Statement by Lithuania at the UN General Assembly debate on the “Status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia”
Statement by Lithuania on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic States: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden at the UNGA debate on the “Status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia”
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Baltic and the Nordic States: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, Sweden and my own country, Lithuania. Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Poland, Ukraine and Slovenia align themselves with this statement.
First of all, we take this opportunity to reaffirm our strong support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders.
Today, more than a decade after the first adoption of the resolution on internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region /South Ossetia in Georgia, no progress has been achieved with regards to the voluntary, safe, dignified and unhindered return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees on the basis of international law and internationally recognised principles. Hundreds of thousands of IDPs continue to be deprived of their right to a safe, dignified and voluntary return to their places of origin and their property rights. We are particularly concerned over developments in Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia related to demolitions and new construction projects in places formerly inhabited by ethnic Georgians who were displaced as a result of the conflict.
We welcome the comprehensive report (A/73/880) submitted by the Secretary-General, encouraging further concrete steps to promote greater engagement of the populations living in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in line with recent outreach initiatives of the Government of Georgia.
The resolution in front of us clearly echoes Secretary-General’s goals and commits us all to continue working for the protection and assistance to those who have been forcibly displaced from the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia regions of Georgia, and to ensure that they are able to exercise their fundamental right to safe and dignified return.
In this context, we commend the continued efforts by the Georgian Government, in close co-operation with international organizations, to put in place alternative durable solutions that provide the opportunities for IDPs to integrate locally or, in separate cases, resettle elsewhere in the country, in the absence of the option for IDPs to return to the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia regions of Georgia.
The human rights situation in these occupied regions of Georgia remains a cause of serious concern. Russia continues to violate the commitments made in the Six-point agreement of 12 August 2008 and the implementing measures of 8 September 2008 by maintaining military presence in both the Abkhaz and Tskhinvali/South Ossetian regions of Georgia. We are deeply concerned by the impunity surrounding grave human rights violations committed in conflict-affected areas. Ongoing ‘borderisation’, kidnappings, arbitrary detentions (some of them with lethal outcome), new restrictions on freedom of movement (including long term closures of Administrative Border Lines), lack of access to health care and to education in their native language have a direct negative impact on the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of people affected by this protracted conflict.
Adoption of the resolution on the Cooperation with Georgia in the 40th session of the Human Rights Council clearly demonstrated that the international community remains seized on the matter, as it emphasizes the need to address human rights and humanitarian issues faced by the persons forcefully displaced from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia in Georgia.
In this context, we remain concerned that in the past several years no international human rights monitoring mechanism has been granted unrestricted access to the regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia. We therefore call for an immediate access for the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and other international and regional human rights mechanisms.
We reiterate our support to the process of Geneva international discussions and join the UN Secretary-General’s call to all relevant stakeholders to step up efforts to make a tangible progress on key security and humanitarian issues, to meet the pressing humanitarian concerns of the affected population, including internally displaced persons. We remain concerned about continued refusal by Russia and participants from Tskhinvali and Sukhumi to engage on the topic of refugees and displaced persons in the Geneva International Discussions. We would like to emphasize that this topic is at the core of the mandate of the Geneva International Discussions.
The decision of the de facto authorities in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia to conduct the so-called elections later this summer is of concern. Let me recall that we do not recognize the constitutional and legal framework within which these illegitimate elections are scheduled to take place. Such illegal elections violate Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and greatly undermine ongoing efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
To conclude, Madam President, given the lack of progress on the ground, we call for the UN’s continuous engagement. As in previous years, we shall vote in favor of the resolution and call on all UN Member States to do the same.
I thank you.
New York, 4 June 2019