memorandum by Ms Acketoft, rapporteur
This report is a follow-up to two previous reports
prepared by Ms Corien Jonker (Netherlands, EPP/CD) for the Committee
on Migration, Refugees and Population leading to Resolution 1648 (2009)
on the humanitarian consequences of the war between
Georgia and Russia, and a follow-up Resolution 1664 (2009)
At the time of preparing this report, over four years had
elapsed since the hostilities in August 2008 which brought about
the displacement of approximately 192 000 ethnic Georgians and 36 000
ethnic Ossetians. While the large majority of these people have
been able to return to their homes, 18 789 remain displaced in undisputed
areas of Georgia and 3 914 have been displaced twice. The total
number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), according to the
Georgian authorities, now stands at 265 295.Note
is also estimated that there are, in South Ossetia, Georgia,Note
to 15 000 internally displaced persons from the conflict in 2008
and 5 000 from the conflict in the 1990s.Note
The number of IDPs in Abkhazia,
Georgia, is unknown.Note
3. The aim of this report is to look at the humanitarian situation
of the people most affected by the conflict, and in particular the
IDPs from the recent and the earlier conflicts and the families
of the missing. The approach to the report is humanitarian, focussing
on the people and not the politics. That said, in preparing this
report it has not always been possible to separate the two, in particular
when looking for realistic solutions for solving problems, and to
understand the history and background to the problems. Furthermore,
the attitude of all those involved in the conflict has, unfortunately,
all too often put long term politics before the immediate problems faced
by people affected by the conflict.
4. While preparing the report, I went to Tbilisi from 19 to 23
September 2011, and returned to Georgia between 12 and 15 December
2011 in order to visit the region of Abkhazia and have meetings
in Gali and Sukhumi. I also went to Moscow from 9 to 11 October
2012. It was not possible for me to visit the region of South Ossetia
due to political disagreement over how I should enter and exit the
5. I would like to thank all the people and organisations that
facilitated my visits and provided me with information. I would
particularly like to thank Ms Rosaria Puglisi who assisted me as
a consultant in the latter stages of the preparation of this report.
It should be underlined that nothing in this report should
be interpreted as being contrary to the full respect of the sovereignty
and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally
recognised borders, in line with the Parliamentary Assembly’s position
on this issue and in particular its stance taken in Resolution 1633 (2008)
on the consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia,
and subsequent resolutions and recommendations on this issue.
2 The general
situation in Georgia
2.1 Recent political
developments to take into account
7. The Geneva Discussions is the main political forum
dealing with security and humanitarian needs, including those of
IDPs and refugees. Discussions continue at regular intervals with
the 21st round of talks taking place in October 2012. In the first
working group, covering security issues, the sides have begun to
work on an agreement of non-use of force, a central element for
security and stability in the area. It can be noted in this respect
that Georgia has already made a unilateral declaration on the non-use
of force, as have the de facto authorities
in Tskhinvali and Sukhumi. In the second working group, primarily
dealing with IDPs and refugees, there is still almost no progress.
The most notable success of the Geneva Discussions remains the setting
up and functioning of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism
(IPRM), which examines security incidents and develops practical
solutions to problems experienced. For example, apart from dealing with
security incidents, there has been progress reported on water projects,
including irrigation and drinking water, which have cross-ABL (administrative
boundary line) implications. That said, problems were experienced
at the 36th meeting of the IPRM on 24 April 2012 when the established
and agreed procedures of participation were challenged by the de facto Abkhaz authorities who
did not want the Head of the European Union Monitoring Mission in
Georgia (EUMM) to participate. It is important that these problems
are resolved so that the IPRM can meet and continue its valuable
work as soon as possible.
8. At the United Nations level, the General Assembly adopted
a Resolution on 3 July 2012 on the “Status of internally displaced
persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali
region/South Ossetia, Georgia”. This was the fifth year in succession
that it adopted such a text. The resolution raised concern about the
“forced demographic changes resulting from the conflicts in Georgia”
and called for the creation of “favourable security conditions conducive
to the voluntary, safe, dignified and unhindered return of all internally displaced
persons and refugees to their places of origin”.
On 8 November 2012, the Secretary General of the Council of
Europe presented his “Consolidated report on the conflict in Georgia
(April 2012-September 2012)”.Note
10. Probably the most significant political development has been
the recent change of government in Georgia following the 1 October
2012 general elections. While it is unlikely there will be any seismic
shift in policies towards the conflict, there are indications of
a more flexible approach being adopted. This is encouraging.
2.2 Recent legal developments
– cases before the European Court of Human Rights
11. Two types of cases are pending before the European
Court of Human Rights (“the Court”). The first is an inter-State
case brought by Georgia against Russia (No. 38263/08) concerning
“the armed conflict that erupted between Georgia and the Russian
Federation”. The application was declared admissible by a chamber of
the Court and on 3 April 2012 jurisdiction was relinquished to the
12. The second type of cases concern individual complaints. 3 300
individual applications were lodged against Georgia after the August
2008 hostilities. A large number of these cases were struck off
the list when the Court concluded that applicants no longer wished
to follow them up. 1 712 cases remain and nine of these have been
communicated to the government. Their further examination is likely
to be co-ordinated with the progress of the inter-State case.
13. A further 20 cases have been lodged against both Georgia and
Russia, and 208 applications, involving more than 900 applicants,
have been lodged against the Russian Federation. These have been
communicated to the Russian Federation for information.
14. The rapporteur awaits with interest the Court’s findings and
considers they will be an important and essential step in dealing
with the aftermath of the conflict and the humanitarian consequences
of the war.
2.3 Government policy
2.3.1 Strategy on displaced
persons and the Action Plan
15. The State Strategy on Internally Displaced Persons
has been supplemented by the adoption of the Action Plan for the
Implementation of the State Strategy on IDPs during 2009-2012. This
has more recently been supplemented by the IDP Action Plan for 2012-2014
adopted by the Government Decree No. 1162 of 13 June 2012.
16. The general feedback on the Strategy and the Action Plan is
positive and international actors report that the government’s approach
is constructive and shows commitment. The issue of IDPs, however,
remains politicised and there are areas of particular concern, which
will be taken up later in this report.
17. In terms of updating the Action Plan for 2012-2014, a further
shift towards a needs-based social assistance model rather than
a model focussed on the status of the individual is being advocated
by international organisations. This will be a major challenge for
the authorities to implement, in political, economic and legal terms,
and will require careful preparation, including as regards the implications
of such a change. In this context, a new needs assessment programme
for IDPs was launched in July 2012 under which health, agriculture
and employment have been highlighted as priorities.
