OFFICE FOR PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN ABKHAZIA, GEORGIA SHOULD BE PART OF UNOMIG, SECURITY COUNCIL DECIDES

22 October 1996
SC/6283

OFFICE FOR PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN ABKHAZIA, GEORGIA SHOULD BE PART OF UNOMIG, SECURITY COUNCIL DECIDES

22 October 1996

Press ReleaseSC/6283

OFFICE FOR PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN ABKHAZIA, GEORGIA SHOULD BE PART OF UNOMIG, SECURITY COUNCIL DECIDES

19961022

The Security Council this morning decided that an office established in Sukhumi, for the protection and promotion of human rights in Abkhazia, Georgia should form part of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), under the authority of the Head of Mission. It took that action by adopting resolution 1077 (1996) by a vote of 14 in favour to none against with 1 abstention (China). Also in the resolution, the Council requested the Secretary-General to continue close cooperation with the Government of Georgia in determining the priorities of the human rights office, and to pursue necessary follow-up arrangements with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The Council also reiterated its full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. Speaking before action, the representative of China said that it was not within the terms of reference of the Council to authorize the human rights office and that UNOMIG had been entrusted mainly with a peace-keeping mandate. Adoption of the text should in no way constitute a precedent for other peace-keeping operations, he stressed. Following the adoption of the resolution, Council President J. Delmer Urbizo Panting, Foreign Minister of Honduras, read out a complementary statement on behalf of the Council. In the statement, members noted with deep concern the lack of progress on a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict, including on the political status of Abkhazia, which would respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. Also in the statement, the Council expressed deep concern at the announcement by the Abkhaz side that "so-called parliamentary elections" would be held on 23 November. Such elections would only be possible after determination through negotiations, within the framework of a comprehensive political settlement, with the guaranteed possibility of full participation for all refugees and displaced persons, it added.

The Council also condemned mine-laying and other threats against UNOMIG and the Collective Peace-keeping forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS peace- keeping force). (The full text of the statement, to be issued as document S/PRST/1996/43, appears later in this press release.) The meeting, which began at 11:43 a.m., was adjourned at noon.

Action on Draft Resolution

Speaking before action, WANG XUEXIAN (China) said that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia must be respected. The two parties concerned in Georgia should demonstrate political sincerity and facilitate an early comprehensive political settlement through negotiations.

In accordance with the agreement reached by the parties, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the High Commissioner for Human Rights would set up a human rights office in Abkhazia, Georgia, he continued. In order to ensure the efficiency and security of the office, the Secretary-General had recommended that the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) provide support facilities. The Mission had been entrusted mainly with a peace-keeping mandate, he said. Peace-keeping operations should have a clear mandate and could not be all-inclusive or over-stretched by taking over responsibilities which fell within the terms of reference of other agencies.

China had proposed amendments to the draft based upon that principled position and those amendments had not been accepted, he said. It was not within the terms of reference of the Security Council to authorize the establishment of the human rights office. Its establishment had not been agreed to by the parties. China would abstain on the draft resolution. Adoption of the text should in no way constitute a precedent for other peace-keeping operations.

The draft resolution contained in document S/1996/866 was adopted by a vote of 14 in favour to none against, with 1 abstention (China), as resolution 1077 (1966).

Resolution Adopted

The text of the resolution adopted by the Council reads as follows:

"The Security Council,

"Recalling its resolutions 937 (1994) of 21 July 1994, 1036 (1996) of 12 January 1996 and 1065 (1996) of 12 July 1996,

"Having considered the reports of the Secretary-General of 1 July 1996 (S/1996/507 and Add.1) and 9 August 1996 (S/1996/644),

"Reiterating its full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders,

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"1. Welcomes the report of the Secretary-General of 1 July 1996, and in particular its paragraph 18, and decides that the Office referred to in this report shall form part of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), under the authority of the Head of Mission of UNOMIG, consistent with the arrangements described in paragraph 7 of the report of the Secretary-General of 9 August 1996;

"2. Requests the Secretary-General to continue close cooperation with the Government of Georgia in determining the priorities of the programme referred to in the above-mentioned reports of the Secretary-General and close consultation in its implementation;

"3. Further requests the Secretary-General to pursue the necessary follow-up arrangements with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe."

Text of Presidential Statement

The full text of the statement, to be issued as document S/PRST/1996/43, reads as follows:

"The Security Council has considered the report of the Secretary-General concerning the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, of 10 October 1996 (document S/1996/843). It has also taken note of the letter from the Permanent Representative of Georgia to the President of the Security Council of 8 October 1996 (document S/1996/835).

"The Security Council notes with deep concern that no significant progress has yet been achieved towards a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict, including on the political status of Abkhazia, respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders.

