Joint Statement of the GoF of Georgia on the ECHR judgment in the case Georgia vs. Russia

Permanent Council, Vienna, 15 April 2021. Delivered by Czech Republic on behalf of Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Joint Statement of the Group of Friends of Georgia on the ECHR judgment in the case Georgia vs. Russia and the Geneva International Discussions

1. We reaffirm our full support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.

2. We welcome Deputy Foreign Minister Lasha Darsalia to the Permanent Council and value Georgia’s efforts to keep the Permanent Council informed of developments in the conflict resolution process and on the ground.

3. We welcome Georgia’s compliance with the 12 August 2008 EU-mediated ceasefire agreement and call upon the Russian Federation to fulfill immediately its clear obligation under the ceasefire agreement to withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions, as well as its commitments to allow unfettered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and not to impede creation of international security arrangements on the ground. We urge Russia to reverse its recognition of the so-called independence of Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.

4. We note the recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case concerning the armed conflict between Georgia and the Russian Federation in August 2008 and its consequences including its findings that Russia has been exercising effective control over Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia following the 12th August 2008 ceasefire agreement, including through its military presence. The Court also established Russia’s responsibilities for the torture of Georgian Prisoners of War; the killings of Georgian civilians; preventing the return of ethnic Georgians to their homes; illegal and arbitrary detentions; and the failure to conduct investigations into human rights violations. We note that Russia continues to maintain its strong military presence in contravention of its obligation under the 2008 EU-mediated ceasefire agreement. The judgment re-enforces the calls for Russia to stop its continuing violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

5. We are concerned that human rights abuses are ongoing as the Russian Federation continues to violate Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, arbitrarily detain Georgian citizens, and restrict their movement, inter alia. We call on Russia to fully comply with the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment, including by allowing internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their homes in safety and dignity.

6. At the same time, we are concerned by the ongoing provocations by the Russian Federation and the regimes in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali that have continued unabated amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We are particularly concerned over the installation of barbed wire fences and other artificial barriers along the administrative boundary lines (ABLs), the lengthy closure of so-called crossing points along the ABLs, the ethnic discrimination against Georgians residing in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions, and ongoing arbitrary detentions. We call for the immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained. The tragic death of four Georgian citizens who drowned in the Enguri River while attempting to get to the Georgian government-controlled territory in the beginning of April is another illustration of the grave consequences of the continuing restrictions on movement for members of the local population.

7. We condemn the killing of Georgian citizens Archil Tatunashvili, Giga Otkhozoria, and Davit Basharuli, and urge the Russian Federation to remove any obstacles to bringing the perpetrators to justice. In this context, we reiterate our support for Georgia’s preventive steps aimed at eradicating impunity, and note the adoption of the Otkhozoria-Tatunashvili List by the government of Georgia.

8. Mr. Minister, we note the 52nd round of the Geneva International Discussions (GID) on 25 and 26 March and support the GID as a critical format to address the security, human rights, and humanitarian challenges stemming from the unresolved Russia-Georgia conflict. We underline the necessity of progress on the core issues of the discussions, including on the non-use of force, establishing international security arrangements in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions and ensuring the safe, dignified, and voluntary return of IDPs in accordance with international law.

9. We express our support for the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) in Ergneti and Gali and emphasize the important role they can have in preventing the escalation of the conflict and in helping protect the safety and security of people on the ground. We express our great concern over the lengthy suspension of the Gali IPRM. We stress the necessity of resuming the meetings in Gali without further delay or pre-conditions, and underscore the importance of the functioning of both IPRMs in full respect of the founding principles and ground rules.

10. We reaffirm our unwavering support for the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) and call upon the Russian Federation to allow the EUMM to implement its mandate in full, including by enabling the EUMM’s access on both sides of the administrative boundary lines. We call on Russia to refrain from politicizing or spreading false propaganda about the work of the EUMM, which has continued to fulfill a critical role throughout the pandemic.

11. We support the Georgian government’s ‘A Step to a Better Future’ peace initiative, aimed at improving the humanitarian and socio-economic conditions of people residing in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions and at fostering confidence building among divided communities, and look forward to supporting the implementation of projects through the related “Peace Fund for a Better Future.”

12. We encourage the OSCE’s engagement in the process of finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Georgia. We regret the closure of the OSCE mission to Georgia in 2009 and encourage the OSCE participating States to decide to re-open the OSCE cross-dimensional mission in Georgia, including a monitoring capacity able to operate unhindered across the administrative boundary lines. The re-opening of the mission would strengthen considerably the OSCE’s engagement in the GID and IPRMs, and in implementation of confidence-building measures.