prisoners of war and hostages
22 Your rapporteur notes the important work carried
out by the ICRC and also the Council of Europe Commissioner for
Human Rights in arranging for the release and exchange of prisoners
of war and other persons detained as a result of the conflict. Your
rapporteur fully supports all calls for the release and exchange of
these persons and calls for action to be taken by the relevant authorities
to eliminate the practice of hostage taking.
6 Humanitarian assistance
23 Humanitarian assistance continues to be a priority.
It is needed by those who are unable to return, but also many of
those who have been able to return and even some of those who never
24 Accommodation through the winter months is a pressing priority
for those who have returned to damaged or destroyed property and
those who are unable to return.
25 Immediate urgent assistance is required for the most needy,
and a more long-term approach to aid is also required bearing in
mind the need for sustainable solutions, including integration measures
and new income generating opportunities, for all displaced persons
whether they are recently displaced or displaced from the earlier
The international community has reacted quickly in providing
assistance to the region. The Russian authorities have provided
generous support to refugees from South Ossetia and the Georgian
authorities have similarly mobilised resources to meet the immediate
needs of those persons displaced within Georgian territory under
its control. These resources are, however, not enough, and humanitarian
organisations have faced problems in having access to North Ossetia
(with the Russian authorities refusing international aid)Note
and also South Ossetia
and the so-called “buffer zone”, where one of the few organisations
with access is the ICRC.
A humanitarian co-ordination group has been set up including
UN agencies and NGOs under the UN Resident/Humanitarian Co-ordinator.
The humanitarian response has been organised by sectors, such as food,
protection (including education), water and sanitation, shelter
and non-food items, logistics, health and nutrition, telecommunication,
security and recovery.Note
ICRC is participating in the co-ordination group in an observer
28 The European Commission will propose an aid package for Georgia
covering 2008-10 for reconstruction and return. Furthermore, a donor’s
conference will be held in October in Brussels probably after the
European Council meeting on 15 October. Your rapporteur notes the
importance of well co-ordinated and donor aid response, taking into
consideration the needs stated by the government and civil society
organisations operating in the country.
29 There are some concerns that have been raised with your rapporteur
during her mission on the use being made of aid being provided by
donors and your rapporteur encourages all donors to keep control
over where their money is being spent.
30 In terms of emergency aid, there is still a lack of beds and
sleeping accessories. Food is distributed primarily by the World
Food Programme (WFP), but this does not always cover all the needs,
in particular those of sick persons, children and the elderly. Access
to food is particularly problematic in the so-called “buffer zone”,
due to the restrictions on movements and the lack of access to the
region by humanitarian organisations. Access to health facilities
and hygiene items remains insufficient.
31 Many properties, in particular those belonging to
Georgians, have been looted, damaged or raised to the ground by
fire or by bulldozers. Your rapporteur witnessed many damaged and
destroyed houses in the so-called “buffer zone” and also in South
Ossetia. While there was damage caused to many of the houses in
South Ossetia, and in particular in Tskhinvali, during the conflict,
your rapporteur was appalled at the extent of damage to houses belonging
to Georgians in the so-called “buffer zone” and also in South Ossetia
itself in the aftermath of the conflict.
32 Providing suitable accommodation remains a priority and a
challenge and is foremost the responsibility of the Georgian Government
in the areas in which it is in effective control.
33 Many IDPs in Georgia had to be housed initially in schools,
but they have recently been transferred to other public buildings
to allow the schools to re-open. Many of the public buildings being
used are in need of urgent repair and transformation. The UNHCR,
ICRC and other relevant organisations and governmental agencies
are working on these accommodation and shelter issues, but winter
is on its way and much still has to be done.
34 Gori, which has been used as a stepping stone for those wanting
to return to the conflict zones, and also as a place of haven for
those still fleeing insecure areas, is full to capacity and has
about 2 300 persons living in tents.
There are also severe accommodation problems in Tskhinvali
where, according to the Russian Minister of Emergency Situations,
10% of the houses cannot be repaired and 20% of houses need to be reconstructed.Note
There is, as a result,
an urgent need for construction materials to rehabilitate damaged
houses and apartments.
36 Many of the schools in the conflict areas have been
damaged or looted and furthermore many of the schools in Georgia’s
interior have been used to provide emergency accommodation for displaced
persons. The result has been delays in starting the academic year.
