SG/Inf (2013) 38
29 October 2013
Consolidated report on the conflict in Georgia
(April 2013 – September 2013)
Document presented by the Secretary General
1. At their 1080th meeting on 24 and 26 March 2010, the Ministers’ Deputies took the following decision: “The Deputies, restating the previous decisions of the Committee of Ministers, invited the Secretary General to prepare his consolidated report on the conflict in Georgia based on his outline and taking into account the comments made during the present meeting”.
2. It is recalled that the objective of the report is to take stock of the situation in Georgia following the August 2008 conflict, to report on the related activities of the Council of Europe and to propose further Council of Europe action. The report is composed of four parts:
- update on major developments in the period under review;
- assessment of statutory obligations and commitments related to the conflict and its consequences;
- human rights situation in the areas affected by the conflict; and
- current Council of Europe activities aimed at addressing the consequences of the conflict, their follow-up as well as proposals for future action.
3. This eighth consolidated report covers the period between April and September 2013. It builds on the seven previous consolidated reports, as well as Secretariat reports on the human rights situation in the areas affected by the conflict in Georgia and the report on the Council of Europe activities in the areas affected by the conflict and its updates.
4. The Secretariat carried out a fact-finding visit to Tbilisi on
9-11 September 2013 and had the opportunity to discuss the situation with the Georgian authorities, representatives of civil society and international organisations. The Secretariat wishes to express its gratitude to the Georgian authorities for their support in organising the visit and to all interlocutors for their assistance and valuable contributions.
5. For the purpose of this report, despite efforts of the Secretariat, the delegation was not allowed to visit Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Secretariat, thus, had no opportunity to discuss with the de facto authorities the human rights situation on the ground or to reflect on their position on other issues touched upon in the present report. Despite these developments, the Secretary General intends to pursue his efforts in view of fact-finding visits to Abkhazia and South Ossetia for the preparation of future reports.
6. This report does not replace the monitoring procedures established in the Council of Europe. Nor should it be seen as prejudging any possible decisions in the cases related to the conflict and its consequences, which are currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
7. Nothing in this report should be interpreted as being contrary to the full respect of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders.
8. This report does not prejudge or infringe upon a possible future political settlement of the conflict within the framework of the Geneva International Discussions, nor the implementation of the Six-point agreement of 12 August 2008 and the implementing measures of 8 September 2008.
I Up-date on major developments in the period under review
9. The positive developments, declarations and useful initiatives which occurred in the reporting period in multilateral and bilateral fora did not have a decisive impact on the situation on the ground, nor did they constitute a breakthrough on the main issues at stake.
10. The direct contacts initiated recently between Mr Zurab Abashidze, Special Representative of the Prime Minister of Georgia in charge of relations with Russia, and Mr Grigoriy Karasin, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation continued during the reporting period. They met twice in Prague on 4-5 June and 19 September. As in the previous two meetings, economic, humanitarian and cultural issues were discussed with the aim of improving the atmosphere between the two countries. A number of other bilateral meetings between Georgian and Russian officials also took place.
11. As a result of these contacts, the import into Russia of a number of Georgian agricultural products including wine and mineral water has resumed. In addition, the two countries have agreed to resume cross-border passenger and cargo road transportation. As part of its efforts towards a normalisation of relations with Russia, the Georgian government also confirmed that Georgian athletes would participate in the Sochi Olympic Games and that the Georgian government was ready to cooperate on security-related issues during the Olympics.
12. On the Russian side, on 5 May, President Vladimir Putin sent a letter to the people of Georgia on the occasion of the 68th anniversary of the Victory day over fascism. The perspective of a full restoration of relations between Georgia and Russia was also mentioned at the highest political level in Russia during the reporting period.
13. Contacts between the Churches continued. expressed hope that the complicated Russia-Georgia relations would improve and never decline again.
14. However, in the absence of any major breakthrough, the Government of Georgia reaffirmed that “diplomatic relations will not be restored until this situation changes”, in reference to Russia’s recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia’s policy of non-recognition towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia was reiterated on several other occasions by the Government of Georgia, including during Prime Minister Ivanishvili’s address before the PACE on 23 April 2013. On that occasion, the Prime Minister reiterated Georgia’s will to engage in dialogue with Russia and to restore relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia through a peaceful rhetoric. However, he stressed that “there can be no progress towards peace in the region if Georgia is expected to abandon its legitimate interests, especially its territorial integrity and the right of its citizens to return to their homelands.”