2.3.2 Strategy on occupied
territories and the Action Plan
18. The Georgian Government adopted the State Strategy
on Occupied Territories: Engagement Through Cooperation in January
2010. It is the mechanism through which joint projects and activities
can be carried out across the ABL. It covers areas such as economic
relations, infrastructure, transport, education, people to people
contact, legal and administrative measures and human rights.
19. The Action Plan for Engagement was adopted on 3 July 2010
and provides the mechanism for implementing the goals outlined in
the Strategy. Amongst the mechanisms established under the Plan
is a Liaison Mechanism, which acts as a channel of communication
between the divided communities and facilitates the running of international
projects as well as the delivery of medicines. It was the mechanism
I used to cross the ABL and set up meetings during the visit to
Gali and Sukhumi. The system was efficient and functioned smoothly.
Another instrument is the development of status-neutral identification
cards and travel documents. These should in principle allow all
persons habitually residing in the regions of Abkhazia and South
Ossetia (excluding Russian military) to obtain medical, education
and social benefits on the same basis as all citizens from other
regions of Georgia. Furthermore, the aim is that these travel documents
will ultimately enable the holders to travel abroad for medical,
educational or confidence building purposes. However, as it stands,
few countries have agreed to accept these documents and interlocutors
in Sukhumi and in Moscow have spoken out strongly against their
use, indicating that they are not neutral (Georgia is mentioned
in the country’s code and the Georgian Ministry of Interior is mentioned
as the issuing authority). Few persons appear to have applied for
these documents and they may not have the success hoped for by the
represent one of a number of options for persons wishing to obtain
the benefits of these documents, including travelling abroad.
The government also adopted, in October 2010, modalities for
conducting activities in these regionsNote
define procedures and allow, for example, emergency humanitarian
action to be conducted without prior notice. I understand that all
projects submitted have so far been allowed, and 125 so called Non-Objection Orders
have been given.
22. In practice, the Georgian authorities are open to humanitarian
projects, but other forms of co-operation stumble on the issue of
status and the fear that any such co-operation could promote State
building and recognition.
23. The rapporteur understands from international organisations
working in the region of Abkhazia, that it is possible to work peacefully
and solve problems as long as they do not try to deal with controversial
issues, which otherwise quickly become politicised and status related.
That said, at the end of October 2012, international non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) were invited to close their offices in Sukhumi
and move their operations exclusively to the Gali area. If this
happens it will hinder dialogue and co-operation and represent a
step backwards in terms of strengthening civil society in Sukhumi.
The situation is different in the region of South Ossetia, where
the only international organisation active is the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
24. The Council of Europe has been running a range of confidence-building
activities which have been positive and constructive. These activities
have had a bilateral format and have included training of journalists on
balanced coverage of politically sensitive events, a training seminar
on new technologies to enhance intercultural communication skills,
a project to bring artists together for dialogue and a project to
make human rights documents available to civil society groups and
education establishments. A number of other projects are also under
consideration including a project on patient’s rights, a seminar
for teachers and teacher trainers on children in psychological distress
and an activity concerning conservation of cultural heritage. These different
activities are to be welcomed. While I understand that there are
some problems in organising the activities (issues of whether activities
should move beyond the bilateral to a wider European context, and problems
associated with travel documents), I hope that all sides will be
flexible so as to allow the activities to continue. Furthermore
I would like to encourage the Committee of Ministers of the Council
of Europe to expand further its confidence-building activities.
The build-up of trust will not happen without contacts and activities such
25. During my visit to Tbilisi, some concerns were raised about
the creation of a Trust Fund by the Georgian authorities. This was
seen as a way of centralising all action and funding in order to
control activities in the regions. The Georgian authorities have
responded to these concerns saying that they consider this as an additional
mechanism without prejudice to established mechanisms or international
funding exercises by the international community.
26. In my opinion, the Strategy, while opening the way for limited
co-operation and humanitarian access does little to open the doors
for reintegration. All my interlocutors during my visit to Sukhumi,
including civil society actors, made it clear to me that they distrust
the Strategy and the motivation behind it. They also made it clear
that they had little wish for reintegration. A more compromising
attitude by all is needed if this or any strategy is to have an
impact and success. The Georgian authorities’ need for control is
understandable; however, this should not become counterproductive
in terms of the goal sought, namely reintegration. There are, however,
indications that the recent parliamentary elections in Georgia and
the subsequent appointment of a new government will bring about
a shift in approach on the strategy and action plan, leading to
more, rather than less, engagement, negotiation and co-operation.
It is hoped that any compromise on the Georgian side will be reciprocated
by the de facto authorities
in Sukhumi and Tskhinvali.
2.3.3 Law on IDPs
27. The Law on IDPs was amended in December 2011, narrowing
the definition of a “forcibly displaced person” to only include
“residents from occupied territories”. This amendment has been criticised
for not being in line with the Guiding
Principles on Internal Displacement and would, if applied
retroactively, deny legal protection to a number of displaced persons
whose unsafe homes are in villages on the Georgian-controlled side
of the ABL. The Georgian Government is under an international obligation
to provide assistance to its internally displaced population in
a non-discriminatory manner, and should therefore rectify this potential
lack of protection.
The security along and around the ABL has in general
improved since the last report of the committee in 2009. There have
been no major incidents comparable to those that generated the previous
conflict and tensions have been reduced. There are nevertheless
some security incidents of concern. These can take many forms:Note
gun fire, movement of troops, low-flying
helicopters and planes, explosions of mines and unexploded ordnance,
movements of the ABL, detentions, kidnappings and crime, problems
of access to pastures, fields and water, etc. Poor information or
disinformation on both sides of the ABL, as well as a lack of interaction
and restrictions on freedom of movement across the ABL, all contribute
to a heightened sense of insecurity. Furthermore, in 2010-2011,
there were a dozen bombings or attempted bombings reported in Georgia.
In these the Georgian authorities accused Russia of not only supporting
a spy network but also of playing a role in the bombings.Note
29. The large Russian military presence across the ABL is seen
by Georgia as a constant threat and an occupation of Georgian territory.
On the other side of the ABL the de facto authorities
see it as a guarantee against renewal of the conflict. What is needed
to restore security and long-term trust is not armies facing each other
along the ABL, but a strong non-partisan international peace-keeping
and monitoring presence on both sides of the ABL. In this connection
it is to be regretted that the EUMM is unable to carry out its work
on both sides of the ABL. This would at least allow for a non-partisan
monitoring of the security situation and security incidents. Unfortunately,
there appears to be, at the moment, no political will to find alternative
solutions for peace keeping and monitoring, whether this be a multinational
peacekeeping force (led by the Russians or others), or any other
30. While demining has been completed in the region of Abkhazia,
one can never be 100% sure of safety from mines or unexploded ordnance.
