Georgia: Special follow up mission to the areas affected by the South Ossetia conflict (Georgia)
Right to return
By mid-November, 85 percent of all persons displaced from the previous "buffer zone" had returned to their homes. There are some important gaps in the humanitarian support provided to the returnees, which need to be swiftly addressed. Private construction work is under way and commendable efforts are being made by international inter-governmental and non-governmental humanitarian organisations to secure adequate living conditions for the victims.
Livelihood and income generating projects are urgently needed to allow them to meet their daily needs to prevent new movements of displacement. The aid must also be extended to the persons who never left the areas during the hostilities, notably elderly and mixed families and to assist them in getting through the winter.
The great majority of those who fled to Russia have returned. Ethnic Georgians who fled southwards have not been able to move back. The Commissioner discussed the principle of the right to return with the de facto authorities in Tskhinvali. The de facto authorities indicated that they accepted and would respect this principle, provided that those who wished to return fulfilled certain criteria. These were non-participation in the hostilities and becoming a citizen of South Ossetia. This policy should be reviewed and brought in line with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Commissioner intends to continue his human rights dialogue with the relevant actors on this issue.
Rights of displaced persons to care and support Some 37 500 individuals continue to be displaced and their living conditions need to be urgently addressed with winter approaching. The Commissioner expresses his serious concern over the fact that the Georgian government, despite the substantial assistance of the international community, still has not managed to secure adequate living conditions and support to a number of those who continue to be displaced. Government efforts are equally needed to guarantee the rights of the more than 223 000 IDPs from previous conflicts. Income-generating projects are urgently required for their daily needs to be met.
The Commissioner emphasises that both the displaced and the returnees should be consulted when devising temporary or longer term solutions for them. There is a need to step up information efforts as regards their entitlements, benefits and choices. The measures taken towards improving the situation of IDPs are no substitute for their right to return and they must be able to end their displaced status, including through local integration if they so choose. The Georgian government has committed itself to finding a durable solution for all displaced persons by 2011, irrespective of whether they originate from the 2008 or 1991-92 conflicts.
Right to be protected against dangers from remnants of war
Major efforts by the Russian forces were made in a short time span to clear large areas of the former "buffer zone" and other affected areas from unexploded ordnance and remnants of war. A major obstacle to the safety of returnees in the adjacent areas to the administrative border with South Ossetia is the large quantity of sub-munition "duds" from cluster bombs. International nongovernmental organisations such as Halo Trust and Norwegian People's Aid have so far cleared, with the help of locally trained civilian volunteers, some 900 pieces in the areas adjacent to the administrative border but more work is needed to secure all inhabited and cultivated areas. International aid should continue to support this important task. The Commissioner proposes that an international, independent and impartial investigation be launched into the use of cluster bombs during the hostilities.
Von: 16.12.2008, www.reliefweb.int