15. During the reporting period the issue of “borderisation” along the Administrative Boundary Lines (ABL), especially on the South Ossetia ABL, caught the attention of the international community, sparked protests of the Georgian government and was reported to further complicate the situation on the ground, especially as regards the daily life of the population (for further details cf. section III). A corresponding statement of the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was distributed by the Georgian Permanent Representation at the meeting of the Committee of Ministers on 18 September. Speaking about this issue and while acknowledging that additional improvements are feasible, PM Ivanishvili insisted that the “borderisation” is problematic for the improvement of relations between Georgia and Russia. In the same vein, on 13 September, the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested against the announced development of a border agreement between the Russian Federation and South Ossetia. The Russian Foreign Ministry insists that these issues fall within the competence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
16. During the meetings with the delegation, the Georgian authorities regretted the impossibility for the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) to access Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
17. During the period under review, the State Minister for Reintegration (SMR), Mr Paata Zakareishvili, confirmed openness for direct dialogue and confidence building between Sukhumi, Tskhinvali and Tbilisi. In that respect, Mr Zakareishvili emphasised that “the new Government of Georgia has chosen the peaceful, constructive and pragmatic course of resolving the conflict.”
18. The Secretariat was informed by the Georgian authorities that a proposal for the change of the name of the State Ministry for Reintegration is still pending approval by the President, as mentioned in the previous report.
19. As for the adoption of the legislative amendments to the Law on the Occupied Territories initiated by the SMR with an aim to modify and liberalise the sanctions for entry into Abkhazia and South Ossetia via entry points other than the territory under the control of the Georgian authorities, they were adopted at first reading on 17 May but were still pending before Parliament in September. The Russian Federation continues to call for the law to be repealed. It considers in particular that the law hinders the access to and co-operation activities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
20. Against this background, during the reporting period the twenty-fourth round of Geneva International Discussions took place, on 25-26 June. Addressing the security situation on the ground, the participants reiterated the need to resume the Gali Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM), which as of 30 September had still not resumed. They welcomed the continuing good functioning of the Ergneti IPRM. The discussion on the issue of Non-Use of Force continued, with an exchange of views on a Co-Chairs’ draft joint statement. The Co-Chairs also raised the issue of the fencing and digging activities along the ABL, which they found regrettable and which have reportedly affected the freedom of movement and livelihood of local populations. It was noted that, overall, the security situation on the ground, especially on both sides of the ABL with Abkhazia, was relatively calm and stable.
21. Issues related to humanitarian aspects of freedom of movement, missing persons and living conditions were also raised in the working group II of the Geneva International Discussions. The commitment on behalf of all concerned to address the issue of missing persons was welcomed. Progress has also been acknowledged in confidence-building projects, including projects on resource sharing, particularly water in South Ossetia.
22. However, the two working groups on security and the humanitarian situation reportedly did not complete their respective agenda due to a lack of consensus on organisational matters. Participants nevertheless remained committed to continue the discussions within the Geneva Framework as it remained the only platform for discussion in the aftermath of the 2008 conflict.
23. The Georgian authorities stressed to the delegation that, while in line with a constructive and result-oriented approach, the general positions of its participants in the Geneva Discussions remain unchanged.
24. On the 13 June, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the Resolution tabled by Georgia “Status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia”.
II Assessment of statutory obligations and commitments related to the conflict and its consequences
25. Below is an update on statutory obligations and specific commitments - as listed in PACE Opinions 193 (1996) and 209 (1999) - which have been selected for the purpose of reporting on the conflict in Georgia and its consequences. This part builds on Part 1 of the first and second consolidated reports on the conflict in Georgia (SG/Inf(2010)8 and SG/Inf(2010)19-final).
i. To accept the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to collaborate sincerely and effectively in the realisation of the aim of the Council of Europe
ii. To settle international as well as internal disputes by peaceful means (an obligation incumbent upon all member states of the Council of Europe), rejecting resolutely any forms of threats of force against its neighbours
26. Since the last report, the procedure of the European Court of Human Rights continues. There are no major developments to report either on the Inter-State application No. 38263/08 Georgia against Russia or on the individual applications against Georgia, or against the Russian Federation.
iii. To respect strictly the provisions of international humanitarian law, including in cases of armed conflict on its territory
27. In the reporting period, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) continued its activities in Abkhazia as before. In particular, the coordination mechanisms established for the issue of missing persons under the aegis of the ICRC keep on functioning. The ICRC also continues to gather data on mine victims and amputees in Abkhazia and to provide them with small scale economic assistance.
