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Amnesty Demands Russia, South Ossetia End Travel 'Ban' To Rest Of Georgia


The agreement to end the fighting in 2008 left wide swaths of Georgia under de facto Russian control and divided local villages and other communities, including separating farmers from their land. 

Amnesty International has demanded that Russia and its client authorities in South Ossetia reverse a recent "complete ban" on movement between the breakaway region and the rest of Georgia.

In a statement on November 22, the rights group said the two-month-old restrictions were "further worsening the humanitarian situation by denying residents of the breakaway region access to medical care, social-security benefits, education, and family visits across the [so-called administrative boundary line, or] ABL" that separates the sides.

It cited a report blaming the stoppages for "at least one fatality" and several detentions for prohibited crossings.

Russia-backed Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s amid a conflict between separatists and Georgian government forces.

After the five-day Georgia-Russia war in August 2008, Moscow recognized the independence of Abkhazia, and another breakaway Georgian region, South Ossetia.

Georgia and most of the international community consider both regions as territories that are occupied by Russia.

Tensions at the de facto divide between the Georgian and Russian-backed sides flared in late August amid signs of a military buildup after South Ossetia's breakaway authorities complained about Tbilisi's erection of a new wooden observation post near the village of Tsnelisi.

The United States, the European Union, and Russia urged all sides to exercise restraint at the time.

The South Ossetian "complete ban on movement" between the two sides followed in early September.

Amnesty International pointed out on November 22 that the closure "has particularly negatively affected older people, schoolchildren, and university students and those in need of medical care."

It called the shutdown "a disproportionate response" and "the result...an arbitrary and disproportionate restriction on freedom of movement for all affected local civilians with a resulting serious impact on a range of their civil, economic, and social rights."

Amnesty International also demanded the release of Vaja Gaprindashvili, a doctor and resident of the capital, Tbilisi, who was detained on November 9 by Russian and separatist forces while he was attempting to enter the breakaway region.

The agreement to end the fighting in 2008 left wide swaths of Georgia under de facto Russian control and divided local villages and other communities, including separating farmers from their land.

Immigration watchdogs say that Georgia's population of around 4 million accounts for a large number of migrants from the former Soviet Union to the rest of Europe, and cite a significant population of internally displaced persons from the 2008 and previous conflicts who are unable to return to their homes.

Georgia hopes to join the NATO military alliance and has been told it can eventually become a member despite Russian objections.

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