Abkhazia

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 05 July 2016

Summary: Abkhazia cannot accede to, or attend meetings of, the Convention on Cluster Munitions due to its political status. Officials have stated that Abkhazia does not stockpile cluster munitions but have not expressed support for their prohibition.

Background

Abkhazia is a breakaway region of Georgia recognized by only a small number states.[1] Due to its status, Abkhazia cannot accede to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Policy

Abkhazia last made statements on the convention in March 2010, when a defense official informed the Monitor that Abkhazia does not support a ban on cluster munitions and stated that Abkhazian military forces does not possess cluster munitions.[2] It is not known if Russian units stationed in Abkhazia possess cluster munitions.

During the August 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia, Abkhazian and Russian forces retook the upper Kodor Valley from Georgian forces. Abkhazia has asserted that Georgia fired large numbers of cluster munitions with M095 submunitions from LAR-160 rockets in the Kodor Valley.[3] The Monitor has not been able to independently investigate and confirm this information. In March 2010, the Abkhazian Ministry of Defense stated that the submunitions had been cleared and destroyed.[4]



[1] After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, conflict erupted between Abkhazia and Georgia, which ended with a cease-fire agreement in May 1994. Abkhazia is a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. As of May 2013, 66 UN member states had declared that they do not recognize Abkhazia, while six had recognized Abkhazia: Nauru, Nicaragua, Russia, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Venezuela.

[2] Interview with Roland Jojua, Press Secretary, Ministry of Defense, Sukhum, 19 March 2010.

[3] Email from Maxim Gunjia, Deputy Foreign Minister, 24 August 2009. See ICBL, Landmine Monitor Report 2009: Toward a Mine-Free World (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, October 2009), p. 1,159. The deputy foreign minister provided photographs of submunitions and containers. The M095 is described as an M85-type submunition.

[4] Interview with Roland Jojua, Ministry of Defense, Sukhum, 19 March 2010.

Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 02 October 2012

Abkhazia is a breakaway region of Georgia and is only recognized by Nauru, Nicaragua, Russia, and Venezuela.[1] After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the 1992–1993 conflict between Abkhazia and Georgia was characterized by significant use of mines by both sides. A cease-fire agreement was reached in May 1994.

Due to its status, Abkhazia cannot accede to the Mine Ban Treaty. It has not taken any unilateral steps to ban antipersonnel mines. Officials have expressed sympathy with humanitarian concerns surrounding mines, but made it clear that they consider antipersonnel mines militarily essential. In August 2009, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Abkhazia, Maxim Gunjia, told the Monitor, “Our general policy towards landmines is still viewed through [the] perspective of our relations with Georgia. We still consider [that there is a] threat from their territory.”[2] A Ministry of Foreign Affairs official previously told the Monitor that Abkhazia could prohibit antipersonnel mines only after Georgia acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty and signed a peace treaty with Abkhazia.[3]

Use, production, transfer, and stockpiling

Abkhazian forces were last confirmed to have used antipersonnel mines in 2002.[4] There were unconfirmed allegations of use of mines by both Abkhazian and Georgian forces in 2008.[5] The Monitor is not aware of any allegations since that time.

Abkhazia is not known to have ever produced or exported antipersonnel mines, but its military forces maintain a stockpile.[6] Abkhazia has not revealed the size and composition of its stockpile. Russian units stationed in Abkhazia may also stockpile antipersonnel mines.



[1] The Republic of Abkhazia is a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization.

[2] Email from Maxim Gunjia, Deputy Foreign Minister of Abkhazia, 24 August 2009.

[4] The Abkhazian Minister of Defense told the Monitor that Abkhazia used antipersonnel mines in the upper Kodor Valley in 2002. See, Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 1,180. Abkhazia maintains specialized units to lay minefields on order. See, Landmine Monitor Report 2005, p. 933.

[5] See, Landmine Monitor Report 2009, pp. 1,158–1,159.

[6] Interview with Col. Garry Kupalba, Deputy Minister of Defense, Sukhum, 12 April 2007.

Mine Action

Last updated: 24 December 2013

Abkhazia’s contamination no longer includes mined areas or cluster munition-contaminated areas although it does have a residual threat from other unexploded ordnance (UXO).

Mines

Abkhazia was contaminated with mines during the 1992–1993 conflict between the breakaway area and the government of Georgia.[1] In October 2011, HALO Trust completed clearance and declared Abkhazia to be mine-free.[2] Over a 14-year period from 1997 through October 2011, HALO cleared 336 mined and battle areas, covering an area of more than 15km2. In the process, they found and destroyed 9,788 mines and 48,998 items of explosive ordnance while using as many as 530 manual deminers at one point during the program. HALO also cleared more than 25,000 items of explosive ordnance from ammunition stores in Kodori bombed during the conflict.[3]

Speaking in Abkhazia in November 2011, Director of HALO Trust Guy Willoughby said “It is great news that after 14 years we can announce the complete clearance of all 336 known mined areas in Abkhazia, in line with Article 5 of the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty.”[4] Mine clearance has resulted in safe transit in the upper Kodori region and agricultural use of the cleared land, including vineyards.[5]