Along the ABL in the region of South Ossetia, there are still areas
that are mined. To give an example, in June earlier this year a
vehicle carrying eight Georgian forest rangers were blown up by
a mine close to the ABL. It is therefore important that all persons,
children in particular, remain aware of these risks in the conflict-affected
areas. A first step could be to limit, as the Georgians have largely done,
the military presence within a 15 kilometer zone of the ABL, ensuring
that the different sides only have a defensive rather than offensive
capacity in these areas.
2.5 Situation of IDPs
(old and new case files)
31. The Georgian Government, with the injection of substantial
funding from the international community, has since 2008 made great
efforts to meet the urgent housing needs of the new IDPs and tackle
the problems of IDPs from the earlier conflicts. According to the
Minister of Refugees, 28 861 households have now received durable
housing. This is equivalent to 100 000 persons.
Notwithstanding the steps taken, the housing conditions of
the majority of IDPs remain a major concern, even if the situation
differs from region to region, with IDPs in the capital in general
being better off.Note
The Public Defender of Georgia has
been particularly active and critical in this respect.Note
have been shortcomings in terms of information provided to IDPs
about alternatives, transparency, delays in transferring ownership
and problems relating to the quality of building work. Furthermore,
many persons continue to live in unsatisfactory housing, both private
and public housing.
33. It is important to note that a range of alternative housing
measures have been put in place to deal with IDPs from the 2008
and earlier displacements. The so-called “new settlements” that
house IDPs from 2008 are partly cottage-type (13), partly block-type
settlements (25). The majority of these settlements were built in
the space of several months after the conflict in 2008 when the
needs were great and winter was approaching. I have visited some
of the cottage-type homes in Tserovani and I was able to observe
that the quality of their construction and durability is an issue.
Rising damp due to insufficient foundations, flooding, lack of proper insulation,
bad wiring and poor sanitation are all common problems. I understand
that a mechanism is being set up to deal with the repair of these
and other properties. It is essential that these repairs and upgrades
are carried out prior to the privatisation of these properties as
they are increasingly having to become de
facto durable housing options as long as returns remain
According to the Georgian Ministry of Internally Displaced
there are currently 101 323 IDPs living
in collective centres and 157 276 living in the private sector.Note
the great deal of work carried out, rehabilitation of collective
centres and their transfer of ownership to IDPs have fallen behind
that foreseen in the Action Plan with more than 10 000 IDP families
still waiting for privatisation of their homes. The Ministry of
Internally Displaced Persons is not entirely to blame and a lack
of co-ordination between ministries would appear to be part of the
cause of this delay. This problem needs to be tackled.
35. One of the most common problems is the poor quality of works
followed by a frustration at the lack of information on the process
of privatisation of collective centres and evictions.
36. Some evictions were particularly problematic in 2010, affecting
more than 1 100 IDPs. The properties concerned were primarily buildings
that were not officially registered as IDP collective centres and
inhabited by a mixed caseload of IDPs with different needs, problems
and status. Criticisms included the short time frames in which evictions
took place, the lack of information on suitable alternative accommodation
and allegations of inappropriate and insulting treatment during
the eviction process. As a result of these criticisms, a moratorium was
declared on evictions until a housing solution programme was developed
in autumn 2010. In addition, standard operating procedures for eviction
were developed with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) and other international organisations. These
have improved the way in which evictions have taken place.
New accommodation, which would appear to be a model of good
is being made
available in Batumi, Poti and Tsqaltubo. This is being partly financed
by the Euruopean Union. The Poti settlement, for example consists
of 18 five-story and 14 four-storey buildings providing durable
solutions for 1 168 families. According to the UNHCR in a recent
report, the quality of the apartments is good and the occupants
services, including education and health, is also good, as is the
choice of location, although it would appear that livelihood issues
still need to be addressed and care has to be taken to ensure that
these and other housing solutions do not contribute to a form of
“residential segregation”. One area in which the Council of Europe
could provide assistance is in helping to ensure the successful
integration of resettled IDPs in their new communities, bearing
in mind that integration is always a two-way process.
People in private accommodation are probably those requiring
the most priority attention, primarily because the needs of these
persons have, largely, not been catered for. There are said to be
135 455 persons in this situation, that is well over 50% of all
IDPs. Only recently has more research been conducted on their diverse
needs and the Public Defender has called for greater focus on IDPs
living in the private sector. To give an idea of the extent of the
problem, a 2011 report by the Danish Refugee CouncilNote
revealed that 25%
of IDPs in private accommodation in the North-West region of Samegrelo
and 22% in Tbilisi were in urgent need of durable housing solutions,
regardless of whether they owned the housing themselves or not.
Furthermore, there was an additional problem of “housing insecurity”
for many in rented or borrowed accommodation.
39. In view of the different needs and situations of those in
private accommodation, it is important that further research is
undertaken to ensure that there is reliable data on the socio-economic
conditions of this group of people. Support should be given to those
most in need, whether they own their housing or not.
Alternative monetary compensation is also an option with the
equivalent of US$10 000 being on offer. According to statistics
published in 2010, 1 684 families had received this sum, but some
families were still waiting for compensation.Note
These people clearly have to be assisted
in their accommodation needs pending payment of the sums earmarked.
The rapporteur notes in conclusion that a great deal of work
is still required and that the Georgian authorities have themselves
recognised that $800 million is still needed to deal with the IDPs’
housing needs. So far, however, donors have only pledged between
$350 million and $400 million.Note
is incumbent on the Georgian authorities to ensure that all sums
obtained are used effectively and that they are properly accounted for.
One issue which still has to be examined is that of creating
a mechanism for IDPs to recover their housing, land and property,
wherever it is located, or to receive compensation. In this there
have been calls for the authorities to have a study carried out
on the different property rights and how to put in place a mechanism to
allow claims to be submitted.Note
43. The lack of livelihood is a particular problem for
those living in the cottage-type houses, but is not confined to
them. Even people who have moved to Poti or Batumi, where there
are greater opportunities for earning a living or finding work (one
will be a free enterprise zone and the other a centre for tourism),
will not find it easy.
