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Dialogue in the neutral territory of Ergneti village – expectations and results


Lado Bitchashvili, Shida Kartli

On March 1, the Government of Georgia temporarily suspended participation in the meetings organized in the frame of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM). The reason of their protest was the delayed delivery of Archil Tatunashvili’s body from the occupied side. On March 20, after the body of Archil Tatunashvili was handed to the Georgian side, the deputy director of the analytic department of the State Security Service Kakhaber Kemoklidze announced the meetings in Ergneti will resume.

The EUMM called on the parties to resume the meetings in the frame of IPRM in Ergneti. 

“The EUMM reaffirms its readiness to support ongoing investigations and to facilitate discussions through the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM),” the statement was published on the official website of EUMM on March 20.

Humanrights.ge interviewed the head of the nongovernmental organization Ergneti Lia Chlachidze and the reporter of the Radio Liberty Goga Aptsiauri about the results of the IPRM meetings.

“The IPRM which was created in the frame of the Geneva Discussions is another format for regular discussion of security issues. Representatives of Tbilisi, Tskhinvali, Russian occupation armed forces and EMM participate in the meetings. Hotline is also functioning that is good instrument and generally this mechanism is important because it is the only mechanism to respond to daily-based violations. I think this format shall enlarge and involve representatives of the Shida Kartli region civil society. If somebody thinks that Ossetian side responds to problems without Russia, he/she is naïve. Thus, participation of Russia as a party in these meetings is very important,” Lia Chlachidze said, who added that the agenda of the IPRM meetings shall change. 

“They respond only to kidnappings. Mostly the meetings are dedicated to the issue of releasing kidnapped people. I remember the only positive outcome from the meetings that was exchange of prisoners and release of detainees,” Lia Chlachidze said, who added that with approaching Easter Holiday the IDPs get worried as they want to go to the cemeteries of their family members in the occupied territory. Chlachidze said there were negotiations to allow the IDPs to visit the graves of their family members at least for several hours but neither Tskhinvali de-facto authority nor the Russian armed forces take responsibility to ensure security in the region. 

Lia Chlachidze, chairwoman of the NGO Ergneti: “The Government of Georgia several times raised this issue but the opposite side responded that they could not ensure security. It is possible to arrange so-called humanitarian corridor and allow the people to go to the cemeteries for some hours. Although there are up to 4 000 Russian soldiers in the Tskhinvali based Russian military bases, there is not enough political will from Russia to make decision. It is not up to Tskhinvali de-facto authority to decide letting Georgian people into the occupied territory or not.”

Reporter of the Radio Liberty Goga Aftsiauri said in parallel to the investigation into Tatunashvili’s case the parties will not avoid speaking about his death during the meetings in the frame of IPRM. 

“The Georgian expertise bureau has some data about Tatunashvili’s case and soon they will deliver the conclusion, which will answer all questions. I saw the body and what I noticed his wrists were chopped – it was first time I saw similar thing. It is fact that the man was tortured. After the expertise confirms his torture and inhuman treatment, the issue of estimation perpetrators and their punishment will be raised in the frame of these meetings,” Goga Aptsiauri said and added that people expected more from those meetings than we received. 

Goga Aptsiauri, reporter of the Radio Liberty. “The meetings in the frame of the IPRM do not have big results but it has some positive results for the farmers living on the ABL during spring works. There were cases when people came from the occupied territory and seized tractors, harvest from farmers and scared them. In similar situation the agreement is reached about farmers’ security and I think now too it will be the main topic of the meeting to assist the citizens of Georgia to conduct their agricultural activities peacefully. Besides that, when we speak about results and agreements, they [Ossetian side] released irrigation water into Tiriponi irrigation channel, which served inhabitants of both Georgian and Ossetian villages.”

The journalist, who often reports about the citizens of Georgia, who arrested for illegal crossing of the border, evaluated the IPRM meetings and the hotline as very important. 

“I think the most important is the hotline which aims to assist the kidnapped citizens. I mean those people who accidentally approach the banners of the so-called border and get arrested. Recent fact happened several days ago, when two citizens were arrested but were released in one day. Although the meetings were suspended, their release was managed through hotline service. Ergneti meetings do not have huge achievements but on the grassroot level there is some progress,” Aftsiauri said. 

The meetings in the neutral territory of Ergneti in the frame of IPRM will resume from April.

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