Organizations Working With theRights of Internally Displaced Persons Respond to the Shamgona Tragedy

A tragic information was disseminated today by media regarding the discovery of several dead bodies in Enguri River near the Shamgona village[1]. According to this information, the residents of Gali region were trying to trespass from the occupied territories to the controlled territory of Georgian through the Enguri River[2]. Whilst crossing it, 3 of the trespassers passed away, whilst the 4th person is missing.

Signatory organizations send their condolences to the families of the deceased and express our concern over the inappropriate protection of the rights of Georgian citizens living in the occupied territories by the state institutions. For years, NGOs have been responding to the limitations of the rights of citizens living in and alongside the occupied territories and the existing crisis[3], and have called on the authorities to take effective action.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the closure of the Enguri checkpoint without prior notice for an indefinite period of time has left people without any basic and vital services. Following the closure of the so-called “Administrative Border”, local population found itself completely isolated and in a humanitarian crisis because it did not have access to adequate medical care, food, pensions or other necessary services[4]. It is noteworthy, that effective measures were taken by the state to provide pensions, in particular at a certain time it was possible to receive money through mobile banking cars near the bridge or through Russian bank ATMs in Gali.

The introduction of a five-day mandatory quarantine for the population moving from the occupied territories to receive basic services has created a new barrier for the population. Due to the hindering factors, refraining from crossing to the Georgian-controlled territory and/or uncontrolled crossing of the so-called “border” posed a threat to health, economic, physical and other types of security of the population. The uncontrolled crossing of the dividing line to access basic services and social assistance has claimed many lives[5].

We - the signatory organizations call on to protect the rights of Georgian citizens in the occupied territories:

The Government of Georgia:

❖ Use all possible diplomatic and international legal mechanisms to protect the rights of persons living in the occupied territories;

❖ Review the decision of the Government of Georgia for a five-day mandatory quarantine for Georgian citizens leaving the occupied territories and conduct PCR tests for the population at checkpoints, which will ensure timely and safe movement of residents;

❖ Ensure that the needs of medical facilities in the so-called “border region” of the controlled territory of Georgia are met and satisfied;

❖ Provide simplified electronic mechanisms for the population living in the occupied territories to process with documents and restore their social benefits.