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Public Defender strives for IDPs

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, September 6
The Public Defender Giorgi Tugushi met the Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees, Koba Subeliani on September 2. The two sides discussed the violations that took place during the evictions of IDPs from state-owned buildings in Tbilisi in recent months. The Public Defender had told the Minister the IDPs should always be informed of possible changes to their living conditions – under what conditions they may have to move and where they will be resettled.

“The process of eviction of refugees must not violate the rights of refugees in any way and should be carried out in full compliance with the law. It is essential to ensure that the refugees are informed about the eviction process so that the evictions are not chaotic and that every refugee knows where and under what conditions he/she is going to live and agrees to the move. The protection of the rights of refugees is one of the priorities for the Public Defender and the whole Office and it is important that every action that is related to the issues of refugees is as transparent and lawful as possible,” Tugushi told the Minister.

Highlighting the importance of the protection of IDPs human rights, Tugushi spoke about the details of the evictions carried out in Tbilisi, the violations that took place during the evictions and ways to improve the situation. The issue of compensation, the privatisation and rehabilitation processes, availability of healthcare and education, their future accommodation and implementation of the action plan for the state strategy towards the IDPs were all discussed at the meeting.

The Public Defender and the Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees agreed that the Ministry will actively cooperate with the Public Defender’s Office and will leave no recommendation and letter of the Public Defender without a response, explaining that it is the state’s priority to provide a home to each and every displaced person, of course as far as it is possible.

The process of eviction from several state-owned buildings in July and August 2010 came under fire from both local and international human rights groups, as well as from the UN refugee agency and the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe’s Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population.

Eka Popkhadze from the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, s human rights non-Governmental organisation, has been working on IDP issues. “GYLA has been monitoring the process of the August evictions and the violation of the IDPs’ rights. It was really unfair that those people were only informed about a possible eviction just a day before the process,” Popkhadze told The Messenger.

“IDPs from Abkhazia in 1990s say they have been discriminated by the Government of Georgia because they haven’t received compensation of USD 10,000 or a home like the IDPs from South Ossetia have. When we met the families, lots of them had actually been supported by the state, but still the rest of them had been left without even basic support. IDPs, who were displaced form Abkhazia were rushed into some private buildings and the Government of Georgia is now trying to move them out. It is important to note that all those people have already been living in those shelters for 10-15 years without any Governmental support during the whole time,” She said explaining it will now be difficult for the IDPs form Abkhazia to get used to completely new lifestyles in the regions offered by the state.

“The so called new IDPs get financial support from the state, while the old ones receive no state benefits. The new shelters in different regions offered by the Government are unsuitable for starting new lives, the IDPs claim. But the main problem is that the IDPs have become connected with the capital in a variety of ways – jobs, education, obligations…thus the only way out of the situation is to offer them settlements at least on the outskirts of Tbilisi,” Popkhadze told us.

In his special report on the Human Rights Situation of IDPs in Georgia covering the first half of 2010 (January-July) presented to the public on August 3, the Public Defender Giorgi Tugushi said that the 80-page document fully reflects all the problems faced by IDPs nowadays. With complete data about both the IDPs affected by 1990s war in Abkhazia and those affected by the War in South Ossetia in 2008 the Public Defender’s report summarised the problems faced by families displaced from their homes. All the issues in the report have been discussed according to both local legislation as well as the international standards of the human rights protection.

Having questioned 538 families living in the 256 settlements around the country, Tugushi said all the families face similar problems: living conditions, healthcare, privatisation and lack of information are the most common issues that IDPs worry about most of all.

According to the Public Defender, the document will soon be presented to the Parliament of Georgia with the relevant recommendations so that the MPs can become familiar with all the violations of IDPs rights in Georgia and come up with wise solutions to their problems. The Public Defender’s report was prepared as part of the project financed by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights launched in January 2010. The project aims at strengthening the Public Defender’s Office and improving its operations.