Tbilisi awaits the release of teenagers
By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, December 3
The South Ossetian de facto authorities may release the four Georgian teenagers it has been detaining as Tbilisi has agreed to exchange them for Ossetians detained by the Georgian side.
The Russian and South Ossetian media have reported that five South Ossetians were released by the Georgian Interior Ministry on December 2. On the same day the South Ossetian separatist authorities announced that the court hearing of the underage Georgians, accused of “violation of the South Ossetian border,” had begun.
Earlier the separatists' representatives had proposed to exchange all detained Georgians in South Ossetia for all the arrested residents of the breakaway region being held in Georgia. The central Government refused to accept this. “We are not going to trade with our children and we demand their liberation immediately and without any precondition,” stated Georgian State Minister on Reintegration Issues Temur Iakobashvili, who also denied that Georgia still had some South Ossetian residents in detention. “It’s impossible to exchange our children for non-existent people. We don’t know where are [the people SO wanted released] or how they disappeared,” stated Iakobashvili.
Meanwhile Tskhinvali reports that five South Ossetians have already been handed over to the separatist representatives. This process was mediated by the Council of Europe (CoE)'s Human Rights Commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, during his visit to the breakaway region on Wednesday. The Ossetians, concerned are Ibragim Laliev, Lavrenti Kaziev, Vladimir Eloev, Iakob Tekhov and Pavlik Tekhov, four of whom were detained in October 2008 and one in spring 2009. The Georgian Interior Ministry refused to give more comments on this issue to The Messenger, promising more information “in the future.”
The Georgian authorities continue to appeal to the international community to help it secure the release of its detained citizens. Tbilisi has accused The Kremlin of establishing “the dirty practice of kidnapping Georgians" in the breakaway regions now under the control of Russian troops. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia expresses its strong protest over these criminal acts committed by the Russian side, that represent a gross violation of the 12 August ceasefire agreement and the universally recognised norms and principles of international law. The Georgian side insistently demands the immediate release of the Georgian citizens and the stoppage of destabilising and provocative acts by the Russian side. Given this, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia will submit a note to the Embassy of Switzerland in Georgia for passing to the Russian side,” stated the Georgian Foreign Ministry in a special statement on November 30.
The issue of the Georgian teenagers has also been the subject of discussion between Temur Iakobashvili and EU Monitoring Mission [EUMM] representatives in Georgia. The Minister noted that Tbilisi hopes the EUMM will gain the possibility of monitoring the whole territory of Georgia, including the breakaway regions. “EU observers should be present in Georgia, however their mandate should be widened. It’s very important for EUMM to have the chance to patrol the occupied territories,” stated Iakobashvili soon after the meeting.