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Shameful Paradox – Visa Regime In the Native Country

03.05.2010
 
Mari Otarashvili

We can travel to Akhalgori district after taking “visa” – temporary permission which is issued by the Mtskheta district security service department. The people, who wish to travel to Akhalgori shall be interviewed in the department. The issue of each applicant shall be discussed within the estimated term and it will take several days to make decision. In fact, the security service department acts as a consulate. The head of the consulate has functions of the consul. People already call the permit “visa”.

People, who are not registered in Akhalgori, have to take the so-called visa. Those documents have deadline. Some of them expire in one day, others in three days; there are three-month-permits too. If a person has obtained the “visa” from Mtskheta district security service, he shall travel to Akhalgori on the indicated date; otherwise the visa is expired and he cannot travel to the district.

Akhalgori district population said the Mtskheta district security service often denies them to issue the document at all.

Deputy Head of the Mtskheta district administration Valodia Shermadini spoke about the temporary permits. He said the applicants, who are not registered in the district and do not have house in Akhalgori, shall take special procedures at the Mtskheta district security service to get the permit for the estimated time (one day, three days or one month).

Valodia Shermadini: “The old rules are still in force about the traveling to Akhalgori district. Those, who are registered in the district and have house there, receive the permit issued by the regional government and it is enough to pass Georgian checkpoint. If a person does not have any property in Akhalgori, the purpose of his visit shall be studied by special agencies – where and why he is going, etc. In the permit we also write how many days he is going to stay there. For example, we issue one-day, three-day or one-month permits. We can issue permanent documents on the people who are not registered in Akhalgori but own house there. The others – family members, relatives and friends of the Akhalgori district residents, shall take temporary permits. They will be restricted in time while traveling.”

Shermadini added that temporary notifications and control of people’s traveling in the district has certain reasons: “Transportation is restricted because we do not know where the person is going. When we allow him/her to travel to Akhalgori, we take serious responsibility. If we do not know the person, or he is a distant relative of the local resident, we cannot take responsibility of his safety. Yes, nothing serious is going on there but we are not completely safe. In addition to that, if a person has not visited the district for 10-20 years, and wants to travel there now, of course we inquire why he wants to go there. At least, our purpose is protection of the people’s safety. We have estimated some restrictions for the people who we do not know well”.

The Law of Georgia about Occupied Territories supports the adoption of this rule. The law states: “emergency situation is in force in the occupied territories within this law. Besides that - special legal regime works in the territory which aims restrictions for the free transportation in the area, implementation of the economical activities envisaged in the law, agreements on the private properties and other issues envisaged under the law.”

Article 4 of the Law has title – “restriction of the free movement in the occupied territory.” It states: 1. foreign citizens and people lacking the citizenship cannot enter the occupied territories; a) in the territories of the autonomous republic of Abkhazia – from Zugdidi district; b) in Tskhinvali region (former autonomous oblast of South Ossetia) –from Gori district. 2. Except the cases discussed in the first part of the article, traveling to the occupied territories from other places and people lacking the citizenship cannot travel to Abkhazia and it is punished under the Criminal Code of Georgia; 3. In particular cases, special notification can be released for the traveling to the occupied territories in accordance to the legal act released by the government of Georgia, if the purpose of the travel is within the state interests of Georgia, serves peaceful regulation of the conflict, de-occupation or humanitarian purpose.”

Apparently, the Mtskheta district security service acts in accordance to the law when they issue temporary traveling permits to the people. Officially, they protect the safety of citizens.

Conflict scientist Paata Zakareishvili said the introduction of the temporary permits or “visas” in fact does not serve state interests, peaceful resolution of the conflict, de-occupation or humanitarian purpose as it is written in the law; it aims to empty the Akhalgori district from people.

“It is policy to terrorize and threaten population in order to make them bored with living in the district. The history of the mother and son demonstrates the shameful Georgian politics as well, who were traveling to Tbilisi for medical treatment but Georgian police did not allow them to go. Later, after the clergyman interfered in their case, the policemen allowed them to go to Tbilisi,” said Paata Zakareishvili.

The head of the non-governmental organization “Law for People” Zakaria Kutsnashvili states the same.

Zakaria Kutsnashvili: “Apparently, they have attached similar permissions to the law about Occupied Territories and based on it, they issue the notifications. There is no other legal basis to issue similar notifications about the transportation of the citizens within the Georgian territory. The people called those permissions “visas”.

Kutsnashvili added that transportation across the administrative borders of the occupied territories shall be encouraged and supported instead restriction. “We should not create obstacles for our citizens to return to their houses; just the opposite – we should encourage them to stay in the occupied territories. These permits create barriers for people to return to their homes instead encouraging them. Just the opposite, they make the people lose wish to go to the district and it is very bad.”

Indeed, it is interesting does the Law about Occupied Territories support peaceful resolution of the conflict when it does not promote restoration of human relationship between the conflict parties? The humanrights.ge will continue working on this problem in future too.
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