28. The ICRC also remains engaged in South Ossetia where, in addition to its work on clarifying the fate of missing persons, it facilitated the exchange of messages by separated families, organising family reunifications, providing support to families of missing persons, visiting detainees and providing small-scale humanitarian and economic support where needed.
29. On 30 May 2013, it was reported that Georgia’s Chief Prosecutor met the families of three missing from South Ossetia, whose cases had been reopened. The Public Defender of Georgia continues to monitor the on-going investigation.
iv. To co-operate in good faith with international humanitarian organisations and to enable them to carry out their activities on its territory in conformity with their mandates
v. To facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable groups of the population affected by the consequences of the conflict
30. According to the information provided by the Georgian authorities, 31 new confidence-building projects were submitted in the reporting period, bringing the total number of projects submitted by international and local organisations in the framework of the Georgian Government’s “Modalities for Engagement” since 15 October 2010 to 165. All of them received non-objection orders.
31. The Georgian authorities also reiterated their support to mechanisms and channels beneficial for confidence building, such as the Liaison Mechanism. The latter continues to function.
32. The delegation was informed by the international and civil society interlocutors that the de facto authorities of Abkhazia are questioning the necessity of purely humanitarian aid and are reportedly said to be open to consider more sustainable forms of co-operation. In this respect, it was reported to the Secretariat that the intention by the de facto authorities of Abkhazia to limit humanitarian co-operation to the Gali district has affected the work of some NGOs. However, overall, main actors involved were able to continue carrying out their on-going activities.
33. While underlining that humanitarian needs must be addressed wherever they occur, several international interlocutors acknowledge that there would indeed be a scope and logic for a more sustainable co-operation. The Georgian authorities do not object to an increased presence or co-operation of international actors in Abkhazia, as long as the envisaged activities take place with the consent of the competent Georgian authorities.
34. International organisations and various individual States continued to support humanitarian and other co-operation activities in Abkhazia. These activities were co-funded and implemented by United Nations (UN) agencies as well as by local non-governmental organisations. For instance, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) continued to provide humanitarian assistance mainly in Gali, inter alia by giving direct assistance to those in need through counselling as well as shelter and income generation support. The United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) remained focused on the restoration of basic social services (especially infrastructure rehabilitation) by rehabilitation of schools, small health clinics, maternity wards and water supply systems. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) activities are focused on education, healthcare (including access to primary healthcare and immunisation of children), HIV & Aids (including community support, counselling as well as prevention and awareness programmes), water, sanitation and hygiene for children and physical rehabilitation and other support for children with disabilities.
35. As a donor, the European Union, in addition to Confidence Building Early Response Mechanism (COBERM), supports projects in Abkhazia to facilitate the access to primary healthcare, through the rehabilitation of facilities, training of medical officers, awareness-raising and prevention campaigns. Some projects facilitate contacts between the Abkhaz academic community and European universities, and aim at improving the quality of education. Several projects target sustainable income-generation, through business development training and private sector development, farmers associations and food processing, the development of markets and rehabilitation of land. The projects on education and sustainable income-generation are however reported to be affected by the move towards concentrating co-operation activities in Gali. The EU is also funding a regional research and advocacy project that is intended to strengthen the capacity of
peace-building activities in the South Caucasus.
36. The work of international non-governmental organisations present in Abkhazia, such as the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Action Contre la Faim (ACF), WorldVision and Première Urgence, is primarily focused in Gali. The DRC and NRC work on livelihoods/sustainable income generation as well as legal and shelter assistance. The work of WorldVision, ACF and Première Urgence include EU-supported activities on improving the quality of education, agriculture and farmer’s associations, food processing and the rehabilitation of land.
37. The EU, UNDP and the government of the Netherlands support, through the COBERM, the work of local NGOs which aims to facilitate direct people-to-people contacts across the ABL and seek to improve the environment within divided communities. Various projects in the area of human rights, media, health, youth and education, peace-building and gender issues are implemented mostly by local NGOs in Abkhazia, South Ossetia as well as on the territory controlled by the government of Georgia.
