Once Again on Violations for the Right to Freedom of Movement for Citizens of Abkhazia
Once again on violations for the right to freedom of movement for citizens of Abkhazia with Russian citizenship
Up until 2002, when citizens of Abkhazia who possessed former Soviet passports crossed the Russian - Abkhazian border on the Psou river side, they were given a migration leaf with the abbreviation of stateless persons, i.e. a "stateless person". Citizens travelled to Russia as "stateless persons", despite the fact that all the while they had a country, a homeland, and a state with sovereign attributes. Yet, been not recognized by anyone, and Abkhazia continued to suffer under blockades and sanctions imposed by the CIS. During this period, the women of Abkhazia bore the brunt of these burdens, which placed the weight of their families on their shoulders. The international community did not care about this. Their primary concern was to satisfy the ambitions of the Georgian government, whose representatives in all countries and international platforms opposed the people of Abkhazia, despite the fact that their actions infringed on rights and freedoms approved in all internationally recognized declarations and conventions.
These conventions are guided by civilized nations, but are evidently against Abkhazia, which is unequivocally a double standard. We should also note the fact that citizens of Abkhazia refused to acquiesce Georgian passports, even during years they did not have legal travel documentation for the inherent right of movement. The so-called idea of Tbilisi’s "neutral passports" for Abkhazian citizens was doomed to failure. Imposing Georgian documents on Abkhazian citizens, after all Abkhazia had experienced since August 14, 1992, is pointless, and those who have any sort of insight into Abkhaz society understand this clearly. During the implementation of a United Nations mission in Abkhazia, a human rights activist requested UN documentation (a common request, for example, in Kosovo). The Georgian side, headed by Eduard Shevardnadze opposed this, which led to UN officials turning down the Abkhaz appeal.
Freedom of movement is one of the most critically important and fundamental human rights. In principle, it is the foundation of other basic human rights such as the right to education, the right to health care, and the right to life. For over twenty one years, this right has been violated and ignored by the global community, which in reality panders to the Georgian government and irrefutably disrespects the rights of the citizens of Abkhazia, regardless of their ethnic origin.
Meanwhile, in other disputed states, having a non-recognized status or an unclear position on its political status does not violate the rights of their people to travel globally. In our case, the residents of Abkhazia are isolated from the world and have the right to visit only Russia and the few states that have recognized Abkhazia as a sovereign state.
In the Yeltsin era, after the beginning of the first Chechen war, the Russian government enforced a rigid protocol for crossing the border with Abkhazia. All men from 16 to 60 years of age were denied entry to the Russian Federation from Abkhazia. Others passed through the border after drawn out investigations. This protocol endured for several years and left bitter memories in Abkhazia. Today, if Abkhazians mention the " blockade", they are referring specifically to first few years of this strict practice on the Russian-Abkhaz border.
No international human rights organizations or the United Nations mission, which was in Abkhazia at the time, raised these issues at the appropriate levels. This can be attributed to the fact that the President of Georgia at the time, Eduard Shevardnadze, actively contributed to this blockade and used the situation to his advantage. In fact, sanctions were imposed as per his demands and were overwhelmingly supported by the international community. CIS sanctions against Abkhazia violated the rights of citizens and contributed to the generally lacking development of society, the slowing down of the economy, and other vital factors for the development of the state. The lack of rehabilitation programs, humanitarian assistance, recognized passports for free movement across Russian borders, and, most importantly, the neglect of the interests and rights of the Abkhazian people, greatly impacted the nation's health, from both a physical and psychological perspective.
Mass acquisitions of Russian citizenship by residents of Abkhazia in 2002-2003 solved some questions relating to the uncertain status of Abkhazian citizens in Russia. However, the problem of movement remained and continued to pose problems. One of the most pressing concerns was the travel to other countries, which endured even though citizens of Abkhazia held foreign Russian passports and made it nearly impossible for them to obtain entry visas anywhere. This visa issue is the most intractable and problematic, along with the recognition of Abkhaz passports that have been issued by the authorities of Abkhazia since 2010.
One of the reasons for the refusal to accept documentation for a visa or, as a rule, the outright refusal of a visa altogether is the fact that the Russian passports are issued to citizens of Abkhazia in the Russian Federation’s embassy in Abkhazia. Recently, a refusal on the part of European consulates to deny visas with regards to Abkhazians has been noted even with proper documentation accompanying Russian issued passports. In this instance, the consulate in question required the applicant to provide a Russian passport with a residence permit in Moscow. This requirement cannot be seen as anything other than bullying and discrimination, because it turns out that while Abkhaz citizens have to secure visas and travel to other countries, they now need to look for ways to acquire a Russian passport with a residence permit for the Russian Federation. The Polish consulate in Moscow, as well as consulates for the Baltic republics, also required evidence of working in Moscow. Different reasons are imposed or invented for the refusal of visas, up till the most absurd one, which is an offer to apply for a visa at a consulate in Tbilisi. Representatives of European embassies and consulate overt and covert , but under strong “recommendations” and pressure from Georgia, act contrarily to all international norms and violate the rights of people in favor of political aspirations of the Georgian leadership, which actively promote the international isolation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
It should be noted that this is not so much about how to obtain tourist visas. Refusal of entry to European states and the United States also affect Abkhaz students who have secured admission to universities in these countries. In particular, recently, students were unable to travel to Italy; representatives of civil organizations whose aims were to participate in international forums and round table discussions held in the European Union were also denied visas. Visas are not given to children's dance groups and sports teams as well; if suddenly they were to somehow manage to obtain visas for these groups, an international “scandal” is arranged by the Embassy of Georgia in the host country. This also affects persons in need of special medical treatment. The latter is a blatant and cynical example of the violation of human rights and a violation of the articles of the Universal Declaration and all human rights conventions, and also, the universal principles of humanity and morality in the 21st century.
Human rights are not an exclusive privilege of large nations or only those whose countries are members of the United Nations or the OSCE. The United States and European countries have expressed support for the so-called "territorial integrity" of Georgia, which are Josef Stalin’s borders for the former Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic (and his place of birth), and this support does not change the Georgian position on the recognition of the reality on the ground and does not improve the situation for the restrictions imposed on free movement for the citizens of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It is time to rethink a pragmatic security solution and the protection of human rights, not only of geopolitical interests.