Stay in the loop.

X

Georgia’s responses to ‘borderisation’

Article by Mariam Uberi

September 26, 2019

Georgia’s responses to ‘borderisation’

Existing conflict: overview[1]

Eleven years since Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Russia still seeks to erode Georgia’s sovereignty and has a detrimental impact on its human rights record. In a process of creeping ‘borderisation’[2] Russia and de facto Abkhaz and South Ossetian authorities have encroached upon 40 Georgian villages adjacent to the administrative boundary lines (ABLs) in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, negatively affecting all communities across the ABLs.[3]

Long before the run up to the ‘five day war’ Georgia lost control over South Ossetian territories in 1992 and in Abkhazia in 1994 amidst an armed conflict that broke out with Georgia and separatist forces.[4] In 1994 Georgia entered the Commonwealth of Independent states (CIS) agreement which mandated the presence of the Russian CIS peacekeepers in South Ossetia and Abkhazia to establish a truce and secure peace in the region. Since then the Russian Federation provided direct financial assistance to the separatist regimes by funding public salaries, infrastructure and budgetary expenses for the de facto authorities. Russia has also carried out a so called ‘passportisation’ policy that includes granting Russian citizenship en masse to persons living in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.[5] Russia was quick in signing an Alliance and Integrationtreaty with Abkhazia and South Ossetia to create common foreign policy and economic space[6] and later an agreement to formally merge the region’s militia into the Russian armed forces.[7]

The borders and illegal process of ‘borderisation’ has been largely contested by the parties to the conflict. Russia and the de facto authorities claim to have followed the military map of the Soviet Union whilst drawing up the ABLs.[8] The de facto authorities consider that erecting fences mitigates risks of violating borders and simplifies the life of local residents.[9] The Georgian authorities refused to take part in a demarcation commission, as such an action would be seen as equal to Georgia recognising the independence of its breakaway regions.[10] Restriction of the right to freedom of movement has been a significant challenge for the local residents living near the ABLs. The number of people who cross over from South Ossetia to access several services in Georgia has been increasing over the years. Some of them are being detained by the Russian troops whilst some still manage to enter the capital of Georgia to access different services.[11] Ethnic Georgians living near the ABLs are faced with arbitrary arrests, ill treatment and unlawful killing by the de facto authorities and the Russian Security Service guards. 

‘Borderisation’ 

This ‘borderisation’ occurred in waves, the first taking place two months after the end of armed hostilities in 2008, the second in 2011 and then there was an increase in intensity of such activity in 2013.[12] The trend of ‘borderisation’, and the reason why it occurred in such waves, has not been thoroughly studied by the Georgian authorities. Demarcation in South Ossetia included 60 km of security fences and surveillance towers,[13] as well as ploughed lines.[14] In the Abkhaz theatre, physical borders include over 30 km of fences, surveillance towers with an ABL coverage of 25 km.[15] These lines of demarcation have had a detrimental effect on communities on both sides of the ABL by cutting off access to local villagers’ livelihoods and leaving them feeling ‘suffocated’.[16]

Since 2009, the Public Defender of Georgia has stated that 840 ethnic Georgians have been detained for ‘illegally crossing’ the self-declared boundaries, the highest number to date was in 2016.[17] However, getting accurate statistics is difficult given the challenging nature of the conflict. Although the Georgian authorities have information about detentions of ethnic Georgians who are handed back to the Georgian side, it is suggested that some Georgian detainees are released after a ransom demand was met and therefore do not make it into the Georgian records.[18]

There has been an increase in the number of military exercises, with shootings in proximity of military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia around the ABLs. This, coupled with trespassing by Russian border guards further into the Georgian controlled territories on local residents’ property and arbitrarily arresting locals in their orchards, village roads and graveyards has exacerbated local residents’ fear of further armed conflict.[19] 2016 marked not only a higher incidence of Georgian detainees along the ABLs but was followed by the killing of Giorgi Otkhozoria,[20] Archil Taunashvili[21] and David Basharuli.[22] 

Khurcha is the only village under the control of the Georgian authorities on the other side of the Enguri River and a Georgian police post has been located at the end of the village since 2013. Georgian police regularly patrol around the villages.[23] However local communities face Russian and de facto Abkhaz guards when crossing the Enguri Bridge. The killing of Giorgi Otkhozoria at the Russian-Abkhaz checkpoint in Khurcha highlighted the deep vulnerabilities of Georgian civilians living along the ABLs.[24]