The international community is focussing increasingly on improving
the livelihood of IDPs by supporting vocational training programmes,
providing small loans for business start-ups, involving IDPs in
the rehabilitation of collective centres, etc. Much more needs to
be done, however, including by the government. Many IDPs are from
farming backgrounds and greater availability of farming land and
equipment would undoubtedly help. In general, however, much more
needs to be done to break the cycle of dependency which a large
number of IDPs have got caught in. This is in part because many
of the new housing or apartment developments are still far from
being viable communities. To give an indication of the extent of
the problem, it has been estimated that two thirds of internally
displaced families settled in the new villages rely on government benefits
as their only source of income.Note
One step which could
be taken to improve the situation is to provide structured assistance
to help IDPs find work, taking into account their skills and livelihood
2.5.3 Health, schooling
and vulnerable groups
45. Health provisions for IDPs have, on the whole, been
well catered for. That said, the Public Defender has noted that
while the State has implemented measures to provide IDPs with essential
medical care, information on entitlement remains a problem as does
the cost of medication.
In terms of schooling, the authorities have taken the necessary
steps to guarantee the right to education of IDP children. I welcome
that there has also been a move towards integrated education for
IDP children. Interestingly, in a recent studyNote
it was stated that
these children do not like the label of IDP, making it all the more
important that they become better integrated. The rapporteur urges
the authorities to continue in this manner and to consider how best
to avoid the problems of segregated schooling when deciding on building further
settlements for IDPs.
47. Since the conflict in 2008 a number of NGOs have noted an
increase in domestic violence in Georgia (Anti-Violence Network
of Georgia, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association – Gori Office, NGO
“Sakhli”). While it is difficult to make a link to this being a
direct consequence of the war, it is clear that the displacement,
the uncertainty, the unemployment and lack of opportunity linked
to the consequences of the conflict have had an indirect effect
on the level of domestic violence. The issue needs more of a public
airing and I urge the authorities to take further measures, with
the assistance of the Council of Europe if necessary.
48. The Public Defender has stated that persons with disabilities
and other disadvantaged groups with special needs and their families
have not been catered for in the collective centres, the new housing
or in relocation. This is a matter which will require urgent attention
by the authorities who will have to prioritise the needs of these
vulnerable groups in the revised action plan for 2012-2014.
3 The humanitarian
situation in Abkhazia, Georgia
49. The region of Abkhazia is largely isolated, notwithstanding
its coastal access and a good road to Russia. It is dependent on
Russia for, inter alia, its
economy and military capacity. Many of the people in the region have
limited possibilities of contact with, or of travel to, countries
other than Russia unless they obtain Russian passports (which most
people have although this does not guarantee them international
travel), cross the ABL, or apply for status-neutral travel documents.
50. There are particular difficulties facing ethnic Georgians
living in the Gali area, many of whom fled before returning. The
rest of the population also face problems linked to the economic,
political and social isolation in which they live, but these problems
are of a different nature and dimension. These problems may be different, but
they should not be minimised.
51. Many IDPs are unable to return, in particular outside of the
Gali area. This is primarily because they are not permitted to,
reportedly because of a collective mistrust and fear that they could
create a “fourth column” for the Georgian authorities. It is, however,
clear to me that even if these people were allowed to return now, there
would be serious concerns about the durability and safety of their
return without some form of international monitoring mechanism being
put in place.
From any view point the humanitarian situation in the Gali
area is far from good. Poor living conditions are a particular problem
highlighted in a 2011 assessment of returned IDPs by the UNHCR.Note
When I visited the area I was able to witness
this situation myself.
The recent report of Human Rights Watch “Living in Limbo”Note
examines the rights of ethnic Georgian returnees
and portrays much the same picture. However, if the analysis was
left at this point it would not show the whole picture and would
not be helpful to the people in the region, whether they are be
Georgian, Abkhaz, Armenian or of another ethnic origin.
54. On the humanitarian front, some things have improved. The
improvements may be inadequate, but they are improvements affecting
the tough day-to-day lives of people in the region.
55. The elections for the de facto president
that took place in August 2011 saw Aleksander Ankvab elected. Mr
Ankvab has taken a number of promising steps, and although these
steps are not in themselves enough, they are steps in the right
humanitarian direction. The measures he took to improve security
and stop racketeering and corruption during the 2011 harvest in
the Gali area, are one example of a step in the right direction.
3.1 Security situation
(Gali in particular)
56. At the time of my visit in 2011, the security situation
was not as tense as it had been. Since my visit, however, there
have been quite a number of incidents which show that one should
not underestimate the security situation in the area nor the stress
of living in an environment with a large military presence.
57. Some examples of recent security incidents include: an attack
on Mr Ankvab’s convoy in which two of his bodyguards were killed
(put down to reprisals by criminal elements for his crackdown on
criminality); a number of killings in the Gali area; an attack on
a Georgian police post; allegations that the Georgian security services
were behind the killing of two de facto police
officers and a civilian in a Gali café and allegations that the
Georgian authorities had established paramilitary formations and
were behind acts of sabotage and terrorism. In the absence of independent
monitoring, such as through EUMM, it is impossible to verify these different
security incidents, but it is clear there is a high level of violence
and killing in the region.
58. There are also many persons arrested for apparently “illegally
crossing the ABL” and alleged kidnappings. Many people in the Gali
area have split lives with split families across the ABL. Crossing
the ABL is thus essential for them and the difficulties in crossing
(whether at “legal” or other crossing points) heightens the sense
of physical insecurity and also the uncertainty of never knowing
whether crossings will be possible and at what cost.
59. One of the major concerns for young men is conscription, and
in particular the treatment of ethnic Georgian conscripts. Many
avoid conscription by making themselves scarce during the call-ups,
others have not applied for the so called “passports” in order to
keep themselves off the records and avoid conscription, although
this does not always work.
60. Personal security, in different forms, is one of the most
fundamental rights. As rapporteur I have noticed that while some
steps have been taken to improve the situation, much more has to
3.2 Right to return
According to the Georgian authorities, more than
400 000 persons have fled the conflict zones since the 1990s, and
of this number around 256 000 remain in Georgia with the rest dispersed
in other countries. This figure, however, does not take into account
the fact that there have been spontaneous and unorganised returns.
