Current situation in Georgia's occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia

September, 2017

Human rights situation in the occupied regions of Georgia Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region, remains alarming. The Russian Federation as the occupying power, exercises effective control over Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali Region, Georgia and has been preventing numerous international organizations from entering to Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali Region, Georgia.

Despite the constructive steps and efforts of the Government of Georgia to de-escalate relations with Russia, no progress has been made in political terms. The Russian Federation continues provocative policy against Georgia. Mainly, Moscow continues the implementation of so-called "integration treaties", absorbing Georgia's occupied regions into Russia's military, political, economic and social system. Moreover, the so-called referendum was held in Tskhinvali region in order to change the name of old Georgian region into the one similar to the federal subject of Russia. This step was a clear attempt to lay a ground for illegal annexation of the occupied region.

The Russian Federation continues to intensify its military build-up in both occupied regions of Georgia. In March 2017, additional complexes of S-300 air-defense missile systems were deployed in Abkhazia region. Moreover, Russia conducts constant military exercises in both Abkhazia (59 exercises in 2017) and South Ossetia/Tskhinvali (20 exercises in 2017) regions and violates the Georgian controlled airspace on a regular basis.

The Russian Federation has intensified the process of fortifying the occupation line through installation of razor and barbed wire fences, trenches, so-called "border signs" and other artificial barriers. As a result, about 25 villages have been cut and their inhabitants separated from neighbors and vital infrastructure (including water supplies); about 800 families lost access to their agricultural lands and grazing fields; about 20 families have been directly affected by the barbed wires that cut through their dwelling houses or yards. Several of them have been compelled to flee their places of residence, thus creating a further wave of IDPs. In March 2017, the occupation regime in Sokhumi closed two more so-called crossing points along the occupation line. The decrease of so-called crossing points (from 6 to 2) has extremely aggravated the humanitarian situation in Abkhazia region. Vulnerable groups, such as people in need of medical care as well as schoolchildren crossing to get the education in native language on Georgian government controlled territory, have been particularly affected. Closure of crossings affected also the economic condition of locals.

Besides, Russian FSB continues to install motion detectors and high-quality technical equipment with the aim to fully control the crossing along the occupation line. The so-called "borderization" process further isolates Abkhazia and south Ossetia/Tskhinvali regions from the rest of Georgia and the world. Fortification of occupation line has provoked increase of kidnappings and illegal detentions of local residents.

Georgian population in both occupied regions is subject to increased ethnically targeted violence. Recently the occupation regime in Sokhumi has started enforced distribution of so-called residence permits in Gali district. Thus, on the grounds of ethnic origins, indigenous population of Abkhazia region are compelled to register as foreign citizens. They are also proposed to obtain so-called Abkhazian passports at the expense of Georgian citizenship, thus forcing local Georgians to become the stateless persons, as so-called Abkhazian passport is null and void according to international law. In the academic year 2016-2017, about 4000 pupils living in Gali district were deprived of right to get the education in native Georgian language. The similar process has been initiated in South Ossetia/Tskhinvali region. From September 2017 education in native language is also banned in Georgian schools of Akhalgori, Znauri and Sinaguri (grades 1 to 4 - at the first stage). In addition, hundreds of thousands of IDPs and refugees expelled from the occupied regions because of several waves of ethnic cleansing are still deprived of their fundamental right to return. This entire process is a part of Moscow's far-reaching strategy aimed at eradication of traces of Georgian identity and russification of Abkhazia and South Ossetia/Tskhinvali regions.

Reinforcement by Russia of its policy of occupation and factual annexation undermines Georgia's efforts towards peaceful conflict resolution and engagement and reconciliation of war-torn communities, supported by the international society. Georgia is firmly committed to peaceful resolution of the Russia-Georgia conflict, despite Russia's disruptive behavior.

The Georgian Government is committed to respond to the needs of people living in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions offering healthcare, education and other social services. At the same time, Government of Georgia stays determined to make the benefits of Georgia's European agenda available for the people on the other side of the occupation line.

The international society should not keep a blind eye on Russia's aggressive actions concerning the occupied territory of Georgia. The international society should urge and send a clear message to Russia that it should comply with its international obligations.