38. Activities in South Ossetia are by nature more limited in character due to a more difficult access. Nevertheless, in the period under review, various projects facilitating people-to-people contacts have been implemented by NGOs, often with support of COBERM. The EU continues (until the end of the year) to fund activities of the OSCE in South Ossetia and adjacent areas on the rehabilitation of water supply systems.
III Human rights situation in the areas affected by the conflict
III.1 Reports on Abkhazia
39. As mentioned in the Introduction to this report, the Secretariat was not able to obtain the agreement of the de facto authorities to visit Abkhazia. The information presented in Chapters III.1.i – III.1.v is based on discussions with the Georgian authorities, civil society representatives, international organisations as well as open sources.
40. It was reported to the Secretariat by different interlocutors that during the reporting period the overall security situation remained mainly calm, but sporadic incidents increased tensions.
41. As reported above, during the period under review, the Gali IPRM mechanism remained non-operational. The interlocutors in charge of security and monitoring of the situation met by the delegation informed that they were expecting it to resume following the nomination of a new Head of the EUMM. In the absence of the IPRM, the hotline continued to function. All international interlocutors underlined the necessity for the IPRM to re-start functioning as early as possible.
42. It was reported to the delegation that, overall, criminality remained at an average level in the reporting period. Figures released in July 2013 by the de facto Ministry of Interior of Abkhazia suggest that serious criminal acts committed in the first semester of the year have reduced by 26% compared to the previous year. Still, several interlocutors have reported to the delegation a rise in criminal activity in the Gali district, referring in particular to new cases of kidnaping. Some civil society interlocutors confirmed that the issue of criminality remains of concern in some parts of Gali.
III.1.ii Freedom of movement
43. According to several interlocutors, freedom of movement is significantly affected by the on-going process of “borderisation”, which is reflected in particular by the creation of ditches and embankments along the ABL since early June 2013. The Georgian government estimated that the length of the trenches across the ABL with Abkhazia was around 3km as of July 2013.
44. The “borderisation” process is said to continue to affect the daily life of the local population, in particular by restricting freedom of movement.
45. It has been reported to the Secretariat that four additional pedestrian crossing points along the ABL were opened during the reporting period in the villages of Nabakevi, Otobaia, Saberio and Tagiloni in the Gali district. According to information provided to the Secretariat by the international interlocutors, approximately 500 vehicles and 1,500 individuals cross the ABL on a daily basis.
46. The Georgian authorities reiterated to the Secretariat that they categorically oppose the work for “borderisation”. The Georgian government issued a number of statements in protest against it. It called upon the Russian Federation to stop and reverse the process. Georgia’s concerns over the “borderisation” process were also raised during the 24th round of the Geneva International Discussions. The Georgian government also keeps on emphasising the importance of the access of international human rights monitoring mechanisms in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
47. Lack of appropriate crossing documents and/or crossing outside the “authorised” crossing points result generally in short-term detentions, which occur regularly. Usually those held are released after paying fines. Figures released by the Russian Federation border guards indicate that since the beginning of 2013, 2 200 individuals were held while crossing the ABL outside of the crossing points, 200 were briefly detained. As stated by the Georgian government, the increased number of detentions demonstrates the importance of resuming the Gali IPRM.
48. Administrative requirements seem to particularly affect freedom of movement. Despite announcements on 18 May that permit requirements have been relaxed for Gali residents (the de facto authorities have reportedly lifted the requirement to obtain single-use crossing permits for residents of the “former” district of Gali), interpretation of document requirements seems to suffer from a lack of co-ordination and/or arbitrary changes of the procedure.
49. Moreover, the crossing regime continues to affect the collection of pensions, salaries and state subsidies by the Georgian authorities, as well as medical care. The use of the hotline proved to be particularly important in addressing problems surrounding crossing for the purpose of receiving medical care.
III.1.iii Issuing of local IDs
50. By the time of the visit, it was estimated by various interlocutors that approximately 20,000 local IDs (“passports”) had been delivered to ethnic Georgians in Abkhazia, including 16,000 for residents of the Gali district. According to various interlocutors, ID delivery problems and difficulty in crossing the ABL remained a pressing concern for the majority of ethnic Georgians in Gali.
51. The issue of access of non-Abkhaz to “passports” is reported to remain highly controversial and divides public opinion in Abkhazia. On 13 May the de facto authorities have suspended their issuing to ethnic Georgian residents of the Gali district. Due to this suspension, no further applications were accepted and documents ready for collection were not distributed. The process was suspended pending the work of a special commission, which was established by the de facto President Ankvab for the purpose of studying whether this process was in compliance with “legislation.”