In this respect, the Secretary General of the United Nations, in
his recent report on IDPs in the region, estimated that 45 000 persons
may have returned spontaneously or be in the process of returning
to the Gali area.Note
62. The right to return is a fundamental right. It is reiterated
in all Assembly resolutions relevant to the conflicts and it was
also repeated in the July 2012 United Nations General Assembly resolution
on the status of internally displaced persons and refugees from
It is to be regretted that there is virtually no discussion
possible on the issue of return, either within the working group
specifically set up under the Geneva process dealing with humanitarian
issues, or otherwise. It should be highlighted that return of refugees
and IDPs is a right and all parties must work towards a safe and dignified
return of all refugees and displaced persons. I am aware that, in
practice, at the moment conditions are not favourable for the return
of IDPs outside of the Gali area.Note
authorities state openly that they will not allow
the return of persons of Georgian ethnic origin whom they hold responsible
for atrocities during the conflicts. I consider that any individual
responsible for an atrocity should be brought to account, but attaching
a collective guilt to almost all ethnic Georgians is not acceptable.
Applying this collective guilt and maintaining a policy of non-return
effectively leads to ethnic cleansing of a large part of the region
of Abkhazia, unless returns are allowed to take place in safety
64. The situation is different in the Gali area, where, notwithstanding
a large number of departures across the ABL, there have been a significant
number of returns. This is to be welcomed. It is a positive sign
and the de facto authorities
need to be encouraged to continue on this path. It is not, however,
enough and there remain concerns about the future. Gali was almost
100% ethnic Georgian before the conflicts. Without ethnic Georgians
the area would be empty. The area needs a population to farm the
land, contribute to the economy and keep the infrastructure going.
65. In relation to this area, my primary concern is that limits
will be placed on returns, in particular as there are now enough
persons to have a functioning district, but not too many so that
ethnic Abkhaz feel their majority is under threat. A number of statements
have been made suggesting that the upper limit of returns has been reached.
As rapporteur I have to state clearly that the right to return is
not an option – it is a right.
66. Access to activities in the region has been regulated
not only through the framework of the “Modalities for Engagement”
but also through the so called “Liaison Mechanism”, which I used
successfully when visiting the region. The willingness of all parties
to support the “Liaison Mechanism” is to be welcomed.
67. When I travelled to the region, the only “official” crossing
point was the Enguri bridge with an average of 1 000 crossings a
day, according to EUMM. In practice, there are many unofficial crossing
points along the ABL. Being caught “illegally” crossing can, however,
lead to a fine, imprisonment, arbitrary detention or payment of
a bribe, depending on by whom one is intercepted.
68. The situation is likely to become increasingly difficult for
local residents, on both sides of the ABL, as the so-called process
of “borderisation” takes place, with fences and other obstacles
constructed, and the Russian military presence along the ABL. The
increasing insistence and dependence on the so-called “Abkhaz passports”
will further restrict the possibilities of crossing the ABL for
those unable or unwilling to obtain this document.
It is essential that opportunities for crossing the ABL are
not restricted to a single crossing point, because of the impact
this will have on family and other contacts, children’s education,
economic possibilities, health and other matters. I welcome news
that there are plans to open additional crossing points, including
in Otobaya, Nabakevi, Tagiloni, Saberio and Lekukhona, although
these plans are dragging on without becoming reality. It is important
that these crossing points are opened as soon as possible and they
are opened to the movement of pedestrians and vehicles. Furthermore,
solutions need to be found for children crossing the ABL to go to
school. At the moment, I welcome the flexibility of all sides, which
allows 50 childrenNote
cross daily to go to school.
3.4 Children and schooling
70. Schooling is one of the issues I am most concerned
about. Children are the future and mistakes today will take a generation
to mend. As a starting point, it is important to highlight the right
of parents to have their children educated in accordance with their
own religious and philosophical convictions and also the importance of
mother tongue education for the development of children. This applies
whether the mother tongue is Georgian, Armenian, Russian or Abkhaz.
71. There are legitimate concerns for each of the four languages,
but these concerns should not put the languages in conflict. Consideration
has to be given to both teaching in and teaching of the languages concerned.
Consideration also needs to be given to continuity so as to ensure
that education in one or other of the languages leads to further
opportunities and not an academic dead end.
72. Concerning teaching of Georgian and teaching in Georgian,
the Gali area is almost entirely made up of ethnic Georgians. Further
east the situation changes with a range of different mother tongues
73. The Gali area has effectively been divided into two parts,
upper Gali (eastern) and lower Gali (western). Traditionally, almost
all education was in Georgian. Now, in Upper Gali education is supposed
to be in Russian with Georgian taught only as a language for a limited
number of hours, depending on the year of the class.
74. There are 31 schools (11 in lower Gali) and 733 teachers in
this area. The vast majority of teachers are ethnic Georgians, many
of whom do not have the necessary language skills to teach in Russian
(only 57 have completed higher education in Russian) so, de facto, some of the classes are
taught in Georgian, with Georgian teaching materials. This is not
officially sanctioned, but there are too few teachers and many of
them are old. Teachers of other ethnic origin, in general, are not
interested in teaching in the Gali area. In order to ensure that
Russian is the language of education in Upper Gali, teachers with
insufficient Russian language skills now have to follow a course
and take exams in Russian, including a module on Russian history.
Without passing these exams, these teachers will not be able to
continue teaching. This will not, however, tackle the problem of
the lack of teachers and the need to replace the older teachers.
75. In lower Gali the situation is different. The language of
education is Georgian, although history and geography are taught
76. Abkhaz is a compulsory subject in all schools, with reportedly
one to two hours of lessons per week, depending on the year of the
class. Education for people of Abkhaz ethnic origin is primarily
in Russian, with higher education also available in Russian in Sukhumi.
77. There are schools outside of Gali in which Armenian is the
language of education, although history and geography are taught
in Russian. There are no opportunities for higher education in Armenian
in the region.
78. There is a general lack of kindergartens throughout the region
and although I visited one such kindergarten under construction,
it was clear that there was a need for further kindergartens.
79. With the expected arrival of families of Russian troops, this
will bring new challenges. These children will need to be educated
either in local schools or have their own separate schools. This
is unsettling for some of the local inhabitants. When I was in Moscow
I sought clarification on this issue and was informed that the children
were most likely to be educated in local schools.
80. There is little doubt that the quality of education in the
region is low due to a lack of appropriate teaching materials, problems
with the curricula, a lack of adequately trained teachers with the
appropriate language skills and the lack of opportunities to follow
up education at higher levels. A review of the teaching and education
system is required and the Council of Europe could assist in this
3.5 Health care
81. There are problems in terms of the provision of health
care even if there have been improvements in medical facilities
in Sukhumi, where a new hospital and maternity clinic have been
refurbished with financial assistance from Russia. While primary
health care is largely catered for, some villages are without health clinics,
posing a real problem for people in these villages. Those with serious
health care issues often need to go across the ABL to Zugdidi or
Tbilisi, or go to Russia. Drug addiction was highlighted to me as
a particular problem during my visit to Sukhumi, and the UNDP has
a programme to help tackle this, as well HIV/AIDS.