Schools have started in the meantime, and while most IDP children
are now attending schools, some of them are still seeking places.
37 In South Ossetia, the functioning of the education system
is not yet back to normal and many of the 2 000 persons remaining
in North Ossetia are children, who are receiving schooling until
their schools re-open in South Ossetia.
38 The Georgian authorities have estimated the number of children
displaced at the beginning of September at 64 397, the majority
of whom are under 12. Many of these children are reported to be
suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety crises and
39 Your rapporteur is obviously greatly concerned by the situation
of the children affected by the conflict and invites all parties
to take the necessary measures to ensure that their safety, health
and education needs are fully met.
40 Health issues should remain a priority, both in terms
of treating physical health problems but also mental health problems
arising from the trauma of the conflict.
41 The ICRC has a number of travelling health units reaching
out to those in need in the so-called “buffer zone” and in South
Ossetia, but it is a general problem that many of the medical facilities
in the conflict zones have been destroyed. In the region of Shida
Kartli, which includes Gori, 13 out of 19 medical facilities have been
The reproductive health needs, in particular of IDP women,
require priority attention. There are worrying reports of pregnancies
as a result of sexual violence, a rise in the number of premature
deliveries of babies, and an increase in the number of abortions.Note
More funds are needed
to adequately cover the hygiene and reproductive health needs of
the IDPs and to still serve the rest of the population not affected
by the conflict.Note
6.4 Situation of “old” IDPs
43 The action plan for the “old” IDPs of the civil wars
in the 1990s, of whom 222 000 remain according to the UNHCR, which
resulted in the plight of almost 300 000 Georgians and another 100
000 other ethnic groups who have mostly been unable to return since,
was adopted the week before the escalation in the conflict. With the
new influx of IDPs it is clearly going to adversely affect the “durable
solutions” being worked upon for these “old” IDPs. Your rapporteur
is concerned about the plight of all IDPs and urges the Georgian
authorities to deal with “old” and “new” IDPs together when looking
at the issue of durable solutions for both these groups.
44 Your rapporteur expresses particular concern about the approximately
45 000 “old” IDPs who resettled in the Gali District in Abkhazia
whose human rights situation was already precarious before the outbreak
of the recent war and who are particularly vulnerable in the post-war
situation. She urges the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human
Rights, UNHCR and other international human rights bodies to pay
particular attention to this issue and take the necessary steps
to defuse the current tension.
7 Access to South Ossetia and the so-called “buffer
45 Access to South Ossetia, and the so-called “buffer
zone” continues to be restricted, making it extremely difficult
for human rights issues to be monitored and humanitarian needs to
be estimated and catered for. The problem is in part due to the
insistence of the Georgians that assistance should pass from the
south, through Georgia, and the insistence of the Russians and the
de facto authorities in South Ossetia that assistance should pass
from Russia in the north. Furthermore, tension and lawlessness in
the so-called “buffer zone” continues to raise significant security
concerns not only for the lives of the persons living in these areas
or returning to these areas, but also for their property and livelihoods.
The ICRC is, however, one of the few organisations which has
free access both to South Ossetia and to the so-called “buffer zone”.
The UNHCR has only, since the middle of September, been able to
have limited access to these areas and has started analysing the
conditions for return and the needs of returnees.Note
47 Your rapporteur highlights the importance of free access being
given to all relevant humanitarian organisations both within the
so-called “buffer zone” and in South Ossetia. Furthermore, it is
essential that the security of these organisations is guaranteed
by the relevant authorities.
48 Your rapporteur notes, in addition, the similar problems of
access to Abkhazia, and highlights the importance of free access
also being granted to humanitarian and other organisations.
8 Security situation
The security situation in the so-called “buffer zone”
remains a key issue. The Organization for Security and Co-operation
in Europe (OSCE)Note
in a recent activity
report concluded that “criminality and harassment of the villagers
by South Ossetian elements appear to be widespread”, with the main
risks being “unexploded ordnance (UXO) and armed groups from South
Ossetia and possibly the Northern Caucasus”.
There continue to be reports of properties being burned down,
kidnappings taking place and killings being carried out.Note
18-year-old boy was, for example, reportedly kidnapped from the
village of Kordi. Furthermore, a Georgian policeman was shot and
killed at the Karaleti checkpoint on 10 September. According to
the Georgian Public Defender’s Office a total of 1 200 houses in
the so-called “buffer zone” have been partially or heavily damaged.Note
51 Your rapporteur, having visited the region can attest to the
widespread damage and destruction both in the so-called “buffer
zone” and also in South Ossetia, where remaining Georgian properties
have been targeted.