52. It was reported that the findings of the special commission, which recommended that already issued IDs be cancelled due to the lack of proof of denunciation of Georgian citizenship, were discussed by the de facto parliament on 18 September. Consequently, the 2005 “Law on the citizenship of the Republic of Abkhazia” was immediately amended and further conditions on delivery of “passports” were introduced. Thus, “citizenship of the Republic of Abkhazia” would become void for all persons who obtained citizenship of other States in violation of the provisions of this “law”. Dual citizenship is allowed only with the Russian Federation. Persons involved in anti-constitutional and terrorist activities will not be eligible for citizenship. The effect of these amendments is retroactive to November 2005. They were signed by de facto President Ankvab on the same day.
53. It was also reported that, on 18 September, the de facto Parliament of Abkhazia instructed the de facto General Prosecutor’s Office to investigate cases of illegally obtained “passports” by 31 December 2013, so as to proceed with their cancellation. The de facto Parliament indicated its will to have a draft “Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Republic of Abkhazia” developed rapidly, so as to provide for the introduction of a residence permit for Georgian nationals and for stateless persons.
54. Several interlocutors expressed their concerns that newly adopted amendments to the “Law on citizenship” could potentially deprive thousands of ethnic Georgians of any legal status in Abkhazia. This situation is likely to have a severe impact not only on their freedom of movement, but also on the daily exercise of their basic rights (social, property and other) since the enjoyment of those rights and benefits require an ID. Some interlocutors also expressed the concern that the new rules might lead to movement of a significant proportion of returnees in the Gali district.
III.1.iv Educational issues, including teaching of/in the Georgian language
55. According to the Georgian authorities, the issue of education in general remains an acute problem, in particular in relation to freedom of movement. Concerns also persist about teaching of/in the Georgian language in the Gali district.
56. It was reported to the delegation that the practical solutions found for the ABL crossing by school children from the 9th grade for the school year 2012-2013 were still in place for the new school year starting in September. However, it was unclear at the time of the visit whether these arrangements will be applied for the new school year. On 19 September the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that up to 50 school children residing in the village of Saberio in the Gali district could not cross the ABL to attend their classes in the schools of Pakhulani, Zugdidi district.
III.1.v Military conscription
57. No specific developments have been reported by interlocutors with regard to the question of military conscription of ethnic Georgians in the Abkhaz de facto army. However, some interlocutors recalled that this problem remains acute for a section of the Gali population and their families.
III.1.vi Property rights
58. In early September 2013, de facto President Ankvab indicated that changes were to be introduced in the property-related rules, so as to allow foreigners to purchase non-residential properties in Abkhazia. The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned that any transaction of this type would be considered invalid.
59. The Georgian government and other interlocutors also shared with the delegation their concerns that this change in the rules might particularly affect IDPs and/or ethnic Georgians who are unable to register their properties, in particular due to problems in obtaining the appropriate IDs.
III.2 Reports on South Ossetia
60. The appropriate conditions were not met for the Secretariat to visit Tskhinvali. Therefore, it had no opportunity either to discuss with the de facto authorities the human rights situation on the ground or to reflect on their position.
61. According to interlocutors met in Tbilisi, the main critical development over the reporting period concerns the increasing pace of the “borderisation”, which is reflected by the continued installation of fence extensions and barbed wire along the ABL. The most negative effects of this process have been arbitrary division of private property, obstacles in accessing farms and communal lands, and incursions into the territory under control of the Georgian government. As described in the previous consolidated report, interlocutors indicate that in some villages households have been divided and consequently sometimes find their land or properties situated on the other side of the ABL. Fence extensions particularly are said to affect normal daily life, freedom of movement and farming activities.
62. The Georgian government estimated that the total length of the barbed wire installations along the ABL with South Ossetia was around 30-35km as of July 2013, which has since increased. It has been reported to the delegation by the Georgian authorities that there are now 15 locations/villages affected by the “borderisation”.
63. The situation in the locality of Ditsi drew particular attention, as local residents protested in May 2013 against the installation of fences. Although the fencing activities in Ditsi thereafter stopped momentarily, they resumed again in September, leading to renewed tension with local residents.
64. In addition to reiterating its firm opposition to the plans for the “borderisation” of the ABL, the Georgian government shared with the delegation its strong concerns with the fact that the process has allowed for the ABL to be moved further into the territory under control of the Georgian authorities in several locations.