The system is reliant on funding and medicines from Russia
and also treatment of patients in Russia. Similar assistance is
also provided by the Georgian authorities, which is free of charge.Note
This combined assistance
is not sufficient however. All too often people in no fit state
to travel have to go long distances to obtain medical treatment.
83. In the Gali region, I met with the de
facto Chief of the Hospital of Gali who confirmed the
difficulties faced in obtaining medical treatment in the Gali area.
Recruiting qualified medical staff was a major problem, lack of medicines
was another, with people effectively having to supply their own.
A heavy reliance was placed on ambulance services, which included
taking people to Sukhumi, across the ABL or even to Russia. The
costs of medicines is particularly high as they are mostly imported
from Russia because of restrictions on bringing them across the
ABL. These restrictions should be lifted, as a priority.
I was pleased to hear that crossing the ABL did not generallyNote
cause problems when humanitarian medical
issues were at stake. This was confirmed by the ICRC, and this flexibility
from all parties is to be welcomed.
85. The economy of the region of Abkhazia, however, relies
on assistance from Russia and tourism, primarily in Sukhumi and
along the Black Sea. Tourism has, however, declined as the infrastructure
has failed to keep pace with what is available elsewhere. Large
swathes of land in the east were devoted to tea, but these have
become deserted because of the conflict and because tea is no longer
a viable commodity. The primary agricultural products are hazelnuts,
maize and to a lesser extent citrus fruits. Many in the Gali area
supplement this income by claiming IDP allowances and State pensions
from the Georgian authorities.
86. Persons with skills, such as carpenters, builders and plumbers,
are attracted to the possibilities that exist outside of the region,
either towards Tbilisi, or towards Moscow, and more pertinently
towards Sochi, where there is a labour demand for preparations for
the 2014 Winter Olympics.
87. In the Gali area, the livelihood is primarily subsistence
farming, with small garden or farming plots providing staples, and
an excess of hazelnuts or citrus fruit providing a small income
following the harvest. The crackdown on racketeering and corruption
during the 2011 harvest season was beneficial for people in the
Gali area. Not only did it contribute to their sense of security
but it also affected, in a positive way, their livelihood and their
ability to fend for themselves economically through the winter.
There are, however, practically no jobs available in the area.
88. Overall, the economic situation of the region of Abkhazia
is regrettable. Taking into account the geographical position, the
potential for tourism, agriculture and even small businesses, it
is not only underdeveloped but is underdeveloping. The isolation
imposed on it and the self-imposed isolation by the de facto authorities, primarily
as a result of politics and fear of compromising status issues,
greatly affects the standard of living of the population and their
ability to interact with those outside the region.
3.7 Domestic violence
89. Domestic violence is a problem exacerbated by the
conflict, even if it is not a highly visible problem. During my
discussions in Sukhumi and Gali, I was concerned by the denial of
the problem by some, but impressed by the commitment of NGOs working
on the matter with support from the international community. In
the Gali region, a mobile medical team had been dealing with 72
cases of domestic violence over an eight-month period. Projects
such as this require support, and the Council of Europe should look
into offering support in this matter in the future.
3.8 Identity documents
The process of issuing “Abkhaz passports” continues.
Approximately 12 000 of these have been issued to persons in the
Gali area and there are about 3 000 applications still pending.
In addition, notwithstanding the condemnation by the international
community, including the Assembly,Note
of the practice of giving
out passports and conferring citizenship to residents of foreign
States en masse
, the Russian
Federation has continued issuing its passports to residents of the
91. While the rapporteur underscores that while these “Abkhaz
passports” have no validity under international law, she recognises
that this document is a practical necessity for local residents.
Without this document, residents run into problems over property
ownership, crossing the ABL, schooling, health and all other administrative
contacts. If a family wishes to remain in Gali, at least one member
of the household must have such a document.
The process of obtaining this document is costly and time-consuming
because of the number and nature of supporting documents required.
The Human Rights Watch report referred to earlier notes that the
application process for ethnic Georgians is discriminatory,Note
and some persons
have experienced lengthy delays in obtaining these documents.
93. At the beginning, applicants were required to hand in their
Georgian passports. This is no longer necessary as it is clear that
new passports can be easily obtained crossing the ABL.
94. These “Abkhaz passports” are not recognised by the international
community, apart from by the Russian Federation and the few countries
that have recognised this region.
95. International travel is not a problem for those who use a
Georgian passport. However, for those people who have obtained Russian
passports international travel is not always possible. These people
are subjected to the same visa requirements as all Russian citizens,
but when it comes to issuing a visa, this is sometimes turned down
if it is clear the passport was issued in the region of Abkhazia
(as opposed to in Russia). In meetings in Sukhumi, great frustration
was voiced regarding travel restrictions. The people concerned claimed that
these restrictions not only isolate them, but also move them closer
into the arms of Russia.
96. Whether the proposed neutral travel documents of the Georgian
authorities will provide a solution is, as mentioned earlier, far
from certain in the light of reticence by the international community
and the negative reaction in and outside of Sukhumi. That said,
these documents represent one of a number of options and a pragmatic
approach should be adopted for other travel documents, on a case-by-case
3.9 Missing Persons
From the 1992-1993 conflict there are estimated to
be 1 763 Georgians and 197 Abkhaz missing. Since the Assembly’s
last work on the issue,Note
a new co-ordination mechanism
has been established under the aegis of the ICRC, and a joint forensic
working group between the two sides was set up at the beginning
of 2011. This group has started its work and meets regularly. In
total, four exhumations have taken place: Two in 2010, outside the
Coordination Mechanism but with ICRC involvement, and two took place
in May within the Coordination Mechanism. It is positive to hear
that at the most recent Geneva International Discussions there were
indications that all parties were looking to achieve progress and
workable solutions. It is every family’s right to know the fate
of their missing relatives. Work has restarted on collecting ante-mortem
data and it is important that this work be supported fully by all
parties, who must do everything in their power to throw light on
the fate of the missing. Without progress, the issue will fester
and make solutions to the conflict even harder to reach. Alongside
this work, it is also essential to give support to the families
of the missing and it is to be welcomed that the ICRC is organising
this through networks set up with NGOs.
