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The European Union Delegation to the Council of Europe issues the following statement in agreement with the EU Heads of Mission to the Council of Europe.
The EU welcomes the Secretary General’s seventeenth consolidated report on the conflict in Georgia. The EU considers important to keep this issue high on the political agenda of the CoE and encourages the Secretary General to continue the submission of such reports covering, inter alia, the question of human rights protection in the areas affected by the conflict in Georgia.
The EU reaffirms its firm support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders.
The EU expresses its deep concern about the state of play in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and for the continuous deterioration of the human rights situation in these regions. The EU remains highly committed to support peace building and conflict resolution in Georgia, including through its co-chairmanship of the Geneva International Discussions and the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) on the ground.
The EU renews its call on the authorities exercising effective control to remove any impediment, restriction or limitation to the right of freedom of movement across the Administrative Boundary Lines (ABLs), to prevent arbitrary detention of persons, including in the context of so-called “illegal border crossing”, to prevent ethnic–based discrimination, to re-open crossing points and to investigate all allegations of crimes and human rights violations on the ground.
The EU is particularly concerned about: (i) obstacles to the freedom of movement, (ii) arbitrary detentions, (iii) a continued discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, (iv) a deepening of the documentation gap for ethnic Georgians in the Gali district of Abkhazia, (v) restrictions on access to education in one’s native language in both entities, and (vi) a violation of property rights, including the razing in the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia of the ruins of houses belonging to internally displaced persons
The EU reiterates its concern at reports on a continuing deterioration of access to education in the mother tongue in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We join the efforts of the Co-Chairs of the Geneva International Discussions to promote understanding and respect for the universal right to education of the child and for education in the native language. Furthermore, the continuous deepening of the documentation gap for ethnic Georgians in the Gali district of Abkhazia has further exacerbated the already inadequate access of local residents to basic rights and services.
The detention of three ethnic Georgians in Tskhinvali on 22 February and subsequent death in custody of Mr Archil Tatunashvili may reflect a worrying trend. Handing over the body of Mr Archil Tatunashvili to his relatives, which is a matter of human dignity, should not have taken almost one month and become a topic for negotiations. Impunity surrounding this fatal incident reminds of the Otkhozoria case in May 2016. Such impunity has a major negative impact on human security. The EU calls for a thorough investigation into these cases and for justice to be applied.
The EU welcomes the Georgian Government initiative “A step to a better future” that can benefit the citizens living on the both sides of the ABLs by facilitating trade, education and mobility. We support initiatives aimed at building bridges across dividing lines and addressing humanitarian challenges.
The EU regrets the continued refusal by Russia and participants from Tskhinvali and Sukhumi to engage on the topic of refugees and displaced persons in the Geneva International Discussions. The EU recalls that this topic is at the core of the mandate of the Geneva International Discussions. The continued boycott jeopardizes the entire dialogue mechanism.
The EU strongly supports all ongoing and planned confidence-building activities of the CoE, which are complementary to the efforts of the Co-Chairs of the Geneva International Discussions and which present unique opportunities to bring together civil society members of all parties involved. The EU will continue to support a wide range of humanitarian and human rights protection, development and other co-operation actions in the Georgian region of Abkhazia, in partnership also with international and local NGOs, in particular through the Confidence-Building and Response Mechanism. The EU calls for unimpeded humanitarian access to South Ossetia, where similar actions are needed.
The EU regrets that the delegation of the Secretariat, the monitoring bodies and the CoE Human Rights Commissioner have not been granted access to the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The EU urges the conduct of assessments of the human rights situation in the breakaway regions by international human rights monitors and calls for follow-up activities to existing assessments done by the civil society or independent experts
The EU reiterates its concern about the continuing Russian illegal military presence, increased military exercises and infrastructure reinforcements in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The EU condemns the implementation of the so-called treaties and deriving agreements, such as the one incorporating military formations of South Ossetia region into armed forces of the Russian Federation. The EU is deeply concerned by an intensification of the so-called “borderisation” process along the Administrative Boundary Lines (ABLs) and takes note that the length of fenced segments has further increased along with the placement of surveillance equipment and other barriers. In this context the opening of a so-called customs point on the ABL with South Ossetia and the Russian Federation’s customs office in Sukhumi are particularly worrisome.
The EU calls on the Russian Federation to fully implement the agreement of 12 August 2008 and the Implementing Measures of 8 September 2008, and to provide the EU Monitoring Mission with access to the regions. The EU calls on the authorities exercising effective control to facilitate access to the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia for the relevant bodies of the CoE.
The following countries Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Republic of Moldova, "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", Turkey and Ukraine align themselves with this statement.