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Georgia accuses de facto Abkhaz authorities of human rights violations

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, January 23
The Georgian Government is accusing the de facto Abkhaz authorities of human rights violations. Specifically, Georgia claims that the Abkhaz Government, as well as the “Russian occupation troops,” are violating the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Pact on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights supplementary protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits any kind of restriction on native language instruction. A statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia on Wednesday says, “mass and gross human rights violations continue to take place on Georgia’s occupied territories.”

The statement comes after mass media reports that the Abkhazian authorities are forcing Georgian school teachers to teach in the Russian language in the Gali district, which is mostly populated by ethnic Georgians. According to Rustavi 2 TV the separatists have forced the teachers in Gali to teach with new textbooks imposed by the de facto Abkhazian Education Ministry. Rustavi 2 reported that the geography and history textbooks in the Russian language are written “in the way the separatists want”. Rustavi 2 also said that the de facto Abkhaz Education Minister has promised to increase teachers’ salaries by 40 percent if they accept the new programme.

The Georgian Government sees Russia’s hand in the de facto Abkhazian authorities’ education programme, and is accusing Russia of another form of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the breakaway regions. “Russia’s aim is firstly to do everything in its power to interfere with the functioning of international monitoring missions in the occupied territories and eventually achieve their expulsion, upon creating a kind of “new reality,” and then to engage in mass violations, acts of discrimination, restrictions and prohibitions to force the remaining local population to leave their places of residence, thus bringing to a conclusion the ethnic cleansing process that started way back in the 1990s,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry’s statement reads.

The de facto authorities have expressed their strong negative opinion of education being conducted in the Georgian language in the Gali district, saying that they will not be following Georgian education system standards. Talking to OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Knut Vollebaek on Wednesday, the de facto Abkhazian Prime Minister Alexander Ankvab said that the Abkhazian Government “will not let any international organizations interfere in this sphere, as there is a Governmental body, the Ministry of Education, responsible for this.” According to Abkhazian information agency Apsnypress, this comment was Ankvab’s response to Vollebaek’s claims that Georgians living in Gali region have right to receive education in their native language, just like Armenians, Russians and Abkhaz.

“I visited so-called Georgian schools in the Gali region, but Georgian language and literature is being taught as a single subject there,” Apsnypress quoted Vollebaek as saying. “Enabling Gali residents to receive education in their native language would contribute to their integration in Abkhazian society,” Vollebaek told the de facto Prime Minister. At the meeting the de facto Prime Minister did not rule out the possibility of discussing the proposal of the OSCE High Commissioner that Abkhazian textbooks be translated into the Georgian language, Apsnypress reported.

Ankvab told Vollebaek that nobody is forcing Gali residents to study only in the Abkhaz language. “They are citizens of the Republic and no one deprives them of their right to study their native language. We will not be doing what Georgians were doing in Abkhazia in the 40ies or 30ies of the last century, when Abkhazian schools were being closed down,” the de facto Prime Minister told the OSCE High Commissioner. Meanwhile, the Georgian Foreign Ministry has called on the international community, international organizations and non-governmental organizations dealing with human rights “to undertake all measures in order to prevent such violations on the temporarily occupied territories of Georgia and ensure the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”