Human rights must become the priority for international efforts on regulating the conflict in Georgia
Statement from Russian Human Rights Organizations
1. Practical human rights defence must become one of the main tasks of the entire European community in the aftermath of the August crisis on Georgias territory. This is especially important in the post-Soviet area where the rule of law is still absent and basic norms of the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms are not observed.
Public opinion is presently focused on issues of sovereignty and self-determination however we believe it important to stress that human rights should take priority, that their violation is unacceptable and that urgent action is needed to restore the rights of the victims.
2. Responsibility for what happened lies with all parties to the conflict. The level of responsibility and guilt for specific violations of international law must be the subject of serious international investigation. Moreover the lack of attention from Europe to the confrontation over many years contributed to the tragic course of events.
It is clear that the national and regional systems of human rights defence – including many European mechanisms also – were not really used in hot spots on the territory of the former USSR and could not avert a grave humanitarian and legal crisis in South Ossetia and neighbouring regions.
3. In our view the following measures are urgent:
- International monitoring of the situation with regard to refugees and internally displaced persons on the territory of Georgia itself, and the self-declared Republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia via the presence there of representatives of humanitarian missions;
- Ensuring aid to civilian victims, and in the first instance those who cannot as yet return to their place of permanent residence without international assistance.
- Assistance and mediation from European organizations and governments with regard to ensuring security, observance of the norms of humanitarian law, a stop to violence and the destruction of property and in freely forcibly detained participants in the military actions and civilians and in eliminating other consequences of the conflict;
4. A legal assessment of what happened and review of inter-governmental and individual complaints to international and European judicial bodies must be undertaken as soon as possible. The legal assessment should precede the political decisions of institutions of the Council of Europe, OSCE, the European Union and the UN.
5. In order to carry out the above maintenance and strengthening of the mechanisms of interaction on human rights between governments, international and nongovernmental organizations and other structures interested in safeguarding international law and order.
7 September 2008
The “Memorial” Human Rights Centre
The Moscow Helsinki Group
The Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights
The Sova Centre
The International Youth Human Rights Movement
The Human Rights Institute
The “Public Verdict” Fund
The Association “Golos” [“Voice”]
The Civic Assistance Centre
The “Demos” Centre
The Russian civic organization “The Rights of the Child”