07TBILISI2092, HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN GALI–SAME PROBLEMS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI2092 2007-08-21 13:24 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO5856
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2092/01 2331324
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 211324Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7380
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 TBILISI 002092 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CARC AND DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/08/2017 
TAGS: EAID PGOV PHUM PREF PREL GG
SUBJECT: HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN GALI--SAME PROBLEMS 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 1604 
     B. TBILISI 861 
     C. 2006 TBILISI 3045 
     D. TBILISI 2000 
 
Classified By: CDA Mark X. Perry for reasons 1.4(b) and (d). 
 
1.  (C) Summary: On 31 July-2 August, an Embassy team 
traveled to Abkhazia to review the human rights situation 
there. The team participated in a patrol with the UN Observer 
Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) in the ethnically Georgian Gali region, 
visited local NGOs in Gali and Sukhumi, and met with the Abkhaz 
de facto authorities. Georgian-Abkhaz tensions have calmed recently, 
but concerns over the lack of security with the run up to 
hazelnut/mandarin season, forced conscription of Georgians 
in the Abkhaz militia, and unclear passportization 
implementation procedures remain. UNOMIG representatives 
relayed that the Abkhaz militia closed the Ceasefire 
Line (CFL) to all vehicular and commercial traffic, 
forcing the residents of Gali to buy items in the 
more expensive Gali market, rather than in the cheaper 
Zugdidi market. By the end of the year, the Abkhaz 
intend to close all unofficial checkpoints, and limit 
vehicular and foot traffic across the CFL to four 
points: Inguri River Bridge, Nabakevi Bridge, Meore 
Otobaya, and Lekukhona. De facto foreign minister 
Shamba was resistant to allowing Georgian officials 
to send Georgian textbooks to Gali schools. He was 
not open to changing the new law which currently does 
not permit property to be returned to Georgians who 
left Abkhazia after the war, or the law which does 
not allow for dual Georgian-Abkhaz citizenship, noting 
that Abkhazia is at war with Georgia. Shamba reiterated 
his position in Bonn that the Abkhaz would not be open 
to official contacts (between Abkhaz and Georgian officials) 
until Georgian troops leave Upper Kodori Valley (reftel A.) 
End Summary. 
 
Human Rights in Gali--Same Problems 
----------------------------------- 
 
2. (C)  On July 31- August 2, an Embassy team including 
Pol-Econ Chief, Defense AttachQ, USAID Deputy Mission 
Director and Poloffs visited Abkhazia to follow up on 
the human rights situation there (reftel B,C.)  The UNOMIG 
Human Rights (HROAG) Officer in Gali, Zarko Petrovic, 
briefed the group that Georgian-Abkhaz tensions have 
calmed but reported that the situation remains tense 
as the Abkhaz are tightening control in the region by 
closing the CFL to vehicular and commercial traffic 
across the CFL and limiting pedestrian traffic only 
to official crossing points. By the end of the year, 
the Abkhaz Militia plan on limiting all vehicular and 
pedestrian crossings to four official crossing points: 
Inguri River Bridge, Nabakevi Bridge, Meore Otobaya, 
and Lekukhona.  Officially, there should be no fee to 
cross the Inguri but pedestrians often would rather pay 
a 2-10 GEL bribe to the Abkhaz militia.  The closing of 
the CFL has made life more difficult for locals who prefer 
to cross into Zugdidi to purchase foodstuffs; with the 
closure of the crossing, locals in Lower Gali must buy 
foodstuffs in Gali which are more expensive as they are 
shipped from Sukhumi. These additional controls will make 
life difficult for those residents who depend on the yearly 
hazelnut/mandarin harvest for their total annual income by 
complicating getting their produce to market and making it 
more expensive to do so. Once the four checkpoints are open 
and operating, locals anticipate that there will be 
customs charges leveled on any items which are brought 
across, also cutting down on profits. Currently, there 
are three U.N. Civilian Police (UNCIVPOL) (Czech, 
Russian, Swiss) on the ground, rather than the nine 
the U.N. had expected to be in place by this time 
(reftel B.)  Petrovic noted an expected spike in 
criminal activity associated with the upcoming 
hazelnut/mandarin harvest season. 
 