The South Ossetian de facto Ministry for Foreign Affairs stated in May 2013 that works on “border delimitation” are undertaken in line with “South Ossetia legislation”. It insisted that under control of the Georgian authorities
66. The “borderisation” process and its impact on the local population are regularly raised in the Ergneti IPRM meetings. Participants are encouraged to find pragmatic solutions.
67. As for incidents, the EUMM continued to monitor the situation on the ABL. One shooting incident on the ABL with South Ossetia was reported during the period under review. After activation of the hotline, all sides agreed to avoid actions that may contribute to destabilise the situation.
68. According to different interlocutors, there are no significant changes in the frequency of movements since the last visit of the Secretariat. However, it was reported that on 18 June the de facto South Ossetian authorities adopted a new regulation regarding the crossing of the ABL, which implies further restriction on freedom of movement.
69. As reported to the delegation, this new crossing regime designed to consolidate the “border” would introduce a ban on the use of vehicles across the ABL and would strictly limit the allowed weight and value of goods carried by individuals. Initially announced for 18 September, the entry into force of the ban was postponed to
1 December. Several interlocutors stressed that these regulations risk worsening the humanitarian situation in South Ossetia and especially access to Akhalgori. They could also create difficulties for cases of medical crossing that require a vehicle, and/or lead to an increase in cases of “illegal” crossing of the ABL.
70. Alleged violations of the “border” regime by the local population keep resulting in short-term detentions by the de facto authorities. The issue is regularly addressed within the framework of the IPRM.
71. Moreover, according to the Georgian authorities, in the reporting period no prisoners were exchanged between the Georgian side and the de facto authorities.
III.3 The situation of Internally Displaced Persons
72. As regards the right of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to a safe, dignified and voluntary return, no progress can be reported.
73. Regarding housing, the government informed the delegation of the progress achieved in the implementation of its action plan for IDPs during the reporting period. In particular, it emphasised that durable housing solutions have been provided for 530 families. Durable housing solutions have been identified for 52 additional families in rural areas and 60 families in Tbilisi and are in the process of being implemented. In addition, the government’s objective is to provide 1 500 further families with durable housing solutions by the end of 2013. This would positively affect the living conditions of 8 000 IDPs.
74. Moreover, by the beginning of 2014 the government is planning to launch the construction of additional buildings for 7 000 families in Tbilisi and 3 000 families in Batumi. Funding for these projects was secured through international donors.
75. The government also informed the delegation that negotiations with collective centres in view of the transfer of ownership to the MRA are continuing.
76. The delegation was informed by the government that it has concluded arrangements with international partners with a view to providing health care and education services to IDPs.
77. The revised draft law on IDPs is currently being assessed by the government and could be submitted to the Parliament during the autumn legislative session. Its entry into force is planned for the beginning of 2014. The MRA underlined that the text was drafted in a consultative manner, through working groups that included several ministries, NGOs and international experts.
78. One of the main novelties of the draft law is the definition of IDPs which now would also be applicable to people who are not from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but have been displaced from areas along the ABL. The draft law also regroups all previously existing categories of IDPs under a single revised definition and substantially increases the allowances to be allocated to IDPs. It also addresses the issue of IDP children, by specifying that only those children both parents of whom are IDPs can be granted the status of IDP. The draft law also sets criteria for access to durable housing solutions, through a more transparent approach and with the creation of a redress mechanism.
79. The MRA informed the delegation that a process of re-registration of IDPs is being conducted from 1 August to 27 December 2013. The process aims at obtaining a clearer picture of the IDP population in view of providing more targeted support measures. Re-registration is mandatory. In case an IDP fails to re-register, his/her status will not be renewed when the new law will come into force.
80. The MRA indicated that individuals who falsely benefited from the IDP status until now will not be prosecuted. A special commission will address the situation of those IDPs who do not enjoy the legal IDP status for various reasons. Those who do meet all the requirements would begin receiving allowances by 5 March 2014.
81. Twelve administrative commissions have been deployed on the field to proceed with the re-registration process in 61 locations (including near the ABL with Abkhazia) and in 10 districts in Tbilisi. Also to be noted, simplified procedures have been established for disabled people, and dedicated services are put in place for IDPs currently serving prison terms and/or receiving medical treatment in a hospital.