Between January and April 2019 some 32 Georgian civilians were arrested, a figure relatively high compared to the 19 Georgian civilians arrested for the same period in 2018. Recent incidents demonstrate that Russian border guards violate border signposts and walk some two hundred to five hundred meters away from the barbed wire[25] into Georgian controlled territory to intimidate or arrest locals.[26] In 2018, in separate incidents, a man and a woman were snatched from the back of a garden located even further away from the ABL, within Georgian controlled territory.[27] There has been several incidents of houses being cut in half by the fence of the ABL in the village of Gugutiantkari[28] and Pakhulani.[29] In a similar case a person living in a house split by the fence was detained several times after crossing his yard and coming to Georgia.[30]

‘Borderisation’ has been marked as one of the main security threats by the Georgian security service.[31]

According to the Georgian authorities, the decision on introducing extra police posts, patrols or other additional measures are subject to a closer scrutiny. Decision making is based on the existing security situation, threats posed to the local population and actions perpetrated by the occupying forces.[32] The Minister of Interior whilst visiting the police station in Shida kartli municipality near the ABL highlighted the importance of ensuring the ‘‘protection of the local population’’ and a ‘‘rational response’’ to the outside security threats.[33] Soon after the end of the armed hostilities in 2008, mine explosions along the ABLs claimed the lives of 12 police officers.[34] This was followed by an injury of three and a death of one police officer after the Russian FSB soldiers fired at the Georgian patrolling officers.[35] In an obvious absence of any option for military intervention, Georgia has been extremely cautious in responding to the upsurge of borderisation. This has been eagerly exploited by the Russian Federation in eroding on Georgia’s sovereignty.

The Human Rights Centre (HRIDC), a Georgian NGO, highlighted incidents of arbitrary arrests due to inadequate marking by the Georgian authorities and those affected feel that there is a need for Georgia to reinforce patrolling against the Russian border guards. There are incidents of Georgian civilians inadvertently violating the border amidst the absence of tables or markers in the woods marking the ABLs. As one of the local residents put it, in the absence of any barbed wires one must be lucky not to be caught.[36]

Locals argue that the presence of the Georgian patrols would deter the Russian border guards from illegally abducting Georgians in the area. In 2015, in two villages of Tsalenjika Municipality, the local population requested the introduction of a police post but the Ministry of Interior determined that patrolling was sufficient.[37] In 2018, the residents in the village of Korbali complained that Georgian police did not patrol frequently enough.[38] In a recent incident in Gugutiantkari, Gori municipality local residents have expressed their fear of being left to their own devices in the face of the Russian FSB and requested a Georgian Police post next to the newly erected fences.[39] Prior to this locals also requested the creation of police stations in Jariasheni and Bershueti.[40] After such incidents, patrols are intensified for a few days but then revert to their previous levels.[41] After another incident police officers refused to help a former detainee arrested by Russian border guards who had ambushed and ill-treated him on a Georgian controlled territory for fear of retribution.[42]

In the wake of this precarious situation there is an apparent lack of interagency cooperation and crisis management amongst state actors on ‘borderisation’. This was demonstrated by the incident in Khurvaleti village in March 2019 where residents produced ‘photographic evidence’, albeit old, of Russian border guards trespassing into their gardens. The Mayor of Gori confirmed that three masked Russian army officers trespassed into Georgian territory, but the State Security Agency denied the Mayor’s statement and claimed that there was no such incident until it was later verified by the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) hotline, a facility explained later in this essay.[43] The European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) later confirmed that the incident did not take place.[44] In a recent incident in Gugutiantkari in August 2019, the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had announced that the ‘borderisation’ process had been stopped after using pressure from all existing international mechanisms.[45] Despite this the Russian FSB border guards continued erecting fences the next day, soon after the announcement, forcing two families to dismantle their own houses damaged during the war and cutting their access to orchids.[46] An apparent lack of official comment from the side of the Prime Minister and the President of Georgia has been swiftly picked up by the media.[47] A lack of communication to engage and inform the public has produced much speculation on an issue that had exacerbated an already tense situation. This incident corroborated accusations of a lack of coordinated response and cooperation among political actors regarding ‘borderisation’.