Plans for Human Rights Center 
----------------------------- 
 
3. (C) The team visited the house selected as the future 
NGO Human Rights Center in Gali, which is just a short 
walk from the U.N. base in Gali. The U.N. is planning 
to pay to repair the house for its use as the center, 
which will house five local NGOS, a library, a training 
area and an office for the UN HROAG in Gali. The Human 
Rights Center will work off a Memorandum of Understanding 
between UNOMIG and the local NGO Institute of Democracy. 
(NOTE: The Human Rights officer previously worked in Gali 
from Sukhumi with frequent trips to Gali but established 
a permanent presence in Gali in March (reftel B) END NOTE.) 
 
TBILISI 00002092  002 OF 005 
 
 
Although the current officer is alone in Gali, there are 
plans to bring a second officer from France as soon as 
the lead Human Rights position in Sukhumi is filled. The 
NGO Human Rights Center plans to offer legal aid to 
citizens of Gali district, regular monitoring of human 
rights, human rights training, a human rights resource 
center,
 an information service, and promote advocacy for 
human rights.  The four projects currently proposed are a 
human rights monitoring project, addressing multiple 
discrimination of women in Abkhazia, and a Youth Resource 
Center and a Legal Aid Center in Gali. However, funding 
remains an issue and the center will rely entirely on 
international donors for its operations. The five local 
NGOs which will be represented are the Institute of 
Democracy, Alert, Avangard, Raduga, and Spektr. 
 
Forced Conscription Still an Issue 
---------------------------------- 
4.  (C) According to Petrovic, there are still incidents of 
Georgians who are being forced to serve in the Abkhaz 
militia. The conscription periods occur 1 April-30 June 
and 1 October-31 December. All eligible males who reach 
the age of 14 years are put on the conscription list and 
upon reaching the age of 18 are sent notification twice 
by mail before being picked up at their residences if 
they fail to show. They are eligible for service until 
they are 35 years of age.  Often Georgians are picked 
up during night raids if they are eligible for service 
and have not reported.  Some pay bribes to avoid service 
and others leave for Zugdidi to avoid being caught.  If 
eligible men are caught not having served, they are given 
the option to serve or do jail time.  Per UNOMIG 
representatives, fewer than 15 per cent of Georgian 
males who are eligible serve.  The grounds for release 
from service are poor health, prior military service 
elsewhere, or status of convicted felon.  The grounds for 
postponement are poor health, family situation, exceptional 
political function or ongoing education, or status as 
conscientious objector.  There is no requirement to speak 
Russian and most Georgians who serve speak Mingrelian. 
Ethnic Georgian locals do not look down upon those Georgians 
who have served in the Abkhaz militia, but there is clearly 
no interest by locals in serving absent the Abkhaz 
requirement. 
 
5.  (C) Poloffs talked to local residents about two local 
ethnic Georgian males who had been taken during a night 
raid and pressed into the Abkhaz militia.  The locals 
understood that the two in question had previously served 
in the Georgian military which meant that they were exempt 
from the Abkhaz militia. Local residents explained to Poloffs 
that the Abkhaz took the Georgians despite their prior 
military service, saying that they had only served six months 
in Georgia and that they would still be required to serve in 
the Abkhaz militia.  (NOTE: There were various interpretations 
of this law given to Poloff during the stay in the Gali region, 
none of them clear as to how much previous service was required 
and what constituted proof of this time already served.  It 
was clear that the rules of service are not widely known and 
that some of the techniques for enforcing the law were 
instilling a sense of insecurity and fear among the residents. 
END NOTE.) 
 