3.10 Kodori Valley
98. Of the population of 2 000 in the Kodori Valley in
2008, only 200 remain following the 2008 conflict. For the ICRC
they are a group at particular risk, living in the highest and inaccessible
inhabited area of the Caucasus. It can be welcomed that they continue
to receive food and other items from the ICRC and that the ICRC
has also been providing them with agricultural support, for example
in the form of Potato Seed Production Programmes. The issue of return
of persons displaced from the Kodori valley should not be forgotten.
This is particularly important for such a small and vulnerable community
living in a remote and cut-off region.
3.11 Historical monuments
99. There have been allegations of historical monuments,
mainly churches, being altered to erase evidence of cohabitation
of Georgians and Abkhaz over time in the region. The rapporteur
is not in a position to comment on these allegations, but considers
that the matter should be examined by an international group of
experts, using, as appropriate, the expertise of the Council of
Europe, to avoid this becoming another source of tension in the
3.12 Russian military
100. It is important to examine the impact of Russian
military bases in the region. On the one hand, their presence has
ensured fewer security incidents along the ABL. Representatives
of civil society in Sukhumi informed me that they welcomed the presence
of the Russian troops and that after many years they now felt safe
and protected from what they termed “possible Georgian aggression”.
They had little “trust” in Georgia, they said.
101. At the same time as welcoming this protection, local NGO representatives
saw a number of problems linked to the military presence. These
included increased isolation from the international community, the
likely duration of the bases, the impact of having families of the
military living in the region, rights of residence of retiring military
officers and liability for accidents caused by members of the Russian
102. For those in the Gali area a number of other concerns were
raised. They centred round a fear of the gradual extension of the
large bases to land and homes around the bases. They were concerned
about the impact of having a large number of Russian children in
the schools and the gradual “colonisation” of the area by Russian
military and their families, including after the military officers
103. For the Georgian authorities, the Russian military bases are
a pure and simple “occupation”.
104. As I have mentioned earlier, I consider that long-term security
should be offered by the international community as a whole, and
not by any single nation. On a humanitarian basis, this should be
what is in the best interest of all, on both sides of the ABL. The
creation of these large Russian military bases further cement the
divide across the ABL and give additional grounds to the argument
by the Georgian authorities that the territory is occupied by Russian
4 The humanitarian
situation in South Ossetia, Georgia
105. It is difficult for me to develop in detail the humanitarian
situation in the region without having had the possibility of visiting
and seeing with my own eyes. Notwithstanding this, I am still able
to provide a short overview based on contacts I have had and material
The region is even more isolated than that of the region of
Abkhazia. It has an estimated population of around 30 000 although
the de facto
the figure as high as 72 000 and Georgian officials put it as low
as 8 000 to 15 000 people.Note
region is entirely dependent on Russia for its economy and military security.
There are very few people of Georgian ethnic origin remaining in
the region. In the area of Akhalgori, however, the population is
almost all ethnic Georgian and it is estimated at between 700 and
4 000 persons (depending on the source). The area previously had
a population of around 8 000.
107. Living conditions are extremely difficult, in particular because
of shortages of electricity and gas which have been cut off by the
Georgian authorities. Some housing has been repaired but many houses
remain uninhabitable. A lot of the money earmarked by Russia for
housing appears to have gone missing leading to far fewer houses
being constructed or repaired than budgeted for.
108. Security continues to be an issue even if the tension is not
the same as it was immediately following the war. As with the region
of Abkhazia, large numbers of Russian troops are stationed in the
area. Along the ABL there are regular disputes of one sort or another.
For example, in September this year, the de
facto authorities complained about overflying drones
from the Georgian military and also the repositioning of a Georgian
police point close to the ABL in the village of Zardiantkari. Furthermore,
people continue to be detained for crossing the ABL “illegally”
although they are generally released shortly afterwards.
109. Returns to the area around Tskhinvali, apart from family reunion
facilitated by the ICRC, do not take place. The villages previously
inhabited primarily by ethnic Georgians remain in ruins and there
were reports of plans to pull down eight of these villages. I am
pleased to learn that these reports have now been denied, but it
is not the first time that there have been reports of this nature.
These were people’s homes and communities and notwithstanding the
frozen conflict and the lack of prospects for early return, these
areas should not be wiped off the map. In this context, it is important
to emphasise that the return of displaced persons and refugees should
be the long-term goal even if it is clear that currently the conditions
for voluntary return in safety and dignity do not exist.
110. Returns to the Akhalgori area do however remain possible,
but are linked to a range of different issues, including security,
schooling, economic possibilities, harvest, season, health care,
pensions, salaries and other matters. I am unable to give an accurate
figure for the number of returns to the area.
111. There have also been talks about the “return” of refugees
from North Ossetia. These are primarily persons who were apparently
displaced from other parts of Georgia during the earlier conflicts.
There are said to be approximately 4 000 families in this situation.
It is difficult to see what sort of livelihood these families could enjoy
and where they would be housed, in view of the fact they were not,
for the most part, originally from the region.
112. Linked to the issue of returns is the matter of family reunion.
The ICRC facilitates this on both sides of the ABL. In the period
from August 2008 to August 2012, 412 people were reunited, with
almost even numbers each side of the ABL.
113. Livelihood in and around Tskhinvali is limited to woodcutting
and subsistence farming, and access to water can be a problem for
some farmers. The economy is almost entirely dependent on aid from
Russia. In the last two years, over €230 million was allocated to
the region for reconstruction. There are allegations that much of
this assistance has gone missing. As a result of this, steps have
been taken to strengthen accountability and an audit is currently
being undertaken by the Russian authorities. While there is talk
of promoting the area as a spa region, together with its mineral
water, and as a winter sports resort, these ideas still have to
be developed further. The ICRC, which is the only international
organisation in the region, provides small start-up assistance to
those most in need. Because there is little demand in the area,
this support largely relates to assistance in setting up small-scale
subsistence farming (including purchasing cattle and mini tractors).
114. Those who have returned to the Akhalgori area rely primarily
on salaries and pensions from the Georgian Government and from small
trade across the ABL. Livelihoods are affected by the remoteness
of the region. The building of a road, financed by the Russian authorities,
connecting Tskhinvali to Akhalgori will help, once it is completed.
115. Access across the ABL is restricted to four crossings, at
Akhalgori, Karzmani, Sinaguri and Artsevi. Those entitled to cross
are the holders of the so called “Form 9” issued locally. It is
estimated that 4 000 of these documents have been issued. There
are said to be plans to simplify crossings of the ABL, primarily
in the Akhalgori area, by allowing not only local residents but
also those owning land or housing in the area the possibility of
crossing. Problems continue to occur in terms of detention of those
“illegally crossing” the ABL. Many of these detentions occur when
persons follow cattle or collect firewood or try to access fields
to farm them. Lack of clarity over where exactly the ABL runs remains
116. In terms of schooling, plans were announced in August 2012
to introduce bilingual (Russian and Ossetian) teaching in the Tskhinvali
district, starting with first-grade classes. Some of the schools
have been refurbished with assistance from Russia and Russian text
books have been made available, but there remains much to be done.
