A group of 18 Georgian civil society organizations, including International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, Transparency International Georgia and Open Society Georgia Foundation, addressed the international community “with grave concern over the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Akhalgori district of Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia,” hoping that their “immediate action will protect the local population from further harm.”
In an open letter released on February 3, the group speaks of importance of reopening Odzisi crossing point serving occupied Akhalgori district that has been closed since September 2019, noting that it is “a lifeline for residents of the Akhalgori district, many of whom commute daily to the rest of Georgia to receive medical care, education and social services, as well as to visit their relatives and family members.”
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“The crossing point, which normally used to handle around 400 crossings a day, remains closed until this day, with no indication as to when the restrictions will be lifted, leaving the local population – ethnic Georgians and Ossetians alike – at peril,” the group said, noting that the recent temporary lift on the travel ban for “patients in critical condition and a few dozen pensioners – is “largely insufficient to address the dire humanitarian conditions” on the ground.
According to the CSOs, residents of Akhalgori, just like those in the Georgian-majority district of Gali in Abkhazia, “have long been subjected to unfair treatment by the de facto authorities and their sponsors in the Kremlin.”
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They further noted that “over the last few years, Gali and Akhalgori residents have seen their rights gradually curtailed, including their right to education in native language, right to freedom of movement and other fundamental rights.”
“Serious human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and killings, have not been rare as well,” they said, adding that as the Georgian CSOs, they “believe all of this amounts to grave violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, and elicits calls for immediate action.”
Therefore, they call on the international community:
– To increase pressure on the Russian Federation, as the power exercising effective control over Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, to immediately reopen the closed crossing point in Akhalgori, to cease arbitrary detention of civilians across the occupation line, and to allow international monitoring missions unimpeded access to the occupied territories;
– To use all necessary measures to ensure prompt delivery of humanitarian aid to populations in need, both in the Russian-occupied regions and the areas adjacent to the two territories.