Youth Camp--Not all Fun and Games 
-------------------------------- 
 
6.  (C) Petrovic said that the Georgian Youth Camp in Ganmukhuri 
is not in the immediate area of a PKF checkpoint but it is 
within the PKF patrol area on the Georgian controlled side of 
the CFL.  Georgian security guards at the camp previously 
denied access to PKF when they wanted to see for themselves 
the activities of the camp.  Abkhaz de facto authorities are 
concerned about the camp because they claim not just minors 
below the age of 18 are involved.  According to Petrovic, the 
de facto authorities expressed concern about the camp because 
they claimed that there are participants at the youth camp who 
are 21 years of age or older and that instructors at the camp 
range from 25-28 years old.  The implication being, according 
to Petrovic, that the Abkhaz believe these individuals are of 
military age and therefore a potential threat. Still, Roman 
Sishchuk, the U.N. Civil Affairs Officer in Gali, said that he 
had been to the camp before it opened and reported that it 
appeared to be a youth camp without any military overtones or 
activities.  UNOMIG representatives said that the Georgians 
have a similar youth camp in Zugdidi. (NOTE: Speaker 
Burjanadze told DAS Bryza that these camps are just for 
children, are not close to Abkhazia, and she herself 
had considered sending her own son there. END NOTE) 
(reftel D.) 
 
Teachers Get the Dough--Textbooks Still Under the Table 
 
TBILISI 00002092  003 OF 005 
 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
7.  (C) In Lower Gali, the team met with Beusan Uberiya, one 
of two ethnic Georgians serving in the de facto Abkhaz 
parliament, Upper and Lower Bargebi school administrators 
and their deputies, and the school's doctor who worked 
in the dispensary.  According to the school officials, 
teachers are now regularly getting paid.  Teachers receive 
a flat rate of 100 USD per month from Tbilisi and the 
equivalent of 30 USD a month from Sukhumi.  All schools 
in Upper and Lower Gali are receiving these funds.  As 
a result, schools no longer are charging a per student 
fee for school attendance (reftel B.) Although teacher's 
salaries are taken care of, there is no funding for 
the upkeep of the building for repairs.  Currently, 
Sukhumi is not charging them for electricity. 
 
8.  (C) With regard to textbooks, officials told Poloffs 
that last year they managed to quietly bring in more 
than 42,000 books, and the de facto authority turned 
a blind eye to the practice.  School administrators 
said that they would welcome assistance from the 
Georgian Education Ministry, but it would have to 
be done quietly without any press fanfare from the 
Georgian side.  (COMMENT: Previously Poloff had 
pressed Kishmaria to allow the Georgian government 
to give Georgian textbooks on non-controversial 
subjects to the Gali schools, but after consultation 
with other de facto authorities, he said it could 
not be done. END COMMENT.) 
 
9.  (C) The school's doctor voiced concern that 
the dispensary was inadequate for the number of 
students which attended, and the neighboring 
school's dispensary was even in more dire straits. 
She said that the Abkhaz government-in-exile used 
to fund dispensaries in Gali but that the money had 
stopped last year. She asked for U.S. intervention 
with the GoG to continue to provide such funding. 
 
10.  (C) Next to the school is a PKF checkpoint. 
Locals told our group that the PKF does nothing 
to prevent/stop local crimes or mediate between 
local citizens, which according to the PKF mandate, 
they should.  Residents told the team that recently 
there was a robbery in the house behind the school, 
which resulted in the death of the elderly homeowner, 
and the PKF did nothing to stop the crime.  Local 
residents see the PKF sole function as checking car 
trunks for contraband and question the relevance 
of their presence. 
 &#x000A
;Georgian in de facto parliament:  All by Myself 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
11.  (C) De facto parliamentarian Uberiya told the 
team that although the Georgian minority has two 
representatives in the de facto parliament, 
nothing comes of their efforts as two people can't 
change outcomes.  All of their proposals are 
considered, but none are acted on.  Uberiya stated 
that if the number of Georgians who had returned 
to the Gali region were 50,000, as the Abkhaz 
claim, then consideration should be given to 
raising the number of Georgians in the de facto 
parliament to reflect their proportion in 
Abkhazia.  (NOTE:  The current de facto parliament 
has 36 representatives, three from the Gali 
region. Of those three, two are ethnic Georgian. 
END NOTE.)  When asked if he had been threatened 
for his participation in the de facto parliament, 
Uberiya shrugged.  The Administrator for Upper 
Bargebi School told us that Uberiya had received 
threatening calls on his mobile from a number 
within Georgia, but they were not able to determine 
the source. 
 