Economic and social vulnerabilities 

The Georgian state interim commission, created especially to address socio-economic vulnerabilities alongside the ABLs, had been a useful initiative improving previously dire conditions.[48] However, research shows that local civilians still do not have an adequate support system that meets their needs. Harsh security conditions across the ABLs are further aggravated by the lack of access to clean water and gas, the taxing electricity cost which appears high for economically impoverished communities with no constant financial income. Locals faced with the risk of being arrested for ‘illegal border crossing’ while out collecting wood. The main gas pipe only reaches around 20 thousand users.[49]

During 2017 and 2018 the government allocated a wood area for the locals in villages in a number of municipalities adjacent to the ABLs of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and extended single payments of 200 GEL to households for winterisation.[50] However, disbursement of vouchers to collect the wood are often delayed, making it harder for households to access the woods and a single payment is usually not sufficient during the winter months.[51]

In 2017 an interim state commission marked the beginning of well construction in a number of villages in the Gori, Kareli and Kaspi municipalities, including the village of Bershueti where he particularly highlighted the lack of drinking water and where residents must obtain it from the neighbouring village.[52] According to the authorities, irrigation water has been provided in the village of Zardiaantkari since 2017 in spite of the HRIDC stating that there is a significant problem due to the irrigation pipe not reaching the agricultural land in the village.[53] In the absence of water for irrigation, people cannot engage in agriculture and pastures are not accessible.[54]

The border village of Zardiaantari has been described as a microcosm of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict with mixed Georgian and Ossetian families, and where the Georgian government regained control only in 2012.[55] In this area only minor works have been carried out since the 2008 war.[56] Even though the cost for sustained damage had already been calculated, locals are still waiting for compensation[57] as they live in derelict houses and face the risk of becoming homeless.[58]

Existing conflict resolution mechanisms 

All parties have adopted the Geneva International Discussions (GID) format to exchange information and resolve certain ad hoc issues related to the conflict.[59] However, the GID is exclusively elite driven and civil society is excluded from participation. The breakaway regions follow a scripted plot that many Georgians see as being suggested by Russia, which makes compromise on the status quo impossible. Some commentators believe that the attitude of the de facto authorities are often rigid during negotiations but more willing to be more flexible on the ground, for example when the de facto authorities allowed ethnic Georgians to visit the graves of their loved situated beyond the Georgian controlled territory.[60] Abkhaz and South Ossetian participants frequently walk out due to divergence on their position.[61] For example, Georgia asserts that Russia is violating the ceasefire agreement by not withdrawing its forces to the positions held before the war and maintains that the conflict between Russia and Georgia is ongoing. Russia on the other hand is adamant that it had met all points of the plan and that it withdrew its military forces from Georgian territory. Russia argues that their troops are legally stationed in South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the basis of international agreements between independent states. Georgia maintains that the conflict between Georgia and Russia is ongoing whilst Moscow does not identify itself as a party to the conflict and it points to two separate conflicts between Georgia and its breakaway regions.[62] Thus far the GID have failed to produce agreements on the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) or on improving the human rights situation in those conflict regions and there has been no agreement on international security arrangements.

Nevertheless, the GID is a deterrence to renewed conflict between Georgia and Russia where the EU’s role is somewhat weak.[63] The GID has achieved success on some non-political issues.[64] One tangible outcome is the creation of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) which is hosted by the EUMM. This platform provides a hotline to verify the accuracy of information in the aftermath of incidents.[65] It serves to establish the whereabouts of disappeared persons and usually de-escalates tension.[66] It is also a platform for mitigating future incidents where the EUMM plays a role of mediator. However, the IPRM has begun to resemble a tribunal where parties voice security concerns on establishing the whereabouts of disappeared individuals and voice their accusations to one another.[67] It does not always reduce the incidence of arbitrary arrests or killings, however it has been successful in freeing arrested individuals post factum.[68]  

