Rights Situation of People Living along Dividing Line Reviewed in Public Defender’s Parliamentary Report
Many infrastructural and social projects were implemented by the state in the villages alongside the dividing line in 2015. Nevertheless, the socio-economic and security situations remain difficult in the conflict-affected Shida Kartli and Samegrelo villages along the dividing line.
One of the biggest problems for locals is finding a source of income. Large part of the rural population cannot use the programs offered by the Ministries of Economy and Agriculture, as the programs are centralized and information hardly reaches the local population. In addition, local farmers and entrepreneurs do not have relevant resources for co-funding, while bank loans are unavailable for them, since they live in high-risk regions. Unregistered lands are also a problem for entrepreneurship.
The said problem was mentioned by the Public Defender in his Annual ParliamentaryReport 2015, where he recommended the relevant interim governmental commission to study the specifics of the villages alongside the dividing line and to develop agricultural and entrepreneurial programs adjusted to the needs and opportunities of the conflict-affected communities.
The issue of compensation for the houses damaged during the 2008 August war in the Shida Kartli region still remained a problem in 2015. Among those who have not received any assistance from the government is the population of Zardiaantkari village of Gori municipality. For example, one of its residents, T.T., is still unable to return to his home because the house is damaged.
The Public Defender considers that the commission should discuss the abovementioned issue and should make decisions on the rehabilitation of houses damaged during the 2008 military actions, owners of which have not received any aid from the state.
Military exercises in the occupied territories and arrests at the dividing line represent serious problems in terms of security. Compared to the last year, the number of illegal detentions increased at the so-called South Ossetian dividing line (142 in 2014, 163 in 2015). Very often the Russian border guards cross the dividing line and arrest people in their own gardens, on roads or at cemeteries. The number of arrests at the Abkhazian dividing line is particularly high. According to the State Security Service, 341 people were arrested in 2014 and 380 - in 2015. Prisoners complain of ill-treatment and poor conditions in the Tskhinvali prison and cellars of the Russian military bases in Gali.
The Public Defender recommends participants of the Geneva talks and the Parliament of Georgia to use all available means to protect the local population's freedom of movement and to ensure that the parties agree on a mechanism that will eliminate the vicious practice of detentions at the dividing line.