While the United Nations Human Rights Council continues to trump up charges against Israel for defending itself against Islamic extremist terrorists seeking its destruction, the Council continues to ignore real illegal occupation of territory within the democratic nation of Georgia by the Russian Federation. The Obama administration is also guilty of sternly condemning Israel for planning to build additional housing in the Jewish section of East Jerusalem, while remaining largely silent in the face of continuing illegal evictions of Georgians from their homes in the Russian occupied territories.
By way of background, after a series of Russian and separatist provocations in the summer 2008, Georgian action to restore order in South Ossetia in early August of that year led to a Russian military crack-down that occupied the breakaway areas of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and other portions of Georgia as well. More than 200 Georgian civilians were killed during five days of the Russian invasion.
Russian troops and secret police remain in the breakaway areas which, in late August 2008, Russia unilaterally declared to be independent states. This action, in violation of international law, was strongly condemned by most of the world’s nations and international organizations.
H.E. Mr. Grigol Vashadze, Foreign Minister of Georgia, briefed United Nations correspondents on April 19, 2010 concerning the “deplorable” living conditions that still exist in these territories. Ten thousand Russian soldiers and additional Russian secret police (successors to the dreaded KGB) continue to occupy approximately 20% of what was once an integrated Georgian republic before the Russian invasion. Five additional military bases are being opened.
The Georgian Foreign Minister accused the Russian occupiers of engaging in “ethnic cleansing.” At least 400,000 Georgians are currently categorized as refugees or internally displaced persons. Georgian civilians have been raped, abducted and evicted from their homes. The evictions continue to this day.
Priests and nuns have been expelled from the occupied territories, making it practically impossible for Catholic Georgians still remaining there to practice their religion. There is a ban on the teaching of the Georgian language in the schools. Georgian agricultural exports are under Russian embargo.
The International Court of Justice, in a case between two states where it had actual jurisdiction to issue a binding ruling, has ordered Russia to “refrain from any act of racial discrimination” against ethnic Georgians, including “sponsoring, defending or supporting” discriminatory acts in areas occupied by Russian military forces. Russia has disobeyed the order. Yet all we hear about from so-called human rights activists is Israel’s disregard of a non-binding advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice regarding the separation fence that has saved Israeli civilians from Palestinian suicide bombers.
Russia used its veto in the UN Security Council to block the continuation of the United Nations ground presence in Georgia. However, over Russian objections, the UN General Assembly did support a Georgian-proposed draft resolution concerning people who had fled the occupied territories. The resolution, passed last September, condemned the “forced displacement” of the population from Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia territories, strongly upheld the displaced populations’ right to return there, and defined these territories as parts of Georgia. It stressed the need to work out a schedule of voluntary, secure and unhindered return of all displaced persons and refugees. Russia has disregarded the resolution and refuses to allow any refugees or displaced persons to return to their homes.
The General Assembly resolution called on Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to submit to the General Assembly a comprehensive report on the resolution’s implementation. The report is due next month.
Meanwhile, the Georgian people continue to suffer at the hands of the Russian occupying forces. The UN Human Rights Council does nothing about the daily violations of Georgian civilians’ human rights. The Security Council is paralyzed. Russia refuses to deal directly with the Georgian government, using its puppet regimes installed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia to communicate in the Geneva talks that were supposed to help resolve the outstanding issues.
Foreign Minister Vashadze praised President Obama for taking the time to meet personally with Georgia’s president and for continuing the positive strategic relationship between the two countries. Fair enough. But we are still waiting for President Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to issue a stern public rebuke of Russia’s occupation of Georgian territories and of the eviction of Georgians from their homes at the same decibel level they directed towards Israel.