Palme Center publishes the first independent report and draws attention to the human cost of the continued conflict" />

Human rights in Abkhazia: the situation as it is today

Palme Center publishes the first independent report and draws attention to the human cost of the continued conflict

Photo: Ibragim Chkadua

The Palme Center has decided to make its “Report on the human rights situation in Abkhazia, a disputed territory in the former Soviet Union” public.

The report is based on thorough research and several field visits by Thomas Hammarberg, former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and earlier Secretary General of the Palme Center, and Magdalena Grono, an expert on South Caucasus, now working with the International Crisis Group.

A major finding reflected in the report is that:

– The unresolved conflict issues have a severe impact on the human rights of the people living in Abkhazia, as well as for people displaced by the conflict.

– The human costs of the continued conflict, playing out at Georgian-Abkhaz as well as Georgian-Russian levels, must be a serious consideration in all settlement efforts and dialogue.

– The final settlement that would guarantee sustainable peace may continue to be elusive for some time, but a number of human rights problems can be addressed, and even resolved, before comprehensive political resolution is reached. 

The report recommends that:

– Further international visits to Abkhazia on human rights issues would benefit both people affected by the ongoing conflict but also the broader climate for conflict settlement, in which humanitarian and human rights issues easily get politicized.

– Substantive apolitical dialogue on human rights issues with internationally recognised independent human rights experts should therefore be encouraged.

The report by Hammarberg and Grono is based on extensive research in Abkhazia over the course of nine months. They had full access to all relevant interlocutors – including authorities, civil society and ordinary people – on both sides of the conflict.

Their report is the first major assessment of the human rights situation in Abkhazia made by international, independent experts.

“During our work on the report, we visited Abkhazia six times (a preliminary trip in September 2015 and five fact-finding visits between May-December 2016), each time traveling through Tbilisi. We had meetings with decision makers and a broad range of interlocutors on both sides. We put an emphasis on talking with individuals and groups who could give relevant information on problems and efforts in relation to human rights, outside of political positions or framing. The scope of these investigations is spelled out in the introduction to the report,” the researchers say.

The situation of ethnic Georgian returnees living in Abkhazia’s Gali district is one of the important aspects the report highlights.

An earlier version of their assessment was initiated by the European Union and also circulated in some diplomatic circles. In view of its broader significance the authors have given the Palme Center the privilege of publishing the full and updated report.

It will be an important contribution to ongoing efforts to address the conflict, including in the Geneva International Discussions, the relevant conflict settlement forum in this case.

The full report can be found here.

As the report says, queries can be addressed to: [email protected] 

Thomas Hammarberg is a former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and was previously Secretary General of the Olof Palme International Center. Magdalena Grono, now with International Crisis Group, has worked on post-Soviet conflicts, with a particular focus on the South Caucasus.

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