According to the former Swiss Ambassador who used to attend the Geneva Talks, Georgia needs to shape its format into a favourable direction and adopt more pragmatic approaches whilst opening additional channels of communications.[69] Some of the additional channels of communication, that were previously open, had been extremely effective. For example meetings between the de facto authorities, the Georgian Public Defender’s office and civil society representatives under the aegis of the Council of Europe had lasted for three years and generated much wanted trust and confidence between the communities. The meetings started with a year delay in 2014 as the Georgian authorities were slow in giving a green light to the initiative. During this time however, the then Public Defender was not allowed to attend Geneva talks as an observer on a pretence that the Georgian side did not want a change of status quo with the de facto authorities. Despite this an exchange of Abkhaz, South Ossetian and Georgians prisoners initiated by the former Public Defender achieved another positive outcome where a person missing for years had been located in the prison in a breakaway region. The results of these endeavours have never been made public except to the families involved and were largely based on local contacts between the Georgian and the de facto Public Defender office and civil society.[70] The IPRM also has a history of frequent walkouts, marked by the de facto Abkhaz authorities refusing to meet with the head of the EUMM following a controversy.[71] In June 2018, the IPRM meeting in Gali collapsed when the Georgian government placed an investigation into the murder of Otkhozoria at the top of its agenda and the process has remained suspended ever since.[72]

To date civilians living near the ABLs do not have adequate information about what to do when a family member is detained, what kind of help they can get or what information to give.[73] An apparent lack of cooperation has hampered the establishment of the whereabouts of the perpetrators of a disappeared Georgian man last seen near the ABL along Gori back in 2016 and the issue has since been removed from the agenda.[74] 

Legal and Political responses to the ‘borderisation’

Russia has an ‘effective control’ on the territory of the breakaway regions substantiated by its financial and military presence.[75] According to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)  effective control can be exercised outside its national territories where a state has an obligation to secure human rights through a control exercised either ‘directly, through its armed forces and through a subordinate local administration.’ Moreover, a state can also be held responsible even if its agent acted against its instructions or for the acts of self-proclaimed authorities which are not recognised by the international community.[76] Whilst Russia is responsible for the human rights violations committed by its agents near and around the ABLs, Georgia has a positive obligation to attempt with ‘legal and diplomatic means available’ through foreign states and international organisations to ensure human rights.[77] Finally, under international law, the de facto Abkhaz and South Ossetian authorities despite not being members of the human rights treaties have an obligation not to violate human rights.[78]

In March 2018 the Georgian Parliament adopted a bipartisan Georgian resolution condemning human rights violations in Russian occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where the Georgian government was tasked with providing a list of perpetrators. Soon afterwards the government unveiled the Otkhozoria and Tatunashvili list, a list of 33 persons of Abkhaz and South Ossetian origin who were either convicted of crimes, are under investigation or covered up alleged killings and torture in the Georgian territories beyond its control. The decree also authorised relevant Ministries to work with foreign partners to impose financial penalties and visa bans on individuals on the list.[79] However, the list was not entirely accurate and included a number of deceased persons where current personal information and their whereabouts had been mistakenly identified.[80] It was also criticised for not containing alleged Russian perpetrators.

Although the Otkhozoria and Tatunashvili list is a non-binding resolution, it was welcomed by the European Parliament[81] and incorporated in the Council of Europe Resolution ─ Sergei Magnitsky and beyond – fighting impunity by targeted sanctions[82]that called on member states to impose sanctions, later endorsed by Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the United States, Canada and the UK.[83]

In March 2019 the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs adopted a state approved strategy which covered a range of issues on occupation and highlighted the importance of peaceful resolution to the conflict, de-occupation and confidence building. It also focused on effective cooperation with international courts and strengthening the Georgian position through substantiating Russia’s illegal actions and Georgia’s peaceful efforts. This important document contains no mention of the Otkhozoria and Tatunashvili list, which as a leading instrument will evolve as other perpetrators become known and whilst authorities are instructed to submit periodic updates.[84]

Some commentators suggest that Georgia has been somewhat cautious in joining sanctions imposed by the international community on Russia for annexation of Crimea. It also fuels the speculation that occupation has not been discussed internationally to the same extent and at the same level as the debate about the occupation of Crimea. In 2016 there was an apparent lack of public support to Ukraine over the Council of Europe Resolutions on legal remedies of human rights violation in Ukraine beyond its control and on the Political consequences of the conflict.[85] 

Until now Georgia has done little domestically to remedy the plight of victims of the 2008 armed conflict. As a member of the Rome Statute since 2003 Georgia, according to the principle of complementarity, bears a primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute those responsible for crimes perpetrated during and aftermath of the armed conflict.[86] Yet in 2008 Georgian prosecutors launched two internal preliminary investigations into alleged crimes but the investigation stalled due to the inability to access the territory of South Ossetia amid the lack of cooperation from the Russian Federation and the de-facto authorities.[87] Georgia also articulated its fear that internal prosecutions could aggravate the occupying forces against witnesses.[88] In 2016, after five years of deliberation, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both parties of the conflict in August 2008.[89] The Office of the Prosecution (OPT) decided that ‘’obstacles and delays’’ hampered investigations in both countries and that an ICC investigation was necessary after Georgia has suspended its internal investigation.[90]