82. According to government statistics, close to 95 000 IDPs have already completed the administrative requirements for re-registration as of 14 September 2013. The IDP registration process is closely monitored by the relevant international and national NGOs. At the time of the visit, all interlocutors expressed a general satisfaction with the implementation of the registration strategy, although it was noted that IDPs are not sufficiently informed of the risk of losing their status if they do not re-register.
83. Although the MRA does not foresee any specific complication for IDPs living on the other side of the ABL, several interlocutors appeared preoccupied by the fact that IDPs residing in the Gali district might not be able to cross the ABL to re-register, due to ID problems.
IV Activities of Council of Europe organs and institutions and their follow-up
IV.1. Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
84. The President of the Assembly paid an official visit to Georgia from 28 to 29 May 2013. He met with the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Education and Science, as well as the State Minister for Reintegration and representatives of the parliamentary opposition.
85. The President reiterated the importance attached by the PACE to Georgia’s territorial integrity and expressed the hope that an easing of relations between Georgia and Russia would help establish a favourable environment for finding solutions to the conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. He called on all parties to abstain from taking unilateral measures, as they might revive tensions on the ABL.
86. The President underlined that it was essential to find a way of ensuring that the Assembly’s rapporteur on the humanitarian consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia, Ms Acketoft (Sweden, ALDE), could travel to South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
IV.1.ii Monitoring Committee
87. The co-rapporteurs on Georgia Mr Cilevics (Latvia, SOC) and Mr Jensen (Denmark, ALDE), and the Co-rapporteurs on the Russian Federation, Ms Bakoyannis (Greece, EPP/CD), and Mr Gross (Switzerland, SOC), under the aegis of the Chairperson of the Monitoring Committee, Mr Herkel (Estonia, EPP/CD), prepared an information note on the relevant developments with regard to “the consequences of the war between Russia and Georgia” and their findings with regard to the implementation of Assembly demands, as expressed in its resolutions on this subject.
88. For this purpose, the co-rapporteurs and the Chairman of the Committee conducted a fact-finding visit to Russia and Georgia from 12 to 16 May 2013. The meetings that were scheduled to take place in Tskhinvali and Sukhumi, through the intermediary of the Russian delegation to PACE, were cancelled shortly before the visit, when the de facto authorities indicated that they refused to receive the delegation. The information note (AS/Mon(2013)14rev) was debated in the Monitoring Committee on
27 June 2013.
89. On 23 September, the co-rapporteurs expressed their concern “about the resumption of the installation of fences and other physical obstacles by Russian border guards along the administrative borderlines with South Ossetia and Abkhazia.” In this respect they indicated that they are “especially concerned about the fact that on several places these obstacles are constructed deep into Tbilisi administered territory thereby moving the de facto boundaries.” They stated that “fences and obstacles violate the cease fire agreement and are detrimental for livelihood of persons living in the border zone, irrespective of on which side of the boundaries they live.” They called upon Russia and the de facto authorities in South Ossetia and Abkhazia “to halt the construction of such border works and to allow the free movement of civilians across the administrative borderlines.”
IV.2 Commissioner for Human Rights
90. The Commissioner continued to follow up human rights issues related to the August 2008 armed conflict in Georgia, including the situation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and other persons affected by the conflict. He continued his dialogue with the Georgian authorities with a view to addressing the consequences of the conflict, including cases of missing persons. In April and May 2013, the Commissioner had meetings with the Prime Minister, the Chief Prosecutor and the Ombudsman. The Commissioner plans to visit Georgia in the beginning of 2014.
IV.3 Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
91. On 18 June 2013 the Congress discussed a letter sent by Mr Mamuka Abuladze, President of the National Association of Local Authorities of Georgia, concerning the installation of wire fences along the ABL. In his letter Mr Abuladze expressed the view that this installation constitutes a violation of the principles enshrined in the European Charter of Local Self-Government. In his letter of 22 July 2013, Secretary General of the Congress Kiefer assured Mr Abuladze that the Congress would continue to observe the situation with the post-monitoring process that has started with a view to the drawing up of a roadmap for the implementation of Recommendation 334(2013) on the situation of local and regional democracy in Georgia. Preliminary discussions were held on 2 July, on the occasion of the occasion of the meeting of the Monitoring Committee in Tbilisi.
