Asida Shakryl: "Abkhazia's Executive Authorities' Self-Isolation Policy Cannot But Cause Concern"
Ekho Kavkaza | Vitaly Sharia ― The Human Rights Ombudsman of Abkhazia, Asida Shakryl, has addressed Parliament with her final report in this position. In it, she criticized the authorities for their self-isolation policy and called the statement by the Foreign Minister regarding the harm caused by the activities of non-governmental organizations an attempt to move towards authoritarianism and a revision of the constitution. The outgoing Ombudsman also emphasized that she is concerned about the "persistent work" of the State Security Service and the Ministry of Justice in promoting the law on "foreign agents."
Today, the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Republic of Abkhazia, Asida Shakryl, who will remain in this position until the end of the month, presented a report on the activities for 2022 to the Abkhazian Parliament.
Previously, many observers had noticed that the agenda for the previous parliamentary session included the issue of electing a new Human Rights Ombudsman from three candidates and expressed bewilderment: how could they do so without the incumbent's annual report? Later, the elections were postponed due to the absence of one of the candidates in the republic. However, society continued to discuss why the active Asida Shakryl was leaving, having only served one five-year term in her post.
The Ombudsman began her report by stating that state institutions, including Parliament, had not engaged in constructive discussions on pressing human rights issues facing the country.
Numerous complaints were made against the prosecutor's office and the judiciary. According to the Ombudsman, it is necessary to amend a number of legislative acts related to the prevention of torture and degrading treatment, ensuring the rights of persons held in places of detention, revising the absolute ban on abortions, and so on. The report also paid considerable attention to the energy crisis, the creation of a crisis center for children and families in difficult life situations, which has long been raised by the Ombudsman.
She then called the problem of documenting residents of Abkhazia's eastern regions of Georgian nationality "absolutely unacceptable":
"In all Ombudsman's reports, the problems faced by the Georgian population in the eastern regions of Abkhazia are highlighted. The need for an immediate response to the extremely difficult legal and political situation is emphasized. All these problems remain relevant today. Therefore, I believe it is important to once again draw your attention to their analysis, which is contained in previous reports. As in previous years, we consider the situation with the documentation problems of residents in the area to be absolutely unacceptable. With each passing year, the resolution of this issue is complicated by both political conditions and the norms of the law on citizenship, residence permits, bureaucratic, technical, and other obstacles... Unfortunately, the impression has been created that the authorities are trying to avoid taking responsibility for solving the undoubtedly complex Gal issue."
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The Ombudsman said that, regrettably, for thirty years, European policy has continued to prevent Abkhazia from participating in international cooperation in various fields, including access to international human rights protection mechanisms. Moreover, the recent decision by the Council of Europe (8.12.2022) not to accept Russian documents issued to Abkhazian residents by the Russian Embassy in the Republic of Abkhazia is a serious step towards further restricting the basic rights of Abkhazia's residents. She continued:
"On the other hand, the policy of Abkhazia's executive authorities aimed at the self-isolation of the republic, which leads to an even tighter closure of Abkhazia, limiting contacts with the outside world, also affects the human rights situation and restricts the opportunities for Abkhazia's residents, primarily the younger generation. The actions of the Foreign Ministry, contradicting the idea of building relations between Abkhazia and the outside world, are of serious concern, the expediency of which was not in doubt even in the most difficult post-war years. It is impossible not to react to statements by the Foreign Minister and staff of the Foreign Ministry about the harm caused by the activities of non-governmental organizations, as well as the claim that the ideals of democracy allegedly threaten national interests. We consider such statements as an attempt to revise the Constitution of the Republic of Abkhazia, in particular, the democratic principles enshrined in it, and as an attempt to steadily move towards an authoritarian system of governance. In this context, no less concern is caused by the persistent work of the State Security Service and the Ministry of Justice in adopting legislative norms that restrict the rights and freedoms of citizens, including the law on so-called foreign agents, aimed primarily at restricting the activities of civil activists, civil organizations and the media defending rights and freedoms. In this regard, I consider it important to note the position of the parliamentary body, which rightly rejected amendments to the law "On State Security Bodies". The proposed amendments, in our opinion, are aimed at legalizing the practice of using intimidation methods in the form of summons for talks, interrogations in the State Security Service, and warnings to citizens expressing their own opinions. With its decision, Parliament confirmed that Abkhaz society does not intend to revive and strengthen the destructive authoritarian system of governance for the Abkhaz state. This inspires optimism and strengthens faith in democracy – the power of the people."
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In conclusion, Asida Shakryl expressed hope that "the next five years will not be spent in exhausting confrontation, but in effective cooperation between the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights, the People's Assembly, and the structures of the executive and judicial authorities for the benefit of all residents of the Republic of Abkhazia."
The first of the parliamentarians to speak after the report was Daut Khutaba, the chairman of the Committee on State and Legal Policy, who noted:
Words of gratitude were also addressed to Shakryl by other deputies, including the Speaker Lasha Ashuba, who, at the same time, noted that he did not agree with all the positions presented in the report. The Parliament unanimously decided to accept the report.
On the steps of the legislative body, as we were leaving, we talked with Asida Shakryl, and I couldn't help but ask why she still didn't want to continue this work further. "I decided a long time ago," Asida Shakryl replied, "that I would not stay in this position for more than five years."
This article was published by Ekho Kavkaza and is translated from Russian.