Tamar Kintsurashvili – Ossetian IDPs Can Return before the Commission Is Set Up
Tea Topuria, Information Center of Mtskheta-Mtianeti
Although law about restitution was passed in Georgia, the process of return of Ossetian refugees and restitution of their properties has reached deadlock in fact. Expert Zurab Bendianashvili said the law is still-born.
In 1990, President Zviad Gamsakhurdia abolished the autonomy of South Ossetian Oblast that resulted into military hostilities in Tskhinvali. In parallel to it, ethnic Ossetians were persecuted throughout Georgian territory.
Zurab Bendianashvili, Coalition for IDP Rights: “The situation was out of control. Ossetian people were persecuted by various paramilitary groups. They acted in the name of the late President Gamsakhurdia; however, it is still unclear whether they really acted under his instructions or they wanted to obtain the properties of ethnic Ossetians. Similar facts happened in Tbilisi too when Ossetian people were expelled from their houses. One part of Ossetian population fled from Georgia at that time.”
In 2006, Georgia passed law about restitution which ensured Ossetian IDPs’ return to their places of residence. The law was passed in accordance to the responsibility of Georgia before the Council of Europe. Zurab Bendianashvili said the law was still-born because it did not rely on any surveys. Additionally, the law envisaged establishment of two-sided commission whose members were to be representatives of international organizations as well as of Georgian and Ossetian parties. The Commission was not established in practice.
Zurab Bendianashvili: “We do not even know the exact number of IDPs. Many ethnic Ossetians left Georgia due to financial problems. We cannot check the real motive of their migration if social migrants decide to repatriate to Georgia. Besides that, it is unclear who will represent the Ossetian side – de-facto authority, NGO sector or somebody else. Initially, they held some meetings but then new wave of military operations started that was followed by the war in August of 2008 and the process finally stopped.”
Deputy Secretary of the Georgian National Security Council Tamar Kintsurashvili said the Georgian authority allowed Ossetian IDPs to return to Georgia by adopting the law about restitution. Both state budget and international communities were to allocate relevant funds to aid the restitutees. However, Ossetian side did not take part in the negotiations and the commission was not set up.
Tamar Kintsurashvili: “South Ossetia’s de-facto government and Ossetian civil society were invited to the negotiation process. But they did not wish to take part in it. They cannot independently make decisions and it explains their action.
I do not think the law is not working. In 2004, before the law went into force, 26 families were repatriated in Bakuriani based on the president’s decree. Houses and cattle were purchased for them. Afterwards, 40 more families had opportunity to repatriate into Georgia.
Tamar Kintsurashvili underscored that since 2009 ethnic minorities had chance to enter institutions based on their quotas. In 2010, Azerbaijan and Armenian population had chance to take United National Exams [to enter high schools] in their native languages. Before educational process they had to attend Georgian training course. In 2011 the same provision went into force for Abkhaz students; this year Ossetian students will also enjoy this right.
Tamar Kintsurashvili said the number of Ossetian IDPs will be estimated based on the Venice Commission Conclusion which states that 68 000 ethnic Ossetian people and 10 000 ethnic Georgian people became internally displaced due to military operations. She said, the government still continues negotiations with Ossetian side about restitution but no exact results are expected in near future.
Tamar Kintsurashvili: “This law is still in force and hopefully the international organizations will be more active as mediators to encourage more people to return.”
She said if they desire, Ossetian IDPs can return to Georgia before the commission is set up. “There are various instruments where these issues can be resolved.”
It is still unclear what the Georgian side will offer to Ossetian side – compensation, renovation of their old houses or construction of new ones. The law does not regulate these details. The Commission was to discuss similar cases but it was not set up. Zurab Bendianashvili said repatriation of the population shall be priority in this case and not compensations because most IDPs will be eager to apply only for the compensations.
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