Address of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Abkhazia to Members of the United Nations General Assembly on the occasion of submission of the Georgia Proposed resolution on refugees
Prior to admission of Georgia into the family of United Nations in 1992 and recognition of the territorial integrity of Georgia within the borders of the former Soviet Union Republic of Georgia, the Government and Parliament of Abkhazia made appeal to the Secretary General of the United Nation warning the UN from recognition of the territorial integrity of Georgia since there was already intensive territorial dispute between two parties. By that time Abkhazia had implemented its right for independence from Georgia in accordance with the Soviet law “On the procedure of the settlement of questions connected with the withdrawal of a union republic from the USSR” of April 3, 1990. 52.4% of the electorate of Abkhazia voted for the preservation of the reformed USSR in all-Union referendum held on 17 March 1991.
However on the August 14th, 1992 Georgia sent troops to eliminate the statehood of Abkhazia and seize political freedom. Various ethnic communities had to flee during the war of 1992-1993, because most of Abkhazia's non-Georgian minorities (Armenians, Russians, Ukrainians, Greeks, Turks, etc.) allied themselves with the Abkhazians in their struggle against the aggressors. Thousands of people were displaced. Ethnic cleansing committed by Georgian troops against Abkhazian and Armenian population made them flee from the occupied territories where villages were burned and towns were looted by the Georgian Forces.
A United Nations fact-finding mission, dispatched by the Secretary-General in October 1993, reported violations from both sides of the conflict as well as the fact that vast majority of the Georgian population fled before the arrival of Abkhazian forces on the liberated territories. By the day of liberations of Abkhazia, Georgian population had already fled.
After all these dramatic events and repeated Georgian military attacks, Abkhazia, being guided with the earlier signed agreements under the aegis of the United Nations, had initiated the return of Georgian refugees to Gal district unilaterally on the 1st of March 1999.
Since then, over 50 thousand of approximately 190 thousand Georgian refugees returned to the bordering districts of Abkhazia. Abkhazia is repeatedly calling for the International Community to recognize this fact of mass return and start the process of registration/verification of all refugees.
The International Convention on the Status of Refugees of July 28, 1951, in particular Article 1 of Section C, does not apply to a one-third of Georgians that fled Abkhazia since they voluntarily acquired a new nationality, and are protected by the country of their nationality and Georgian Legislation does not provide dual citizenship.
Georgia usually speculates the number of refugees and receives substantial International Aid for non-existent refugees. Abkhazian side insists that status of those who fled should be clarified. It is necessary to categorize those who are refugees from Abkhazia and those who were forcibly or artificially resettled in Abkhazia from Georgia in the framework of the deliberate policy of Georgianisation in the Soviet period in of 1937-1952. The office of General Prosecutor of Abkhazia contains 5.000 criminal files against Georgians that committed crimes against humanity and many of them are still in Georgia claiming their right to return to Abkhazia. War criminals cannot be granted with refugee status.
The claimed by Georgia unconditional overall return of refugees will escalate new wave of hostilities. Georgia purposefully links the return of refugees to the establishment of its jurisdiction over Abkhazia, threatening those who returned. The UN Joint Fact Finding Mission in its report from November 20-24, 2000 also confirmed that: "... armed groups of Georgians were committing targeted attacks in Gal district. Their immediate task was to create an atmosphere of fear and instability among returnees to Gal district in order to show that it is impossible to live on the territory controlled by the Abkhaz side. They used ambushes, kidnappings and targeted mining."
The International Aid for solely Georgian returnees creates inter-community tensions, because Abkhazia is still embargoed by Georgia and most of non-Georgian refugees as well as Abkhazian Diaspora abroad are limited from free and direct entry into Abkhazia which under strict economic international sanctions has to provide and improve social welfare for its citizens.
Abkhazian side adheres to the UNHCR proposed plan on profiling of refugees and IDP’s, however Georgian side blocks the conduction of registration and verification on its territory. It gives us no clue about the actual number of refugees who are ready, eligible and most importantly are willing to return to Abkhazia.
The return of all displaced persons to their former homes is not the ultimate solution when there is a risk for renewed hostilities. The principle of non-refoulement (Article 33 of the Convention prohibits the expulsion of refugees or their forced return) should have same value as the right to return in the context of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict. The aspirations of receiving population and their willingness to accept Georgian refugees should prevail.
Georgia should stop politicize humanitarian issues and rather bear responsibility for promotion of social integration and naturalization of displaced persons living on its territory according to Article 34 of the Convention 51 on the status of refugees.
The problem of refugees cannot be used as an instrument of political pressure. Further International initiatives and UN resolutions can hardly be objective if not discussed with or reflect Abkhazian point of view. It cannot be solved without participation of all parties, especially on whose territory the refugees are to return.
The whole range of humanitarian activity in Abkhazia is challenged with the “Law of Georgia on occupied territories” which limits the access of humanitarian aid to Abkhazia and contradicts international commitments, which Georgia undertook, in particular upon the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Having refused to sign non-use of force agreement, Georgia maintains the possibility of military revenge against Abkhazia. Aggressive Georgian rhetoric only deepens the confrontation and confidence building measure can hardly be feasible on the background of fragile security situation.
Considering the aforementioned, Abkhazian side once again addresses the United Nations Organization with appeal to give the floor to the representatives of the Republic of Abkhazia when the conflict between Abkhazia and Georgia is discussed, so members of the UN could listen to both sides and take right decision for the benefit of people.
Source: MFA Abkhazia