Amid calls from civil society, in 2018 Georgia finally launched inter-state complaint in the ECtHR to challenge Russia for its routine administrative practice of harassment, torture and killing of individuals attempting to cross, or living alongside, the ABLs of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.[91] The complaints claimed Russia’s responsibility for Tatunashvili’s killing and alleged that Russia failed to conduct an investigation into the unlawful arrests and murders of Davit Basharuli, Giga Otkhozoria and Archil Tatunashvili.[92] Russia also faces an individual complaint for the unlawful killings of Otkhozoria[93]and Tatunashvili.[94] In its communication, Russia denied responsibility and argued that it does not hold effective control over the territory.[95] Nevertheless, it promises to be an unprecedented case as the ECtHR must deliberate on whether Russia had effective control of Abkhazia and whether actions of the de facto Abkhaz authorities are attributable to Russia.

Conclusion

There are some things that Georgia can do to mitigate the effects of ‘borderisation’. The first of these is to keep the ‘borderisation’ issue and the refusal by Russia and the de facto authorities, to allow EUMM access to South Ossetia on the international agenda. Georgia should ensure these issues are grouped with the Russian intervention in Ukraine wherever possible, to highlight how Russia is intimidating its neighbours in violation of international law. On a national level, it is important that ‘borderisation’ is studied in a systematic and coordinated manner so that there is a unified state strategy served to mitigate the effects of ‘borderisation’. Georgia has to restart internal investigations if it is to meet its pledge to the ICC and fulfil the State obligation to substantiate Russia’s illegal actions over the armed conflict. It also has to open other non-conventional communications’ corridors alongside the existing formats to boost communication on human rights issues. 

Furthermore, local municipalities should inform locals on existing dangers from the occupying forces, introduce police posts where population feels especially vulnerable, and inform locals on how to avoid arbitrary detention and what to do in case of an arrest. Finally, Georgian authorities should develop economic projects to generate income for poverty stricken communities across the ABLs and should improve an infrastructure including housing, water and irrigation issues on a legislative and practical basis.


Photo by Jelger Groenwveld. No modifications were made. Creative commons licence, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/deed.en

[1] The author would like to thank Ucha Nanuashvili, the former Public Defender and now a Director of a project at the Human Rights Centre (http://www.hridc.org/) for their advice and support in the development of this essay.

[2] Borderisation includes the establishment of physical infrastructure to force commuters use special ‘controlled crossing points’; surveillance and patrolling by either Russian border guards or security actors from the breakaway republics to oversee compliance with the  established ‘rules’ (3) a crossing regime requiring commuters to have specific documents and only use ‘official’ crossing points. EUMM Bulletin, Issue no 7, December, 2018.

[3] Human Rights Centre (HRIDC). Zone of Barbered Wires. Human Rights Violations along the dividing lines of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (2019).

[4] Independent International fact- finding mission of the Conflict in Georgia. Official journal of the European Union. 3/12/2008. https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/HUDOC_38263_08_Annexes_ENG.pdf

[5] Ibid.

[6] Agreement was signed with the de facto South Ossetia in 2014 and with de facto Abkhazia in 2015.The agreement covered four main priorities: establishing a coordinated foreign policy and “common defense and security space” (including a “Combined Group of Forces”); creating a common social and economic space; enhanced Abkhaz participation in Russian-led regional integration initiatives (including an Abkhaz commitment to harmonize its de facto customs regime with the Eurasian Economic Union). K. Kakachia et al. 2017. Mitigating Russia’s borderisation of Georgia: A strategy to contain and engage. Georgia: Georgian Institute of Politics.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Interview with the EUMM staff in June 2019.

