Statement of the Public Defender on the 11th Anniversary of the August War
The August 2008 war was the hardest hit to Georgia's political, economic and democratic development. The conflict has also damaged human relations. The border guards of the Russian Federation illegally detain and fine people in the regions with which we had intensive trade, close relations and friendly ties 10 years ago. In 2014-2018, the Georgian side recorded the detention/abduction of up to 1 700 people from the villages adjacent to the occupation line.
Erection of barbed wires and fences and the so-called borderization have directly affected more than 50 villages in the Shida Kartli and Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti regions in the Georgia-controlled territories. Illegal arrests, military exercises at the Russian bases, problems of drinking and irrigation water, agricultural land remaining on the occupied territories and the resulting poverty are a short list of problems that locals have to deal with on a daily basis.
Particularly alarming are the cases of illegal violation of the right to life, the examples of which were the murders of Davit Basharuli in 2014, Giga Otkhozoria in 2016, Archil Tatunashvili in 2018 and Irakli Kvaratskhelia in 2019. It should be noted that the occupation regimes are directly involved in all the killings.
The quality of health and education is deteriorating year by year. Realization of the right to education in the occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia faces many challenges. Restrictions imposed on the right to get education in the mother tongue in the Gali district in 2015 and in the Akhalgori municipality in 2017 dramatically worsened the rights situation of ethnic Georgians, their knowledge of mother tongue and the quality of education in general.
In terms of protection of the right to health, clinics in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali lack staff and modern medical infrastructure. Majority of population seeks medical care beyond the occupied territories. Vulnerable groups, such as persons with disabilities and socially disadvantaged people, do not have access to services available to citizens in the Georgia-controlled area, while the services offered by de facto structures are often inadequate.
Georgians living in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region are discriminated on ethnic grounds, which creates the threat of another wave of ethnic cleansing. Ethnic Georgians are requested to obtain a residence permit, which deprives them of various social, economic or political rights.
The property rights have been grossly violated in the occupied territories for years. Hundreds of houses of ethnic Georgians were deliberately destroyed or illegally given to others during and after the 2008 war. The so-called bill was drafted in the occupied region of Abkhazia in April 2019, which deprives even members of the families fighting for the so-called “independence” of Abkhazia in the 1992-1993 hostilities of the right to inherit property.
The grave human rights situation in the occupied territories is particularly worrisome given that international human rights organizations have no access to the regions.
The Public Defender of Georgia calls on all parties to engage in meaningful and result-oriented dialogue to improve the social situation of conflict-affected population, to protect their dignity and rights and to change attitudes among the opposing communities. Accordingly, the Public Defender welcomes any initiative of the Government of Georgia aimed at protecting the rights of the residents of the occupied territories and restoring trust between the conflict-affected populations.
- More than half a million of our citizens have been affected by the conflicts of the 1990s and 2008. As of today, the number of IDPs in Georgia is more than 282 485. More than 26 888 out of them (approximately 9 081 families) were internally displaced from the Tskhinvali region as a result of the 2008 events.