Implementation of Recommendations on Restoration of Rights of Conflict-affected Persons Contained in Parliamentary Report 2015
During the reporting period of 2015, the Public Defender and his staff had been actively monitoring the rights situation of conflict-affected population in the occupied territories, as a result of which a number of problems were identified, which need timely reaction from the Government. The Public Defender considers that the benefits intended for the Georgian citizens, including health, education, social assistance, etc, should be equally accessible for the Abkhazian and so-called South Ossetia populations for realization of their rights as well as for development and de-isolation of conflict-affected communities.
The Georgian Government has been implementing health and education programs for years, one of the most successful of which is "State Program of Referral Service". This program provides an opportunity for the residents of the occupied territories to get free medical services. However, the use of the program by persons with Georgian ID cards (mainly the population of the Gali district) is problematic. In 2014 the Public Defender proposed the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Affairs to develop a uniform approach to all persons legitimately living in the occupied territories. However, the recommendation has not been implemented yet.
According to the Ministry, medical services for the residents of the occupied areas, who have Georgian citizenship documents, will be fully financed if their residence in the occupied area is confirmed. In the ParliamentaryReport 2015, the Public Defender called on the Prime Minister to commission relevant agencies (the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, the Office of State Minister for Civil Equality and Reconciliation and the State Security Service) to devise a mechanism for inclusion of Georgian citizens living in the occupied territories in a referral program and to ensure uniform approach towards all persons living in the occupied territories, regardless of their nationality.
In addition, in most cases the residents of the occupied territories are required to have Georgian citizenship documents in order to enjoy the state social services, whereas majority of them do not possess such documents.
The Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs partially fulfilled the Public Defender's recommendation of 2014 with regard to increasing availability of state social programs for persons who live in the occupied territories and are not Georgian citizens. According to the Ministry, the circle of beneficiaries of the social rehabilitation and child care programs of 2015 was increased and now it includes both the persons with Georgian citizenship documents and those with neutral ID cards or neutral travel documents. This change is a step forward and should be viewed positively, although it still cannot cover a large part of the people living in the occupied territories.
On January 28, 2016, the Public Defender addressed the Prime Minister with a proposal to change the relevant resolution in order to enable residents of the occupied territories with neutral identification cards to get engaged in the state program on hepatitis C. Inclusion in the State Program on First Phase Measures for Management of Hepatitis C, approved by the Government in 2015, requires Georgian citizenship documents. The Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs refused to make any changes to the program due to medication safety risks.
On 10 March, 2016, it became known that the Government of Georgia and the Abkhaz and South Ossetian de facto authorities reached an agreement to release prisoners on the principle - "all for all". This step made it possible to release the persons who had been unlawfully deprived of liberty in the Tskhinvali and Sokhumi prisons. The Public Defender welcomes the dialogue on the release of prisoners, which had been recommended by him over the years. However, despite certain important initiatives, the Public Defender considers that the decision-making process with regard to protection of the rights and integration of people living in the occupied areas is often inflexible and delayed due to disagreement between the agencies and the lack of a unified position.
Unified and coordinated state policy means a policy of conflict resolution, where every agency is able to analyze the existing situation and challenges of the breakaway regions within their authority and to make relevant, flexible decisions to protect the rights of the population. This, at the same time, requires in-depth knowledge of the problems of the occupied territories by members of the Government.