IV.4 Operational activities & Confidence-Building Measures and follow-up proposed
(a) Activities organised during the reporting period
92. The Council of Europe has provided support since 1 July 2013 to a project of the Public Defender (Ombudsman) on human rights of IDPs. The project is funded by a voluntary contribution of Switzerland and is co-funded by the UNHCR. The project aims to enable the Public Defender’s Office to monitor the situation of IDPs and individuals from adjacent to the ABL (including through regular monitoring visits to IDPs settlements and villages), with a particular focus on the re-registration process. It also aims at suggesting remedies to particular shortcomings in certain policy areas (e.g. living conditions, health care). In addition, the project seeks to provide vulnerable groups of IDPs with legal assistance and to raise awareness on the situation of IDPs and the difficulties they face.
93. At the request of the Georgian government, a project on fighting gender based violence is being implemented as part of the government’s action to provide psychological support to IDPs. A second project under elaboration aims at raising awareness among IDPs of their rights and of existing possibilities to find legal, medical and social support.
94. The Council of Europe continued to work in close co-operation and consultation with relevant actors to implement the projects proposed by the Secretary General in the previous consolidated reports.
95. A meeting was held in Tbilisi on 11 September 2013 to start work on methodology and content for history teaching, with the participation of civil society and academics from Georgia as well as European experts. The work will be followed up in other similar meetings with broader participation from civil society from the whole region.
96. Contacts have been made with representatives of NGOs from South Ossetia with a view to elaborating activities in the coming months.
97. Contacts with the Liaison Mechanism for the preparation of the activities confirmed that the Abkhaz side continues to be interested in enlarging the participation format to the countries in the region and to hold events in other places in Europe, including in EU countries.
(b) Plans for further action
98. A seminar will be organised from 2 to 4 October 2013 at the CoE European Language Centre in Graz (Austria) for teachers and teacher trainers on language learning. The aim of the seminar is to make participants better acquainted with current European practices and approaches to language learning, especially in multicultural environments.
99. As a follow-up to the expert mission conducted in Tbilisi on 29-30 January 2013 at the request of the SMR to discuss with the Georgian authorities ways in which the implementation of the current legislation can be further improved, further contacts are currently being made through the Secretariat with a view to analysing and discussing how the experts’ recommendations could be implemented in practice.
100. During the period under review, the Secretariat continued to discuss with interlocutors on both sides of the ABL different possibilities for co-operation in 2013 and 2014. In particular, it is envisaged to organise an event in a format similar to the one held in Graz, but for professionals involved in the conservation of architectural heritage.
101. Recently made new proposals for CBMs transmitted by Georgian authorities (and which focus on issues of language, cultural heritage and youth) are also being taken into account for future activities.
102. The Secretariat is also exploring proposals to follow up on previous work with journalists, teachers and artists.
List of acronyms and abbreviations
ABL Administrative Boundary Line
COBERM Confidence-Building Early Response Mechanism
EU European Union
EUMM European Monitoring Mission in Georgia
IDs Identity Documents
IDPs Internally Displaced Persons
IPRM Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism
MRA Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia
PDO Public Defender’s Office
SMR State Minister for Reintegration
UN United Nations
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
UNICEF United Nations Children’s Fund
 It is a fundamental objective of the member states of the Council of Europe to uphold the territorial integrity of Georgia. However, the Russian Federation recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states on 26 August 2008.
 The agreement to resume road transportation was reached following a meeting of delegations from the Russian Transportation Ministry and the Georgian Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development on 6-7 August in Moscow.
 In particular,
Statement of MFA Panjikidze on 8 August.
Statement of PM Ivanishvili on 3 July.
Statement of First Deputy Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani on 13 September.
 Statement of SMR Zakareishvili on 8 August.
 OSCE-implemented and EU-funded water project in Zonkari.
 The de facto authorities continued to insist on changing the existing format of the Geneva Discussions with the purpose of upgrading the status of its negotiators from “participants” to “delegations”.
 The meeting was facilitated by the OSCE Chairmanship of the Geneva International Discussions.
 Cf. Regulation of the Government of Georgia No. 320 Tbilisi October 2010 “Modalities for Engagement of Organizations Conducting Activities in the Occupied Territories of Georgia”.
 On 13 September, Mr Toivo Klaar, Head of Division for Human Resources Policy and Coordination in the EEAS, was appointed the new head of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM).
 Statement of the MFA on 19 September 2013.
 The purchasing of residential properties is still excluded.
 The incident occurred on 10 August 2013 near Kveshi.
 The process is being regulated by MRA Order #287,16 July 2013.