[9] See e.g. M. Joiev, The representative of the President of the South Ossetia de facto authorities on post conflict issue. Radio Tavisufleba. ‘’Why are fences  erected- is it a ‘state border’ or a barrier for local residents.’’, August 2019, https://www.radiotavisupleba.ge/a/რისთვის-შენდება-ღობეები—სახელმწიფო-საზღვარი-თუ-ბარიერები-მოქალაქეებისთვის-/30125635.html

[10] Radio Tavisufleba, ‘’Why are fences  erected- is it a ‘state border’ or a barrier for local residents.’’, August 2019, https://www.radiotavisupleba.ge/a/რისთვის-შენდება-ღობეები—სახელმწიფო-საზღვარი-თუ-ბარიერები-მოქალაქეებისთვის-/30125635.html

[11] Ibid.

[12] K. Kakachia et al. 2017. Mitigating Russia’s borderisation of Georgia: A strategy to contain and engage. Georgia: Georgian Institute of Politics.

[13] EUMM website, https://eumm.eu/, 2018

[14] Ibid.

[15] The EUMM Monitor, Issue No 7, October 2018, https://eumm.eu/data/file/6486/The_EUMM_Monitor_issue_7_ENG.pdf

[16] As described by one of the villagers affected by the ‘borderisation’ in Human Rights Centre report. 2019

[17] Special Report of the Public Defender of Georgia (PDO) on the Rights of Conflict Affected Population, http://www.ombudsman.ge/en/reports/specialuri-angarishebi/special-report-of-the-public-defender-of-georgia-on-the-rights-of-conflict-affected-population, 2017.

[18] Congress of Local and Regional Authority – Georgia, Council of Europe, https://www.coe.int/en/web/congress/home/-/asset_publisher/EcOuMaGfRsUp/content/local-and-regional-democracy-in-georgia?inheritRedirect=false

[19] Special Report of the Public Defender of Georgia on the Rights of the Conflict Affected Population. 2015. In 2015 Russian border guards barred two Georgian residents from cultivating their land.

[20] Special Report of the Public Defender of Georgia on Human Rights of Conflict Affected Communities Human Rights Situation of Residents of Villages along the Dividing Line in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti. 2016. Otkozoria was refused to cross over the bridge and was later shot by an Abkhaz border guard who caught up with him on a Georgian controlled territory.

[21] Archil Tatunashvili, native of Akhalgori Municipality in Tskhinvali Region, was arrested with local authorities accusing him of ‘genocide against South Ossetians’, ties with the Georgian security agencies, and ‘preparing new acts of sabotage on the territory of the republic shortly before the election of the President of Russia.’ He was severely tortured and killed in custody.

[22] He was taken in custody and found dead after being missing for six months in occupied Akhalgori in 2015.

[23] Special Report of the PDO. 2016.

[24] Referred as Khurcha-Nabakaevi blog post at Zugdidi municipality.

[25] Ibid.

[26] He was forced to lay on the ground for eight hours and later to walk barefoot HRIDC.

[27]  T. Otinashvili was snatched from the back of her garden by the Russian border guards

[28] FIDH and HRIDC. 2017. Living on the edge: victims’ quest for accountability.The ongoing impact of the 2008 Russia-Georgia war.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31]Georgian Security Service. ‘Occupied Territories’. https://ssg.gov.ge/page/occupied-territories and State Security Services, Occupied territories, 2019, https://bit.ly/2Z2h2A2

[32] Email correspondence with the staff of the Interior Minister and the Security Service in Georgia, May 2019.

[33]The Minister of Interior of Georgia. The Minister met with the residents and staff at the occupation line near Shida Kartli Municipality. https://police.ge/en/shinagan-saqmeta-ministri-shida-qartlis-regionshi-gamkofi-khazis-mimdebare-soflebshi-adgilobriv-mosakhleobas-da-tanamshromlebs-shekhvda/12620.March 2019;

[34]Ministry of Interior of Georgia:Police officers died after a mine explosion near the administrative border line. https://civil.ge/ka/archives/146005  March 2009. Halo trust had de-mined the territories along the ABLs in 2009-2010;

[35]After these incidents patrolling cars are now armoured. Interview with the civil servants at the Ministry of Interior of Georgia.

[36] HRIDC Georgia, 2018, http://hridc.org/admin/editor/uploads/files/pdf/hrcrep2018/Zone%20of%20Barbed%20Wires-Report%20-eng%202019.pdf

[37] Interview with the representative of the Public Defender, March 2019.

[38] Ibid.

[39]Radio Tavisufleba, Residents of Gugutiantkari is to have a Police post. August 2019, https://bit.ly/2mcRoL9

[40] Ucha Nanuashvili, Head of a project at the Human Rights Centre and the former Public Defender of Georgia; FB post when commenting on events in Gugutiantkari, 19 August 2019.

