The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights visited Georgia from 27 November to 3 December. He was determined to contribute to the release of detainees and to family reunification during his mission. He achieved the following: two Georgian teenage school boys who were being detained in Tskhinvali since 4 November 2009 were released, and a firm commitment was given by the leadership in Tskhinvali that the remaining two would be released in the morning of 13 December 2009. Furthermore, five Ossetians were released from Gori and could also join their families.
However, there are a number of other cases of people who are detained on both sides and remain separated from their families. The momentum of positive steps which started this week must continue. A firm stance should be taken by the relevant authorities against kidnapping and the taking and keeping of people as hostages. A clear message must be delivered that such acts are serious crimes, which will not be tolerated.
Also, there are cases of people who are missing. The Commissioner would like to stress that a person’s disappearance is a grave violation of his or her rights with far-reaching effects. Disappearances have a profound effect on the whole of society, starting with the individual’s close family and friends, all of whom suffer from not knowing. It is the Commissioner’s deep belief that it is necessary to establish the full truth in all these cases. They include three young Ossetians who were filmed in captivity in October last year. Their fate must be clarified.
The overall purpose of the visit of the Commissioner for Human Rights was to assess the progress on the implementation of the six principles for urgent human rights and humanitarian protection, which he formulated in the immediate aftermath of the August 2008 conflict.
Those principles are the right to return; the right of displaced persons and others affected by the conflict to care and support; the right to protection against lawlessness; ensuring the release of detainees and the return of mortal remains; ensuring the removal of explosive remnants of war; and international access and presence.
There is considerable progress, but further steps are needed in order to ensure full implementation of the six principles. This is what the Commissioner’s forthcoming report will analyse. It will include concrete recommendations.
The Commissioner emphasised during the press conference that “ordinary people must be protected from the consequences of the conflict”. He is ready to continue to assist the parties towards this goal.