23 September 2011 International efforts, albeit halting, to punish perpetrators of crimes against humanity validate the very essence of the United Nations, Georgia has told the General Assembly, citing progress made since the end of the Cold War 20 years ago.
“Slowly, too slowly, new rules are emerging, and even these rules are still too rarely applied,” Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said yesterday. “Step by step, though, tyrants start to fear that they could one day be held accountable for their crimes.
“There will be, I am convinced, less and less tolerance for ethnic cleansing and other war crimes that have stained my country and so many others. This is the very reason of our existence as the United Nations, is it not? To make the world a little better, to finally enforce the rules, charters, laws and principles on which we all have agreed.”
Turning to Georgia’s relations with Russia, Mr. Saakashvili said the Russian military currently occupied 20 per cent of Georgia’s sovereign territory, in violation of international law and an August 2008 ceasefire agreement.
Fighting broke out in August 2008 between Georgian forces and South Ossetian and Abkhaz separatists and their Russian allies. South Ossetia and Abkhazia each subsequently declared their independence from Georgia, and those declarations have been recognized by Russia and several other countries.
“As I speak, more than 450,000 IDPs [internally displaced persons] and refugees continue to suffer because they are denied their rights, a right reaffirmed over a dozen times by this very house, to return to their homes and villages,” Mr. Saakashvili said, referring to ethnic Georgians who fled the fighting.
“They cannot go back because, in Moscow, a foreign leader has decided that their home is no longer their home. To such cynicism and brutality we respond with calls for justice and commitments to peace,” he added, noting that almost a year ago Georgia renounced the use of force.
“One year and we still are waiting for Russia’s leadership to reciprocate this gesture of peace. Unfortunately, instead of dialogue the response we have received has come in the form of a dozen terrorist attacks targeting Georgia, attacks directly organized and supervised by confirmed officers of the Russian secret services.”
Although the Cold War is over, “blackmails and brutal diktats” are still used against Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus, and even the Baltic States face manipulations and neo-colonial games with their minorities, he said.
“The Cold War is over, but the old Soviet habit to play on ethnic and religious hatreds is still alive,” he added, stressing that Eastern Europe’s so-called colour revolutions and the recent Arab Spring, both of which saw the fall of long-entrenched regimes, would not have been possible if the Soviet Union still existed.
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