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PACE Reaffirms its Call to Russia to Revoke Abkhazia, S.Ossetia Recognition
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 29 Jan.'09 / 14:34

The Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) passed on January 28 a resolution, which is a follow-up document to the Assembly’s October resolution on consequences of the Georgia-Russia war.

Georgia has welcomed final text of the document, which was heavily amended from its initial draft as a result of debates in the Assembly. The wording of the initial draft was viewed by the Georgian delegation as “soft” and not strong in its condemnation of Russia’s failure to fulfill the PACE’s October resolution. 
Unlike its initial draft reiterates provision of the October resolution and calls Russia to withdraw its decision on recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The resolution also reads that the Assembly “condemns the recognition by Russia of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and considers it to be a violation of international law” – the paragraph not included in the initial draft.

The final text also includes a paragraph, which was not seen in the initial draft, saying that the Assembly “condemns the Russian non-mandated military presence and the building of new military bases within the separatist regions of South-Ossetia and Abkhazia as well as in Akhalgori, Perevi and Upper Abkhazia [upper Kodori Gorge] and in villages controlled by the central government of Georgia before the breakout of the conflict.”

The document also “condemns the ethnic cleansing [initial draft’s wording was “ongoing ethnic cleansing”] and other human rights violations in South Ossetia, as well as the failure of Russia and the de facto authorities to bring these practices to a halt and their perpetrators to justice.”

The Assembly said that Georgia had complied with “many but not all” of the demands made by the Assembly in October, while Russia had “not yet complied with the majority” of those demands.

Boris Gryzlov, speaker of Russia’s lower house of the parliament, State Duma, said on January 29, that demanding from Russia to withdraw its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was “fruitless.”

“Russia has recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia and it is for centuries,” Interfax reported quoting Gryzlov.

The Russian daily Kommersant wrote on January 29, that with this resolution Russia had “suffered the most sizeable defeat” in PACE in recent years.

“Yesterday’s debates showed that recent developments have seriously undermined Russia’s reputation in PACE,” the Kommersant wrote. “Half year ago the Russian delegation was one of the most influential in PACE and possessed skills and ability to avoid unfavorable resolutions. But now, many of Russia’s supporters have decided it is no longer appropriate to publicly support Moscow.”

The resolution also says that it is “unacceptable” that residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to remain uncovered by the human rights protection mechanisms provided by the Council of Europe.  To fill this “protection black hole” the Assembly proposed CoE Secretary General to develop a relevant action plan, which could include establishment of a field presence in the two breakaway regions, including an Ombudsperson who could examine individual applications in cases of human rights violations.

The resolution expresses concern that Georgia’s law on occupied territories “may be at odds with principles of international human rights law,” and calls on Tbilisi “to promptly implement any recommendations contained in the forthcoming opinion” of Venice Commission, which is the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional and legal issues.

The resolution also tasked the PACE Monitoring Committee to monitor the implementation of the resolution and to report back to the Assembly in April, 2009.

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