52 While there are few reports of killings of Georgians in these
areas, there is an undeniable process of ethnic cleansing taking
place. Georgians are being threatened with their lives or told to
renounce Georgian nationality. Their properties are being burned
down or bulldozered. The result of all these acts is that these areas
are “cleansed” of persons and families of ethnic Georgian background.
In South Ossetia itself, there are, according to reports received
during your rapporteur’s mission to the region, only a few hundred
ethnic Georgians remaining.
53 The Russian Forces stationed in the so-called “buffer zone”
have a mixed record in dealing with lawlessness, with there being
some reports of Russian intervention to protect locals, for example
by escorting them to work in fields, and other reports of the failure
of the Russian Forces to prevent the destruction of houses and looting.
Russian Forces have restricted OSCE patrolling in many areas and
talks between the Russian Federation and the OSCE have recently
broken down on the issue of sending more monitors to the area. The 28
current OSCE monitors, however, continue to carry out their work.
54 Your rapporteur emphasises that the Russian occupying forces
have an obligation to stamp out lawlessness (including physical
assault, robbery, kidnapping, harassment, looting and torching of
property, etc.). This is an obligation of any occupying power in
accordance with Article 43 of the Hague Convention of 1907 and the
Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
55 In view of the many different reports, both during the conflict
and in the aftermath of the conflict, of human rights and humanitarian
law abuses, your rapporteur supports the call for all perpetrators
of these abuses, no matter which side they may have been on, to
face justice and be held accountable.
9 Mines and unexploded ordnance
56 Of concern to your rapporteur is the large number
of mines and also bomblets left over from cluster bombs, allegedly
used by both sides. Also of concern to your rapporteur is the use
of “frog” type mines which jump into the air when stepped upon and
explode at head height or chest level.
57 Your rapporteur considers a full investigation is needed into
the weapons used and their compliance with international humanitarian
law requirements. All parties have a responsibility to identify
and remove all mines and unexploded ordnance and exchange information
on the use and location of such materials. All parties should make
full use of offers of assistance in mine clearance and ordnance
removal. Parties also need to undertake as a matter of urgency,
mine awareness programmes among the population at risk.
10 Fear and hatred
58 The conflict has undoubtedly increased the fear and
hatred of both Georgians and South Ossetians. This fear and hatred
is particularly strong among South Ossetians towards Georgians.
All relevant authorities need to take steps to counter this fear
and hatred in society in order to be able to move forward in healing
the wounds of the conflict.
11 Monitoring of the return situation and protection
Monitoring of the return situation of IDPs and refugees
is essential in the light of security concerns. Your rapporteur
welcomes that the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia has as
part of its mandate the monitoring of the “political and security
aspects of the return of internally displaced persons and refugees”.Note
However, this monitoring in itself is not
sufficient taking into account the lawless situation in the so-called borders
zone. Consideration therefore needs to be given to providing the
EU Monitoring Mission with policing and protection responsibilitiesNote
order to fill the vacuum of lawlessness. Other possibilities should
also be examined such as the joint patrolling of Georgian police
together with EU monitors to ensure that both monitoring and protection
can take place at the same time in the so-called border zone.
60 The importance of this monitoring and protection will become
even more important as and when the Russian forces withdraw from
the so-called “buffer zone”. It is not just in the so-called “buffer
zone” that protection issues remain. In parts of South Ossetia,
such as in Akhalgori District, the local Georgian population is
put under pressure to leave, including pressure to change their
Georgian passports and take up Russian passports instead.
61 The Council of Europe, OSCE, UNHCR, other UN agencies and
other human rights and humanitarian organisations need to be given
access to all areas in order for them also to carry out monitoring,
and, where appropriated, protection. Full support and guarantees
of safety need to be given to the ICRC, which is already present
in the region.
12 The right to return
62 Your rapporteur considers that all persons, whether
refugees or IDPs (from the earlier conflict or the recent conflict),
have a right to return on a voluntary basis.
63 As indicated by your rapporteur earlier, the burning down
or bulldozering of houses belonging to Georgians is an attempt to
hinder or destroy the prospects of return, and these actions must
be stopped immediately.