[41] Interview with the former member of the Public Defender’s office, January 2019.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Dato Kokoshvili, According to the Mayor of Gori there are three armed masked men in Khurvaleti, Netgazeti, March 2019, https://netgazeti.ge/news/348929/

[44] TV Pirveli,No incident is observed in Khurvaleti Region, March 2019, https://1tv.ge/en/news/eumm-no-incident-is-observed-in-khurvaleti-village/

[45] On 7 August the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have made a first announcement denouncing erecting illegal fences in Gugutiantkari village of Gori Municipality. On 16 August the MFA issued an announcement detailing all actions it had taken against the illegal process of borderisation.

[46] Russian FSB guards started erecting  illegal fences on 7 August 2019, it was suspended for a few days after it was contested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was renewed on 14 August

[47] Netgazeti Batumelebi. Silence of the Prime Minister and the President on Russia advancing the occupation line, https://batumelebi.netgazeti.ge/news/223159/?fbclid=IwAR0zbVP5QMSD6BixhFJDAbNH6J2DQ0TybpUmn5psVHwbAbdp3FlSOPBmuCY. 16 August 2019

[48] The Report on Human Rights and Protection of Freedom in Georgia, 2018, http://www.ombudsman.ge/res/docs/2019042620571319466.pdf

[49] 2013-2018 Report of the Interim Government Commission on the necessities of the population living along the occupation line affected by the conflict.

[50] HRIDC. 2019. In 2017 a local resident living alongside the ABL in Abkhazia said that her husband was arrested when he was collecting woods as electricity is expensive.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Report of the Interim State Commission. 2013-2018.

[54] FIDH and HRIDC. 2017.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid.

[57] PDO. 2016. As a response to respective recommendations by the PDO, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Regional Development and the State Ministry of Reconciliation and State Equality notified the Office of the Public Defender that they have already started seeking financial assistance from potential donors. This particularly affects individuals residing in Zardiaantkari, Gori municipality and village of Khurcha.

[58] DFID-HRIDC.

[59] The Geneva International Discussions were launched in Geneva in October 2008 to tackle the consequences of the 2008 Georgia-Russia war and Russia’s subsequent recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

[60] Interview with the EUMM staff. June 2019.

[61] Ibid.

[62] Woscap. 2017.

[63] Ibid.

[64]  Mutual cooperation helped to resolve bug problems in Abkhazia and facilitated exchange of archives between Georgia and the de fact Abkhaz authorities.

[65] The  Hotline operates 24/7, 365 days a year, supporting timely communication on different conflict related issues, such as detentions, medical crossings, access to agricultural land, installation of fences, barbed wire and ‘border’ signs along the Administrative Boundary Lines with Abkhazia and South Ossetia . IPRM meetings are co-facilitated by OSCE/UN and EUMM and are held in Ergneti and Gali, near the ABL.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Radio Free Liberty, A long meeting in Ergneti ended with accusations, May 2019, https://bit.ly/33xQKcD

[68] Radio Free Liberty, Meetings in Ergneti-  a tribune for protests, June 2019, https://bit.ly/31wRbSr

[69]  Geneva Process and Peaceful transformation to conflict, New Political reality, 2013, https://ge.boell.org/en/2013/01/24/geneva-process-and-peaceful-transformation-conflicts-new-political-reality

[70] Email correspondence with the former Public Defender of Georgia, Ucha Nanuashvili. August 2019.

[71] Ibid.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Ibid.

[75] The circumstances in which a State may be held responsible for acts in breach of the Convention occurring outside its territory were addressed and defined in the Court’s judgments such as Loizidou v Turkey, Cyprus v Turkey and  Bankovic v Belgium. It maintained that state responsibility becomes relevant where a state exercises effective overall control of a territory. Its responsibility cannot be confined to the acts of its own soldiers or officials – whether or not those acts are authorised by the high authorities of the state – “but must also be engaged by virtue of the acts of the local administration which survives by virtue of [the] military and other support.”

[76] Ilascu v. Moldova and Russia (App.48787/99), Judgment of 8 July 2004(2005) 40 EHRR 1030. paras 312-319.

[77] Ibid. para 331.