Abkhaz Passports, a Necessary Evil 
---------------------------------- 
 
12.  (C) Poloffs talked to UNOMIG representatives, 
local residents and NGOs about the passportization 
of Abkhazia following last year's new citizenship 
law, which required anyone who participates in 
political life to obtain an Abkhaz passport.  The 
law allows dual Abkhaz-Russian citizenship but not 
dual Abkhaz-Georgian citizenship (reftel B.)  As a 
result, the concern remains that Georgians would 
need to give up their Georgian citizenship in order 
to obtain an Abkhaz passport, which is required not 
only to vote in Abkhaz elections but also to obtain 
 
TBILISI 00002092  004 OF 005 
 
 
a driver's license, register a car, open a bank 
account and conduct any other official transaction 
in Abkhazia.  The Abkhaz law appears to be widely 
and loosely interpreted.  No Georgians that we met 
told us that they had been forced to give up their 
Georgian passports:  they did tell us, however, 
that the first question on the application for the 
Abkhaz passport was, "Do you have another citizenship 
other than that of Abkhazia?"  Several Georgians 
told us that they checked "No" to this question, as 
the Abkhaz have no way of verifying if they possess 
a Georgian passport.  Still, there remains much 
confusion among residents (and even de facto officials) 
about how passportization of the Gali region will 
take place, with the de facto foreign minister Shamba 
noting that the idea under consideration was to issue 
"green cards" to those who carry said Georgian 
passports. Poloff heard that passportization was 
complete in Ochamchire and Tkvarcheli, but had yet 
to start in Gali. 
 
Gali NGOs: Training OK, Jobs Better 
----------------------------------- 
 
13. (C) NGOs in the Gali region told us that their 
main concerns were human rights concerns, lack 
of good access to health care, and wide-scale 
corruption. Most NGOs serve as a mediator 
between the administrative heads or law enforcement 
bodies and residents.  NGOs expressed that 
local residents were afraid to open businesses 
for fear of being robbed, if they should make 
more than a small sum. None of them felt that 
they could get justice through the de facto 
court system and did feel trying to do so was 
not even worthwhile. Most of them said that 
they are interested in increased economic 
development in Abkhazia and that training and 
consultations are beneficial but didn't 
necessarily lead to the creation of new jobs. 
Gali NGOs don't have regular ties with Tbilisi 
NGOs, but on occasion do communicate with 
those in Kutaisi. They said Gali NGO affiliation 
with Georgian NGOs or the Ombudsman's Office 
would require prior coordination with de facto 
officials and for them it boils down to 
uncomfortable politics. NGO representatives 
explained to the team that since the impasse 
over the Georgian presence in the Upper Kodori 
Valley, matters have become more complicated 
in contacts between the Abkhaz and Georgians. 
 
It's Not What You Know, but Who You Know 
---------------------------------------- 
 
14. (C) Nona Tarbaia, director of the Nabakevi 
village hospital, relayed to the team the 
difficulty in getting treatment for local 
patients and in particular, medicines.  She often 
drives to Tbilisi and back, often taking patients 
with her.  When we asked her about any difficulties 
getting through the checkpoints, she told us that 
instead of crossing at the Inguri Bridge crossing, 
which is now closed, she crosses at an unofficial 
crossing point near the hospital which is near a 
PKF checkpoint. She told us that she does not have 
problems crossing at PKF checkpoints, not because 
she is a doctor, but because she now knows the PKF 
personnel at the checkpoints and this personal 
relationship makes it easier to cross with needed 
supplies and patients. (COMMENT:  This echoes 
comments by Petrovic that personal relationships 
trump professional ones in getting business done 
in Abkhazia.  END COMMENT.) 
 