"The Security Council reaffirms its full support for an active role of the United Nations, with the assistance of the Russian Federation as facilitator, aimed at achieving a comprehensive political settlement. In the context of the recent visit to the region of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, the Council requests the Secretary-General to undertake further efforts and make proposals to reinvigorate the stalled peace process.

"The Security Council stresses that the primary responsibility for achieving such reinvigoration of the peace process rests upon the parties themselves and calls on them, in particular the Abkhaz side, to resume discussions and to reach substantive progress in the negotiations.

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"The Security Council is deeply concerned by the deterioration of the situation in the Gali region and its negative impact on the ability of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) to meet its mandated tasks. The Council condemns mine-laying and other threats referred to in the Secretary- General's report against UNOMIG and the Collective Peace-keeping forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS peace-keeping force). The Council calls on both parties to take all the necessary steps to prevent all such acts.

"The Security Council calls on both parties to respect the Moscow agreement of 14 May 1994 on a Cease-Fire and Separation of Forces (document S/1994/583, annex I) and expresses its concern at the violations referred to in the Secretary-General's report, in particular the serious violations which recently occurred in the restricted weapons zone.

"The Security Council stresses that the international community's ability to assist depends on the full cooperation of the parties, especially the fulfillment of their obligations regarding the safety and freedom of movement of international personnel.

"The Security Council is deeply concerned at the announcement made by the Abkhaz side that so-called parliamentary elections would be held on 23 November 1996. The holding of such elections would only be possible after the determination through negotiations of the political status of Abkhazia respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders, within the framework of a comprehensive political settlement, and with the guaranteed possibility of full participation for all refugees and displaced persons. The Council notes that conditions for holding such elections are not met at present. It calls on the Abkhaz side to call off these elections and further calls on both sides to refrain from any action that could heighten tension.

"The Security Council remains deeply concerned at the continued obstruction of the return of the refugees and displaced persons by the Abkhaz authorities, which is totally unacceptable.

"The Security Council welcomes the good cooperation between UNOMIG and the CIS peace-keeping force and their efforts to promote stabilization of the situation in the zone of conflict.

"The Security Council requests the Secretary-General to continue to keep it closely informed of the situation."

Documents before Council

The Security Council had before it three reports of the Secretary-General, and a letter to its President from the Permanent Representative of Georgia, concerning the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia.

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A report dated 1 July (document S/1996/507 and Add.1), which recommended the extension of UNOMIG's mandate until 31 January 1997, was acted upon when the Council adopted resolution 1065 (1996) on 12 July to extend the mandate. That document had reported that the political process in the country was at a standstill, and the core issue -- the definition of Abkhazia's political status - - remained unresolved.

In paragraph 18 of that report, the Secretary-General states that despite the efforts of the High Commissioner for Human Rights it was not possible to mobilize the necessary funds on a voluntary basis to establish an office to implement a programme for the protection and promotion of human rights in Abkhazia. He states his intention, subject to the concurrence of the competent legislative bodies, to include the small costs of that human rights programme in the budget of UNOMIG. That human rights office would then report to the High Commissioner for Human Rights through the Head of Mission of UNOMIG.

A Secretary-General's report dated 9 August (document S/1996/644) concerns arrangements to set up the human rights office in Sukhumi, Georgia. According to the report, that office would promote the human rights of Abkhazia's population and help the safe return of refugees and displaced persons at a cost of $298,000 for a 12-month period.

The office would monitor Abkhazia's human rights situation to prevent or correct violations by collecting first-hand information from witnesses and set up contacts with authorities in Tbilisi and Sukhumi on how to improve those rights, says the Secretary-General. It would report to the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the rights situation and its impact on the conflict in Georgia and initiate projects to promote human rights standards. That would be done through education, setting up human rights centres and the training of local officials, police and non-governmental organizations.

The Secretary-General envisages that the High Commissioner would deploy one Professional staff to Abkhazia, as long as the OSCE also deploys a qualified person. The office would be based in the premises of UNOMIG at Sukhumi. Should it be funded voluntarily, UNOMIG would provide it with accommodation, secretarial services, communications and transport facilities, which would be reimbursed. Subject to appropriate legislative approval, the office's costs would be included in the budget of UNOMIG. Based on that, the office would report to the High Commissioner through UNOMIG's Head of Mission.

Another option would be for the High Commissioner to raise the necessary resources through voluntary contributions, the report states in paragraph 9. It adds that initially, funds to cover the costs of the programme for a period of six months would need to be in hand before the programme could actually be implemented. The High Commissioner has already made efforts to secure voluntary funding, the report concludes.

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Another report of the Secretary-General (document S/1996/843 of 10 October) states that the parties had agreed to revise and extend the mandate of the CIS peace-keeping force until 31 January 1997, though that decision had not yet been endorsed by the Council of Heads of State of the CIS. The peace process meanwhile, along with the return of refugees and displaced persons to Abkhazia, continued to be stalled. Key unresolved issues include the future political status of Abkhazia and the return of refugees.

