Public Defender Welcomes Release of Prisoners in Conflict Zone

On 10 March 2016 it became known that the Government of Georgia and the de facto authorities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia reached an agreement to release prisoners according to the principle - "all for all". This move made possible the release of several persons, which had been illegally deprived of their liberty in Tskhinvali and Sokhumi prisons.

Ossetian and Georgian prisoners, as well as their families, had been regularly applying to the Public Defender's Office and informing them of severe physical, psychological and unbearable conditions in the detention centers, as well as of ill-treatment. They had been requesting release of prisoners by mutual agreement.

A total of 18 prisoners have been released today. 4 out of them were released by the Georgian side, 10 – by the Sukhumi authorities and 4 – by the Tskhinvali authorities.

Release of prisoners and detainees after armed conflicts is a common practice. During the 2008 war, the Georgian authorities handed over General Roman Dumbadze, who was accused of treason and was serving life sentence, to the Russian Federation. In light of the frequented detentions at the so-called South Ossetian dividing line, in 2010 by the mediation of the then Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg, the sides released 6-6 persons. In February 2013, three Ossetian prisoners were released from the Georgian prison as a result of amnesty, in response to which the de-facto South Ossetian President pardoned Teimuraz Jerapov, former Economy Minister of the provisional administration of South Ossetia.

In 2014, the Public Defender dedicated a special report to the situation of detainees and urged the Government to "find ways for releasing detainees and prisoners, according to the principle - "all for all", or through parole, amnesty and pardon." The Public Defender’s Ossetian Forum as well as local and international non-governmental organizations was actively involved in the study of the case.

The Public Defender welcomes the dialogue launched between Georgia and the de facto governments on the release of prisoners and believes that the move will promote restoration of confidence between the parties and will contribute to further stability. The right to freedom and security is enshrined in the Constitution of Georgia and international conventions, and the Georgian Government is obliged to make every effort to safeguard this right.

The Public Defender calls on the parties involved in the dialogue to make human rights a subject of constant discussion and expand today’s positive practice to freedom of movement as well.

Detentions at the dividing line make conditions of the local population unbearable and lead to radical sentiments in them, which can become one of the causes of tension and destabilization. To avoid this, the parties must agree on a mechanism that will ensure elimination of the vicious practice of detentions at the dividing line and thus will protect the rights and safety of the population.

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