Play it Again Shamba, The Chakaberia-Sigua Tune 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
15.  (C) The team met with Abkhaz de facto foreign 
minister Sergey Shamba and his deputy Maxim Gvinja. 
Poloff encouraged Shamba to consider allowing the GoG 
to distribute textbooks on non-controversial subjects 
to Gali schools.  She also encouraged him to revisit 
the new property law, which does not permit property 
to be returned to ethnic Georgians who left Abkhazia 
after the civil war, and to revisit the citizenship law 
which does not allow dual Georgian-Abkhaz citizenship. 
She noted that both of these issues would again be noted 
in the Human Rights Report.  Poloff said that the U.S. 
would likely be willing to fund a joint Georgian-Abkhaz 
NATO tour if the Abkhaz decided to participate.  Shamba 
 
TBILISI 00002092  005 OF 005 
 
 
initially was not receptive, focused on the Chakerbaia 
and Sigua cases, and tied any proposal to resolution of 
the Sigua case first.  After much back and forth, Shamba 
said that he would have to consult with his de facto 
minister of education on the textbook issue, but did not 
seem open to changing his position about this or on the 
property or citizenship laws.  He claimed that the Abkhaz 
remain ready to follow-up on the Bonn agreement (reftel A) 
to restart the Quadripartite Meetings and participate in a 
joint investigation of the Sigua case, but that the Georgians 
were holding it up. 
 
16.  (C) With regard to passportization, Shamba said that the 
Abkhaz are not able to verify if ethic Georgians already have 
Georgian passports when they apply for Abkhaz passports.  As 
for passport issuance, he stated that only 20 per cent of 
Abkhazia currently has passports. He denied that the lack of a

Abkhaz passport would prevent ethnic Georgians from voting, 
implying that how to handle this sensitive political issue 
was yet to be decided by the de facto authorities.  He stated 
that during the last elections all were allowed to vote, 
noting that Form 9s were accepted for this purpose, although 
he admitted that Abkhaz passports were not widely available 
at the time.  Shamba said however, that all would have Abkhaz 
passports prior to the next Presidential election.  He 
expressed frustration at what he referred to was constant 
criticism from the international community regarding Abkhaz 
passports and other issues of import to only the Georgians. 
Shamba stated that perhaps a green card system would work and 
he was open to new solutions to the problem. Poloff encouraged 
Shamba to implement the legislation in a way that does not 
force ethnic Georgians to give up their citizenship in order 
to participate in political life in Abkhazia. 
 
Sukhumi Council for the Civic Minded 
------------------------------------- 
 
17.  (C)  Poloffs had lunch with representatives from the NGO 
community in Sukhumi on 2 August.  NGOs noted problems similar 
to those reported by Gali NGOs including the lack of a fair 
judicial system, widespread corruption and de facto control 
over media sources.  Representatives there told us of a new 
civil council formulated to liaise between government structures 
and local citizens in resolving issues.  NGO representatives 
told us that there is not much opportunity for local press 
to report other than the government's official word.  Most 
NGOs focused on legal assistance to local residents and 
improving conditions for prisoners in Abkhazia's prison 
(reftel B.) 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
18.  (C)  In our meetings with Shamba we sensed a slight 
hardening in the Abkhaz position. When Shamba continued to 
focus on Chakerbaia and Sigua, we reminded him that 
Chakerbaia was released due to DAS Bryza and Ambassador 
Tefft's intervention and that we fully supported an 
investigation into Sigua.  Strikingly, there were a lot 
of Russian tourists in Sukhumi (and even more we heard 
from farther North) making the newly renovated hotel where 
we stayed a lively place.  There were numerous Russian 
tourists at the train station, in the hotel bar, on the 
street, and in the restaurants.  Still, traveling back 
from Sukhumi, the stark difference between the potholed 
streets and decayed infrastructure in Abkhazia (and especially 
in Gali) and across the Inguri Bridge to Zugdidi (where the 
GoG has just paved a new road) remains a palpable reminder 
of the difference in outlook, mindset and opportunity 
between the two sides of the river.  End Comment. 
PERRY

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