Public Defender Delivers Speech at Conference on Effective Application of ECHR in Areas of Conflict in Europe

On September 1, 2022, Public Defender of Georgia Nino Lomjaria participated in the Conference on Effective Application of the ECHR in Areas of Conflict in Europe, which was organized in Ireland by the Human Rights Center of Ireland, the School of Law of the National University of Ireland and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

"Human rights protection in the conflict regions has become even more important after Russia's invasion of Ukraine; And for me, as a Public Defender of a country with territories occupied by Russia, this issue is of particular importance," the Public Defender said.

Nino Lomjaria spoke about the human rights situation in the occupied territories of Georgia, reviewed the activities of the Public Defender and emphasized the difficulties of enforcing the European Convention.

She noted that the Public Defender’s Office monitors the state of human rights in the occupied regions through partner civil society groups and international organizations; Representatives of the Public Defender’s Office intensively meet with the population living near the dividing line and examine the human rights violations of those affected by the conflict. In addition, they have been describing the rights situation of conflict-affected population in the parliamentary and special reports for years.

In her speech, the Public Defender emphasized the importance of the annual consolidated reports of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, which review the human rights situation in the conflict-affected regions of Georgia. The Public Defender’s Office is actively involved in the preparation of these consolidated reports.

Nino Lomjaria also spoke about borderization and creeping occupation, which continue to this day. She noted that the new fences and barbed wire installed by the Russian border forces often divide the lands of the local population, due to which they no longer have access to the property left beyond the occupation line. Borderization also leads to the restriction of freedom of movement. The de facto authorities and Russian border forces close the so-called checkpoints from time to time and prohibit the crossing of the occupation line, which has a negative impact on the enjoyment of various rights by the local population, including the right to health. This problem was manifested with particular severity during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In recent years, the number of cases of criminal prosecution and long-term illegal imprisonment for the so-called illegal border crossing have increased. Detainees and prisoners are often beaten, ill-treated and tortured in pre-trial detention centers and prisons.

In both occupied regions, access to education in the native language is limited, which is a result of the policy of pressure on the Georgian population and ethnic discrimination.

The Public Defender believes that it is necessary for the Council of Europe, as a neutral and authoritative actor, to use all the tools within its mandate in order to allow international organizations to enter the occupied territories, participate in peace negotiations and support human rights protection.

The Public Defender paid special attention to the importance of the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Georgia v. Russia (ll).

"This judgement is of great legal and historical significance for Georgia, and hopefully it will have an impact on the investigation being carried out by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court into the alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the August 2008 war, especially on the part that concerns the torture of Georgian prisoners of war, for which Russia was declared responsible by the European Court", the Public Defender said at the international conference.

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