64 Your rapporteur recognises that return in safety may not be
an option for certain people and that under the Pinheiro principles
developed by the United Nations, all internally displaced persons
should have the right to return in safety and dignity, or to resettle
voluntarily or integrate locally.
65 Your rapporteur considers that the humanitarian situation
arising from the conflict requires the onward going attention of
the Parliamentary Assembly and the international community. In consequence,
your rapporteur considers that there is an urgent need for a much
fuller report on the humanitarian situation arising from the conflict,
taking into account the needs of all IDPs and refugees, and not
just those from the most recent conflict. The committee stands ready
to prepare such a report.
In conclusion, your rapporteur highlights the importance for
all parties to the conflict to:
all human rights norms and also humanitarian norms under the 1949
Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols. Particular attention
is drawn to the need to respect the European Convention on Human
Rights and the interim measures ordered by the European Court of Human
Rights and any relevant judgments. Furthermore, all those responsible
for human rights violations should be held accountable.
.2 remove all mines and unexploded ordnance. This implies
all parties to the conflict exchanging information on the use and
location of such materials, and also the involvement of experts
on mine and ordnance location and removal. Furthermore, awareness
raising of the dangers of these unexploded mines and ordnance needs
to be carried out for those at risk;
.3 co-operate fully with all international monitoring missions
whether from the UN, the OSCE, the EU, the Council of Europe or
other international bodies;
.4 ensure that all persons displaced by the conflict should
have the right to return on a fully voluntary basis and to refrain
from using displaced persons as a political pawn when tackling the
issue of return. Furthermore, all internally displaced persons should
have the right to return in safety and dignity, or to resettle voluntarily
or integrate locally;
.5 release and exchange, immediately, prisoners of war and
others detained as a result of the conflict, without requiring reciprocity
from any other side;
.6 ensure that all hostages are released and the practice
of hostage taking is eliminated;
.7 solve the issue of missing persons from the recent and
earlier conflict, ensuring that the issue is treated as a humanitarian
issue and not a political issue. Furthermore, establish a multilateral
co-ordination mechanism with functioning commissions for missing
persons on the different sides of the conflict;
.8 take steps to counter fear and hatred resulting from the
conflict, in particular in South Ossetia, and the so-called “buffer
zones” and in the Gali district in Abkhazia;
.9 comply fully with the Council of Europe Commissioner for
Human Rights’ six principles for urgent protection of human rights
and humanitarian security developed after his August 2008 visit
to the region.
In particular, your rapporteur urges the authorities of the
Russian Federation, and where appropriate the “de facto” authorities
in South Ossetia and in Abkhazia to:
.1 take urgent measures to guarantee the security of all
persons within the so-called “buffer zones”, South Ossetia and in
particular in the Gali district and Upper Abkhazia. The de facto
authorities in South Ossetia and in Abkhazia and the Russian occupying
forces have an obligation to stamp out lawlessness (including physical
assault, robbery, kidnapping, harassment, looting and torching of
property, etc.). This is an obligation of any occupying power in
accordance with Article 43 of the Hague Convention of 1907 and the
Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949;
.2 provide all conditions in the areas under their occupation
or control in the so-called “buffer zones”, South Ossetia and Abkhazia
for the safe return of all internally displaced and refugees, including
those for the civil wars of the 1990s;
.3 provide, without delay, the UNHCR and all humanitarian
organisations with access to the areas affected by the conflict,
in particular in the region of South Ossetia and the so-called “buffer
zone”. All organisations providing humanitarian assistance in these
areas should be guaranteed safety.
68 Furthermore, your rapporteur is greatly concerned by the need
for protection for those returning to or still living in the so-called
“buffer zone” and South Ossetia, and recommends that the European
Union should be called on to strengthen the EU monitoring mission
and give it a mandate and resources not only to monitor, but also
to protect persons and property. The European Union should also
ensure that the issue of return of displaced persons and refugees
should remain high on the political agenda, including in any EU-Russia
high level meetings and discussions.
69 As a final point your rapporteur calls upon member states
of the Council of Europe to fund and support the aid and assistance
operations carried out by the relevant authorities and also the
aid and assistance operations carried out by humanitarian organisations
in the region. In providing this assistance, due consideration must
also be given to the 222 000 IDPs from the previous conflicts and
their needs for durable solutions.