[78] General Comment No. 26: General Comment on Issues Relating to the Continuity of Obligations to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, U.N. GAOR, Human Rights Comm., 61st Sess., addendum P 4, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.8/Rev.1 (Dec. 8, 1997).

[79] When discussing atrocities committed in the Bosnian war, a member of the Human Rights Committee argued that the Bosnian Serb authority that had control of a territory was bound by human rights law. This finding is supported by general Human Rights Committee jurisprudence where human rights treaties are so-called “localised treaties.” Their protection evolves with the territory of the state party and continues to protect the people living therein, “notwithstanding change in Government of the State party, including dismemberment in more than one State or State succession.” Arno Hessbruegge, Human Rights Violations arising from the conduct of non-state actors.Jan Arno Hessbruegge. Buffalo. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 21 2005.

[80] American Voice, Why did dead souls end up in Tatunashvili  Otkhozoria list?,June 2018,https://www.amerikiskhma.com/a/georgia-to-otkhozoria-tatunashvili-blacklist-33-persons-for-grave-human-rigtts-violations-in-occupied-territories/4457163.html

[81] European Parliament, MEPs call for EU Magnitsky act to impose sanctions on human rights abusers, March 2019, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20190307IPR30748/meps-call-for-eu-magnitsky-act-to-impose-sanctions-on-human-rights-abusers

[82] PACE Resolution 2252 (2019) Sergey Magnitsy and beyond- fighting impunity by targeted sanctions. http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-XML2HTML-en.asp?fileid=25352&lang=en

[83] PACE Resolution 2252 (20129) Several member and observer States (including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States) have adopted legislative and other instruments to enable their governments to impose targeted sanctions on perpetrators and beneficiaries of serious human rights violations.

[84]  The Minister of Foreign Affairs responded to the criticism during the discussion off the action plan at the Georgian parliament that Otkhozoria-Tatunashvili list is made part of the Action plan which is an internal document. Q&A between Zakaliani and Bokeria at the Parliament. https://www.facebook.com/news.on.ge/videos/260733931471851/ March 2019.

[85] See e.g. Legal remedies for human rights violations on the Ukrainian territories outside the control of the Ukrainian authorities (Doc 14139) and Political consequences of the conflict in Ukraine (DOc 14130) – both adopted in 2016.

[86] Rome statute of the International Criminal Court. Article 1https://www.icc-cpi.int//Documents/RS-Eng.pdf, see also ‘On 27 January 2016, Pre-Trial Chamber I granted the Prosecutor’s request to open an investigation proprio motu in the situation in Georgia, in relation to crimes against humanity and war crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court in the context of an international armed conflict between 1 July and 10 October 2008.https://www.icc-cpi.int/georgia/

[87] The Office of the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia (OCPG) in the course of its inquiry is reported to have interviewed over 7000 witnesses, carried out on-site investigations in over 30 affected areas as well as conducted various forensic expertise. FIDH and HRIDC. 2017.

[88] There is a difference between the Georgian (original letter) and an English translation. The Georgian authorities in their official letter said that they have temporarily suspended the investigation. Interview with the head of Article 42, Natia katsitadze, May 2019.

[89] On 27 January 2016, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorised Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to open an investigation into the 2008 conflict in Georgia, following an application made by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) in October 2015.

[90] Human Rights Georgia, Ten years after the August war. Victims of the situation in Georgia, August 2019, http://humanrights.ge/admin/editor/uploads/pdf/angarishebi/hridc/eng-10%20years%20after%20august%20war..pdf

[91] NGOs demand lodging of an inter-state application before the ECtHR over the case of Tatunashvili, February 2018, https://bit.ly/2KEWwjJ

[92] ECtHR, Press release: New inter-state application brought by Georgia against Russia, August 2018, https://bit.ly/2KEWwjJ

[93] ECtHR, Matkava v Russia. (13255/07) Communicated, January 2018, https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#%22itemid%22:[%22001-189019%22]

[94] Agenda.Ge., Georgia drafts lawsuit for Tatunashvili’s case in European Court, May 2019, https://agenda.ge/en/news/2018/988

[95] In its communicated case, the ECtHR requested Russia to provide answers on unlawful killing of Otkhozoria and on effective investigation into his killing and demanded to submit case file related to the investigation.

Footnotes
    Related Articles

     Join our mailing list 

    Keep informed about events, articles & latest publications from Foreign Policy Centre

    JOIN