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No decision made on Georgian and Ossetian detainees

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, March 1
International experts will deal with the issue of the people missing since the August conflict, information agency Res reported on Saturday following the visit of the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg to Tskhinvali. There will be two different processes – the international monitors will work on the missing persons issue while the Commissioner himself will work on the issue of Ossetian and Georgian detainees, the news agency reported, based on Hammarberg’s statements in Tskhinvali.

The situation in this direction is now in deadlock, Hammarberg told journalists. The Commissioner refrained from giving details however. “There have been no results that I can inform the media about, but I hope that the process will go on,” he said. Hammarberg said he would like to see more efforts made by the authorities. “The work that is being carried out by the authorities is not enough, I would like to see more. I would like humanitarian and human issues to be higher on the agenda of the decision makers,” Res quoted Hammarberg as saying.

During his visit to Tskhinvali Hammarberg met 12 Georgians detained in Tskhinvali jail. The Commissioner told Georgian media representatives that he will hold phone consultations with the de facto leaders about their release. The conditions of the Georgian detainees are normal, he noted. The detainees are not being physically assaulted, according to Hammarberg. One of the main aims of the CoE, before the detainees are released, will be arranging meetings between the detainees and their relatives. “I hope the Tskhinvali authorities will soon make a decision on this issue,” Hammarberg said.

The Governor of Shida Kartli, Lado Vardzelashvili, said that there had been no decision makers in Tskhinvali during Hammarberg’s visit, so the negotiations could not progress. “There were no people there with the authority to give answers or to make any decision on those issues, so no specific decisions were made,” he told journalists at Ergneti checkpoint at the administrative border with de facto South Ossetia.

There has been no progress reported on the proposed CoE plan of exchanging the detainees of both sides on the “all to all” principle. Hammarberg said that neither side was against the option, however Tbilisi and Tskhinvali perceive the word “all” differently, Res reported.

The Georgian authorities have said the proposed plan of exchanging the detainees is not a solution to the problem. The Shida Kartli region Governor said it is “unacceptable” for the Georgian side to exchange “innocent” Georgian detainees with South Ossetian “criminals” detained 3-4 years ago for various “illegal” activities. “As soon as there is a precedent of exchanging innocent people for criminals, the de facto Tskhinvali authorities will take advantage of this and turn this into a subject of bargaining. They will start kidnapping Georgian citizens and demanding to exchange them for Ossetian criminals,” Vardzelashvili told The Messenger “the Georgian citizens detained on charges of illegally crossing the ‘border’, which does not even exist, should be immediately released,” he added.

Hammarberg told journalists in Tskhinvali that this will not be his last visit to the region. “I do not know when, but as soon as there is some result, I will return,” he stated on February 27.