117. In the area of Akhalgori, there are said to be 11 schools
and 6 of these are Georgian. The status of these Georgian schools
is allegedly changing and they will cease to exist as legal entities.
This has reportedly led to many families making the decision to
move permanently to the Georgian side of the ABL. There are also choices
to be made by teachers along with other public officials who are
working both sides of the ABL who are being asked to choose which
side they wish to live and work.
118. Standards of accommodation are a problem, even if there has
been some refurbishment of buildings and the construction of some
new houses with Russian assistance. In Tskhinvali, many people are
still housed in collective centres, in difficult conditions. Some
homes in the countryside have no access to fresh water. While in
certain cases this is due to the conflict, it is also due to lack
of maintenance of the infrastructure over the years. The ICRC has
provided assistance in this area, and for example currently has
a project to bring water in an 8 km pipe to villagers in Satigar.
119. In relation to the missing persons file, I was pleased to
learn that there is some progress on this issue. A co-ordination
mechanism on missing people exists which is run under the aegis
of the ICRC. It began as a mechanism to discuss, in a humanitarian
forum, the issue of missing people from the 2008 conflict. In 2011,
it was agreed that it should also include missing people from the
1990s conflict. Currently, the list of missing persons from the
recent conflict contains 44 people: 2 Russians, 8 ethnic Ossetians
and 34 ethnic Georgians. The list from the conflict in the 1990s
includes 141 people, although more information is needed to complete this
list. Through the work of the mechanism, three people have been
found alive and 11 exhumations have been carried out leading to
seven positive identifications and the return of the remains to
the families. This is important work, which I hope will continue
to be supported by all sides.
120. Through this short overview, I hope to have given at least
an indication of the humanitarian situation in this region which
is small and unsustainable without large-scale aid from outside.
It is remote because it is cut off from the south and divided by
mountains in the north leading to North Ossetia. It is a hard life
on all fronts for those living in the region with little prospect
of major improvements. The large Russian military presence will
not prevent continuing tensions along the ABL and a range of ongoing
security incidents. Access across the ABL is key for improving the
humanitarian situation of all those in the area and around the ABL,
as well as those who have been displaced. This access is important
not just for all the obvious economic and humanitarian reasons,
but it is also important for beginning to break down the communication
barriers and total lack of trust between the sides and also giving
those who have lost their homes the prospect of one day returning.
121. Without visiting the region, I cannot go further in my analysis.
I hope that it will be possible for me, in the near future, to visit
the region and report more accurately on the humanitarian situation,
hearing and meeting the people most affected.
5 Refugees and displaced
persons in Russia
122. There are a substantial number of people who have,
as a result of the different conflicts in Georgia, ended up in Russia
after having been displaced. Some of these people are refugees,
others have moved because their homes have been destroyed and they
have sought a new life where they see the best possibility of earning
The first group comprises ethnic Ossetians who fled Georgia
during the conflicts in the early 1990s to North Ossetia-Alania.
Approximately 24 000 people fled the area and many of them received
refugee status and were then granted Russian citizenship. Their
greatest problem is housing, with many reportedly living in poor
conditions in around 30 run down dormitories/collective centres
with some having no running water and inadequate sanitation. There
are reportedly 3 329 families on a waiting list to get houses and
while there was an increase last year in homes provided through
granting of housing certificates, this only provided housing solutions
for 81 families.Note
124. The second group comprises those who fled the conflict in
the region of Abkhazia. These people, mostly ethnic Georgians and
many of whom were war veterans, never got anything from the Russian
authorities. They were mostly economically active and never asked
for assistance. About 50 000 went to Russia and of these 30 000
settled in the Moscow region. Their problem is that they have no
status and are treated as irregular migrants. Whenever relations
sour between Moscow and Tbilisi they face what one NGO referred
to as a “witch-hunt”. This hunt can allegedly go so far as instructions
being given to schools to remove these Georgian children from their
125. Many of these persons are in fact stateless, using only their
old Soviet passports which are invalid. Some have children born
in Russia, and whilst education is in general not a problem, health
care for the whole family is. Because they have no passport they
cannot leave the country or re-enter.
According to statistics provided by the Federal Migration
Service of the Russian Federation,Note
4 269 families
(5 346 people) from Georgia (citizens and stateless persons) applied
for asylum in the Russian Federation between 2005 and 2011, and
152 families (199 people) were granted it. It is not surprising
that the highest numbers were in 2008 (1 805 families, 2 278 people)
and the numbers fell to 280 families (314 people) in 2011.
127. The Russian authorities need to take certain steps to solve
the problems of these people, including resolving the critical housing
situation of many ethnic Ossetian refugees from Georgia living in
North Ossetia-Alania and also regularising the situation of the
many Georgians who fled the conflict and who have been living for
many years in Russia, some of whom are now stateless.
128. While there have been improvements in the humanitarian
situation since the dark days immediately following the war, there
is still a long way to go. Much still needs to be done, in particular
in terms of finding durable housing solutions for IDPs and refugees
from both the recent conflict and earlier conflicts. All the different
parties and also the international community therefore need to continue
129. The issue of the return of IDPs remains more or less dormant,
apart from to the areas of Gali and Akhalgori. Security issues throw
a constant shadow over the conflict region and without a genuine
independent peacekeeping presence on both sides of the ABL, and
without EUMM being able to monitor both sides of it, it is difficult
to see how people can begin to feel secure in the long term.
130. In the region of Abkhazia, I noted some positive developments.
Some steps have been taken to improve the security of persons living
in the Gali area (cutting down on corruption and racketeering).
These are to be welcomed. There are also some indications that crossing
over the ABL may be made easier. In the region of South Ossetia
there have also been some indications that access across the ABL
could be improved. However, this region remains remote and cut off,
including from assistance which could be offered by international
131. With a few small measures the lives of persons living in the
conflict-affected areas can be improved noticeably, whether this
is in improving security, ensuring access across the ABL or improving
appropriate education in the schools. It is for this reason that
I have placed emphasis on these issues in the draft resolution and
recommendation contained in this report.
132. As rapporteur I have been unable to visit the region of South
Ossetia, but I hope that this gap can be filled in the future in
order to give a more comprehensive picture of the humanitarian situation