DRI once again responds to increased number of detentions of Georgian citizens
On February 11, the occupation regime of the occupied Tskhinvali region released illegally detained Eric Drulev.

In recent years, the so-called borderization of the former autonomous region of South Ossetia has been accompanied by the detentions of Georgian citizens on charges of "illegal border crossing". In terms of freedom of movement, the situation is concerning in the direction of Abkhazia as well. The Chorchana-Tsnelisi crisis and the Covid 19 pandemic have further worsened the situation.  

In addition, both Tskhinvali and Sokhumi have a completely unnecessary strict approach towards ethnic Georgians, which is detrimental to the Georgian-Ossetian and Georgian-Abkhazian relations. The most obvious examples of such treatment are the cases of Zaza Gakheladze and Irakli Bebua. Gakheladze was sentenced to 12 years in prison for absolutely absurd charges, while Irakli Bebua was sentenced to 9 years for burning an Abkhazian flag.

These actions have a very negative effect on the attitude of the Georgian community towards Ossetians and Abkhazians and damage the prospect of a peaceful, result-oriented and direct dialogue with Tskhinvali and Sokhumi.

Currently, 4 citizens of Georgia are in illegal detention in Tskhinvali: Genadi Bestaev (sentenced to 2 years), Lasha Khetereli (1 year), Ramaz Begeluri (2 months), Zaza Gakheladze (12 years and 6 months). According to some sources, another Georgian citizen Sandro Berianidze is in the Tskhinvali pre-trial detention center. As for Abkhazia, 1 citizen of Georgia - Irakli Bebua is sentenced to 9 years in priosn.

The Georgian government cannot directly influence the occupation country or the de facto authorities of Tskhinvali. However, Tbilisi and Sukhumi, Tbilisi and Tskhinvali have a positive experience of cooperation. For example, in 2016, the parties exchanged prisoners after a difficult diplomatic process. This story shows that along with the use of tools, such as hotline, provision of information to international organizations, etc, the government should also consider the use of less standard methods.

The practice of unlawful arrests and restrictions on movement is typical of conflicts. It is true that the conflicts in Cyprus, Moldova and Ukraine differ from the context of Georgia, but the best practices followed by our partner countries are worth paying attention.

The Democracy Research Institute once again calls on the Georgian authorities to pay special attention to the population living in the conflict zone. Today, keeping them in the occupied regions is of paramount importance for the further security of the state. It is true that the government has taken some steps in this direction, but they have not led to a qualitative improvement in the lives of the locals. Unfortunately, migration processes from these areas are intensive. Therefore, the government and the civil sector should discuss this issue together, in order to take effective measures.