Human Rights Center reacts to the fact of tragic death of four Gali residents on Enguri river and expresses condolences to the families of the deceased persons.
Four residents of the occupied villages of Gali District - Tsarche and Chuburkhinji - drowned in flooding Enguri river when attempting to cross the river to reach the territory controlled by the central government of Georgia.
The tragic death of Gali residents is the direct result of the illegal occupation of Georgian territories by the Russian Federation.
For years, the Russian Federation carries out deliberate policies in Gali District in occupied region of Abkhazia, as a result of which the Gali District, inhabited by the ethnic Georgians, loses connection to the territory controlled by the Georgian central government.
Since 2016, the occupying forces closed the majority of the crossing points connecting Gali District to the territory controlled by the central government of Georgia. In 2016-2017, the crossing points of Shamgona-Tagiloni, Khurcha-Nabakevi and Otobaia-Orsantia were abolished. As a result, the residents of the lower zone villages of the Gali District had to travel 20-25 kilometers more in order to reach the territory controlled by the central government of Georgia. After the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic
, out of two remaining crossing points - Enguri Bridge and Saberio-Tskoushi - Saberio-Tskoushi also seized functioning. Consequently, there is only one road left connecting occupied Gali District to the rest of Georgia - Enguri Bridge. However, for the majority of Gali residents, this road is closed as well.
During the spread of Covid 19 pandemic, only limited group of people are allowed to cross Enguri Bridge. Further, when passing through this way, Gali residents are subjected to document control by the de facto forces. Obtaining necessary documents from the de facto authorities in order to cross to the territory controlled by the central government of Georgia is a significant problem for Gali residents. A document valid for this purpose is a special pass or a residence permit issued by the de facto authorities. The ethnic Georgians encounter significant obstacles for obtaining both of these documents.
The illegal borderization of the Georgian territories - barbed wires and other artificial barriers erected by the Russian Federation – substantially hinders the crossing to the rest of Georgia as well.
Because of these problems, for years, before or after the pandemic the ethnic Georgians residing in Gali District came to the territory controlled by the central government of Georgia through dangerous ways, by using damaged bridges or crossing Enguri river. In addition, such crossings were subject to active surveillance by the representatives of occupying and de facto forces who unlawfully detained and fined the passers. After the outbreak of Covid 19 pandemic, the situation has deteriorated even more. The permitted possibility to cross to the Georgian central government controlled territory through Enguri bridge was further restricted as the group of people allowed by the de facto authorities to pass was reduced.
Instead of easing the severe consequences of the policies carried out by the Russian Federation in Gali District, the Georgian government imposed further obstacles for them to pass to the rest of Georgia. After overcoming the above described difficulties, created by the occupying forces, the Gali residents who manage to cross to the Georgian central government controlled territory have to spend several days in quarantine. The residents of the Gali District usually cross to the territory controlled by the central government of Georgia for the issues that need prompt care – receiving medical assistance, purchasing products and medicines, receiving pensions, using social services, etc. The application of quarantine makes it useless to cross to the Georgian central government controlled territory for these purposes.
HRC calls on the Russian Federation:
- To restore the crossing points connecting Gali District to the territory controlled by the central government of Georgia
- To simplify the procedures for Gali residents to receive the documents necessary to cross to the territory controlled by the central government of Georgia
- To stop unlawful arrest and fining of persons crossing to the territory controlled by the central government of Georgia
- To stop illegal borderization of Georgian territory and dismantle the artificial barriers erected on the boundary lines
- To abolish the quarantine operating towards the persons who come to the Georgian central government controlled territory from the occupied territories and test them for Covid 19 at the crossing points.