The Georgian Parliament is genuinely grateful for your support of the non-recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent territories following the Russian invasion of Georgia and the occupation of these territories.
With this letter, we aim to update you on the current state of the Russian occupation. We also seek the continued vigilance and action of your Parliament and your committee in helping reverse the consequences of last year’s invasion – consequences that are grave not only for Georgia, but potentially dangerous for all of Europe.
Today, more than one year after the Russian invasion, Georgia finds itself in a promising, yet profoundly precarious, situation. On the one hand, our commitment to deepening democratic reforms remains unshakeable. We have strengthened the roles of the Parliament, the judiciary, and the media, while also improving our electoral code and undertaking a constitutional reform process. Our fight against corruption continues unabated, and we are especially proud that Transparency International’s recent Corruption Barometer survey put Georgia on par with northern European countries. Meanwhile, we continue to pursue reforms that will further enhance the ease of doing business in Georgia to attract more foreign investors.
On the other hand, Russia still occupies 20 percent of Georgian territory—including areas controlled by the Georgian government before August 2008. This is in direct violation of the ceasefire agreement brokered by President Sarkozy and the fundamental norms of international law. In fact, Russia remains in full or partial violation of every single point of the six-point Sarkozy ceasefire agreement: Moscow is building three large-scale (including air and naval) military bases in the occupied territories, as well as numerous smaller military installations, which include long-range artillery and strategic missiles (SS 21 and SS 26). Incidents of Russian military warplanes, helicopters, and reconnaissance aircraft violating Georgian air space have increased. Russia has also illegally deployed squadrons of patrol boats in the Abkhazian section of Georgian territorial waters.
The EU-mandated Independent International Fact Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia (IIFFMCG) last fall found Russia responsible for ethnic cleansing in these territories. But Russia has refused to reverse the results of this cleansing and to allow its victims to return home. In addition to finding Russia culpable of ethnic cleansing during and after its 2008 invasion, the EU-mandated mission also established that those acts qualify as crimes against humanity (Part II, Ch 7, pp 393-394). Meanwhile, Resolution 1633 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe also established that the Russian Federation bears responsibility for the above acts. The Russian-sponsored campaign to remove Georgians from Abkhazia in the 1990s, which deprived this province of up to 75 percent of its pre-war population, was recognized as ethnic cleansing by heads of states of the OSCE in Budapest (1994), Lisbon (1996) and Istanbul (1999), as well as by the UN General Assembly in 2008.
Notwithstanding the incident-prevention mechanism agreed to at the Geneva talks, Russian troops have consistently engaged in the kidnapping of Georgian citizens from Georgian territory adjacent to the occupied regions, including a number of teenagers who were held in illegal detention for more than a month. Russian FSB Border Forces deployed alongside the administrative boundary seek to cement the isolation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia by denying individuals living in these territories the freedom of movement. Last but not least, in open violation of the EU-brokered ceasefire, Russia still refuses to allow the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) access to the occupied territories.
Russian policy continues to pursue the systematic undermining of Georgian sovereignty, the increased militarization of the territories Moscow has occupied, and the justification of ethnic cleansing campaigns used against Georgians in those territories. All components of this policy seek to derail Georgia’s progress and ongoing efforts at reform, as well as Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic foreign policy alignment.
It is our strong belief that Moscow’s attempt to change borders by force is not only illegal but threatens the most important principles of post-WWII European security agreements, including those outlined in the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. We are therefore grateful that you stand with us in the non-recognition of the “status quo” achieved by force. Only consistent international pressure and dialogue can force the reconsideration of such policies. We strongly believe that an increased international presence on the ground – including by granting the EUMM access to these territories and by considering the deployment of an international police force – is the only path to true stability.
The alternative to pursuing the reversal of the ethnic cleansing campaign is allowing the Russian narrative, which seeks to legalise Moscow’s actions, to set a new baseline for others who seek to operate through such actions in the future. Europe saw so much of this in the 20th century. We cannot allow this to be the way of this new century, as well.
It is in this context that we appeal to your committee and your parliament to:
- Reinforce the non-recognition policy with clear reference to international law;
- Declare the two Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as being territories under Russian occupation and recognise the ethnic cleansing committed by Russia (based on Geneva Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, 12 August 1949; the Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949; and to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977).
We may not be able to push the occupying power out of the occupied territories imminently, but we are responsible, as members of the UN, CoE and the OSCE, as well as parties of the Geneva convention and its protocols, to constantly remind the occupying force of its responsibilities.
We believe the facts are clear, and that they speak for themselves. We count on your understanding and trust your support to ensure the strict implementation of the EU-brokered ceasefire agreement and to uphold the most basic principles of international law.
We sincerely hope that you can adopt appropriate statements of support on these matters. While the outcome of this situation is vital to the future of Georgia, we also believe that it is vital to the future of the European community and the principles that have led to peace and prosperity across much of the continent.