The Secretary-General states that he had asked his Special Envoy Edouard Brunner to visit the region from 8 to 10 October to assess the situation with representatives of both sides and with the Russian Federation, in its capacity as facilitator. Following that visit, he would consider additional steps that might be taken by the United Nations to reinvigorate the peace process.

Summarizing recent political developments, the Secretary-General writes that from 16 to 19 July negotiations were undertaken in Moscow between Vaza Lordkipanidze, Special Representative of the President of Georgia to the Peace Process; Anri Jergenia, Special Representative of the Abkhaz leader, Vladislav Ardzinba; Boris Pastukhov, First Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation; and the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and his Deputy.

While Georgia insists on the federative nature of the country, the Abkhaz side demands equal status for their territory, says the Secretary-General. The parties held to their positions during further consultations undertaken in Moscow from 10 to 13 September.

According to the report, in a statement on 11 August (the text of which may be found in document S/1996/645), Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze expressed his readiness to meet in the near future with Mr. Ardzinba, provided that positive results could be achieved. He also acknowledged that in the past the Georgian authorities had made some "fateful mistakes" regarding the Abkhaz, Ossetian and other peoples. Mr. Ardzinba responded by affirming his readiness to meet President Shevardnadze on the basis of the declaration on measures for a political settlement of the Georgian/Abkhaz conflict of 4 April 1994. A direct meeting has not yet taken place.

The Secretary-General's report then states that in the latter part of August, Mr. Pastukhov visited Georgia for consultations with both parties. He also visited the Gali region for an on-site examination of the situation, including security issues affecting the return of refugees and displaced persons. Diplomatic envoys of the countries known as the Friends of Georgia visited Sukhumi and held consultations with the Abkhaz leadership.

On 30 August, Mr. Ardzinba announced his decision to hold "parliamentary elections" in Abkhazia on 23 November. President Shevardnadze reacted by saying that the elections were aimed at legalizing the expulsion of Georgians from the region. On 2 October, the Parliament of Georgia adopted a resolution that considered the Abkhaz decision to hold such elections illegal, null and void.

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The Secretary-General states that the 27 August meeting between President Shevardnadze and the South Ossetian leader, Ludwig Chibirov, on measures for the comprehensive settlement of the conflict in South Ossetia, could have significant implications for the situation in Abkhazia. However, on 6 September, the "Supreme Soviet" of South Ossetia adopted a resolution to create a presidency and hold presidential elections on 10 November.

The UNOMIG had implemented some of its mandated tasks despite limitations on its patrolling of the Gali region due to the threat of mines, according to the report. The decision of the Chief Military Observer to authorize foot patrols in that sector will help re-establish contacts with the local population and will facilitate the expansion of patrolling once mine-protected vehicles reach the Mission area.

The situation in the Gali security and restricted weapons zones has become increasingly unstable since mid-August, it continues. Mine-laying and attacks on the CIS peace-keeping force and the Abkhaz militia checkpoints had also continued. The Abkhaz militia had conducted several "sweep" operations in the security zone to curb criminality in the area, but those operations had only increased the animosity of the largely Georgian population. Abkhaz plans to establish a permanent militia post in the lower part of the security zone had not materialized.

Both sides continued to violate the Moscow Agreement of 14 May 1994, according to the report. Between 25 June and 9 September, UNOMIG recorded 8 violations by the Abkhaz side and 37 by the Georgian side. The majority of the violations were committed by off-duty unarmed soldiers entering the security zone for private purposes. The situation in the Kodori Valley had improved markedly as a result of the arrival of a Georgian police unit of 100 well-trained and disciplined men.

Cooperation between UNOMIG and the CIS peace-keeping force has been good, according to the report. Medical staff of both missions have worked closely in complicated evacuation operations, and teams have combined their resources in primary and secondary medical care. Similarly, CIS peace-keeping force engineers had assisted UNOMIG on several construction projects by providing heavy lift equipment. The CIS peace-keeping force had provided the Mission with much-needed military escorts.

Further, before the Council was a letter dated 8 October from the Permanent Representative of Georgia to the United Nations, addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/1996/835) which states that the efforts of the international community aimed at settling the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia had run up against the intransigence of the Abkhaz leadership, which had failed to consider compromise.

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The separatist leadership, he states, disregarded decisions of the Security Council and had exacerbated the situation even more so by scheduling the presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in Abkhazia, Georgia, by November. Under the present circumstances, in which Abkhazia had been left uninhabited by Georgians, when more than 300,000 refugees and displaced persons remained homeless, that decision was both immoral and unlawful, and capable of damaging the peace process beyond repair.

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For information media. Not an official record.