Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, called on Tskhinvali to release all Georgians held in detention since the August, 2008 war.
“These persons should be released and immediate steps should be taken to allow them to join their families,” Hammarberg said in a report released on October 7, addressing implementation of six principles for ensuring human rights and humanitarian protection in war-affected areas.
Hammarberg, who has helped secure release of number of detained persons from the both sides, submitted in March, 2010 to Tbilisi and Tskhinvali a memorandum calling for the release of all detainees without delay and “without step-by-step conditionality or ‘bargaining’ based on head-counting.”
In late March the Georgian side released all six persons remaining in detention in Tbilisi – those who were arrested after the August war, in particular in a period between October 2008 and January 2010.
The move was followed in May by Tskhinvali’s release of six, out of thirteen Georgians, held by the South Ossetian side after the August war.
The CoE Human Rights Commissioner welcomed these steps by the sides, as well as the fact that “hardly any prolonged detentions have occurred since the memorandum was submitted to the sides.”
“However, the Commissioner notes with concern that a number of persons remain deprived of their liberty in Tskhinvali,” Hammarberg said in the report. “The Commissioner is particularly concerned that some of the detainees in Tskhinvali are in bad health, and urges the relevant decision-makers to treat these cases as a matter of priority on humanitarian grounds.”
In the same report, the Commissioner called once again on the sides “to demonstrate that they have taken every possible step to clarify the fate of the missing persons and the circumstances of each disappearance.”
A separate report detailing several cases of missing persons was released by the Commissioner on September 29. In one case, involving disappearance of three young ethnic Ossetians in October, 2008, the report suggests that the three persons disappeared after being detained by the Georgian police.
The report was criticized by the Georgian Interior Ministry official as “biased”. Shota Utiashvili, head of the information and analytical department of the Interior Ministry told RFE/RL’s Russian-language service, Ekho Kavkaza, that it was disappointing that the report fails to shed a light on fate of missing Georgians. He also said that Tbilisi was disappointed that the Commissioner’s efforts did not result in release of all Georgians held in Tskhinvali.