Public Defender's Statement on Intimidation of University Entrants by De Facto Security Service of Occupied Akhalgori

On June 18, 2020, reports were spread by the media about the intimidation of university entrants by the de facto Security Committee of the occupied district of Akhalgori. Unfortunately, the above information is another clear example of the challenges faced by our fellow citizens living in the occupied territories in terms of their access to education in their mother tongue. Violations of children's universally recognized rights, persecution of schoolchildren and teachers on ethnic grounds and psychological pressure on them still continue.

Since 2017, teaching in Georgian has been completely prohibited in all primary schools in the occupied district of Akhalgori; Georgian is now taught as a foreign language only in some of the schools. The above has a negative impact on students' knowledge of the Georgian language and the quality of education. As a result of the ban on education in the mother tongue, the number of schoolchildren is decreasing every year in Akhalgori. The Public Defender has been talking about the right to education in the native language in her annual reports for years.

Currently, Georgian is taught only in 6 out of 7 schools of Akhalgori and only from the 7th to 11th grade. In other cases, only 5 hours are devoted to the Georgian language in a week. In 2019, 4 schools did not have 1st graders at all.

The right to education is a right guaranteed by international human rights law. It is enshrined in binding agreements of both the UN and the Council of Europe. According to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, “education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”[1]

The Public Defender of Georgia calls on the Georgian authorities to continue taking proactive actions to protect the right of students and entrants living in the occupied territories and offering educational programmes to the students and teachers of occupied Akhalgori according to their needs, since the current situation irreparably damages the education and development opportunities of the young people.

The involvement of international organizations is also important in this process in order to ensure that attention is permanently focused on the protection of the right to education in the occupied territories. However, the latter is impossible without the restoration of human rights missions in the occupied territories and the support of local NGOs.

[1] United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 13 (1).

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