Cluster munitions remnants 

Cluster munitions were used in relatively limited quantities during the 1992–1993 conflict. HALO records all cluster munition remnants as UXO so is therefore unable to report the total number they have found and destroyed. In early 2010, the organization learned of a contaminated area in Jal village in Ochamchira region when local villagers attempted to farm previously cleared land and found cluster munition remnants, revealing the extent of the strike to be greater than had been believed. On 14 May 2010, HALO completed subsurface cluster munition clearance on the site. There remain no known areas containing cluster munition remnants in Abkhazia.[6]

Explosive remnants of war

Abkhazia is also contaminated with explosive remnants of war (ERW), primarily UXO, although there is no requirement for systematic ERW clearance in Abkhazia. The remaining problem is from stray small arms ammunition and individual items or ordnance, including unexploded air-dropped bombs. HALO destroyed almost 500 items of UXO in 2011.[7] It reports that UXO and small arms ammunition do not hinder livelihoods or other activities.[8]

Mine Action Program

There is no mine action authority in Abkhazia. Mine action data collection, planning, and operational coordination have been provided by the Abkhaz Mine Action Office (AMAO), formerly known as the Abkhazia Mine Action Center (AMAC), which was established by HALO in 1999.[9]

HALO expects that items of ordnance will occasionally be found in Abkhazia. It planned to support AMAO to maintain emergency call-out facilities for the disposal of single items of UXO that may be found by farmers. AMAO will also maintain the mine action database with detailed maps of all the districts to advise agricultural and tourism developers who may need information in the years ahead.[10] AMAO—with two explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams and two mine clearance teams—will maintain EOD call-out and mine clearance capacities in Sukhumi and Gori.[11] In 2013, HALO continued removing UXO in Abkhazia at the rate of finding three UXO per day.[12]

 


[1] HALO Trust, “Georgia, The problem,” undated.

[2] HALO Trust, “Abkhazia 1997–2011,” undated.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Andrew Moore, HALO Trust, 4 March 2011.

[7] Email from Andrew Moore, HALO Trust, 26 April 2010; and response to Monitor questionnaire, 4 March 2011.

[8] Interview with Andrew Moore, HALO Trust, in Phnom Penh, 1 December 2011.

[9] “Report on HALO Trust program in Abkhazia,” June 2005, provided by David McMahon, HALO Trust; and email from David McMahon, 1 August 2005.

[10] HALO Trust, “Abkhazia 1997–2011,” undated.

[11] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Andrew Moore, HALO Trust, 4 March 2011.

[12] Interview with Valon Kumnova, HALO Trust, in Geneva, 4 December 2013.

Support for Mine Action

Last updated: 10 September 2012

Abkhazian authorities do not make financial contributions to the mine action program.

Since 2008, the United States (US) has been the sole donor to HALO Trust’s mine clearance operations in Abkhazia. In 2011, the US contributed US$286,000.[1]

In October 2011, HALO Trust completed clearance of all known mined areas and declared Abkhazia to be cleared of mines.[2]

Summary of contributions in 2007–2011

Year

International contributions (US$)

2011

286,000

2010

850,000

2009

1,318,710

2008

700,000

2007

1,760,167

Total

4,914,877

 



[1] Email from Tom Meredith, Programme Manager, HALO Trust, 21 August 2012.

[2] HALO Trust, “Abkhazia 1997–2011,” undated.

Casualties

Last updated: 05 May 2017

No mine explosive remnants of war (ERW) casualties were recorded in Abkhazia for 2016. Two antivehicle mine casualties were reported in 2015. One person was killed and another injured in a single incident.[1] Prior to the 2015 incident the last mine/ERW casualties were reported in 2010, when HALO Trust reported three mine/ERW casualties.[2]

From 1992, HALO recorded 706 mine/ERW casualties (158 killed; 548 injured), including more than 400 civilians. The data was not considered to be comprehensive.

The ICRC launched a mine/ERW data collection and needs assessment project in Abkhazia in 2011, which continued through 2014.[3]

There was no specific victim assistance coordination in Abkhazia. The needs of mine/ERW survivors are included in the broader services for persons with disabilities, including conflict survivors.

In April 2015, funding arrangements for regional associations of persons with disabilities as a result of war were agreed between the Fund for the War Disabled of Abkhazia and the associations. It was agreed that the fund will not only support the organizations themselves, but also the specific services to be provided to veterans with disabilities.[4] Under instruction from the president of Abkhazia, in mid-2015 lists of combatants who became disabled during the war of 1992–1993 were being revised.[5]



[2] HALO casualty data provided by email from Ismet Zade, Deputy Program Manager, HALO, 15 March 2011; response to Monitor questionnaire by HALO, 4 March 2011; and email from Andrew Moore, HALO, 26 September 2012. In September 2011, an adult male was injured while trying to open the shell of a grenade launcher in an abandoned garage in Sukhumi. “Explosion in Sukhumi: grenade launcher shell explodes,” Expert Club, 6 September 2011. This casualty was not included in the data for 2011.

[3] Email from Herbi Elmazi, Regional Weapon Contamination Advisor, Regional Delegation for the Russian Federation, ICRC, 9 April 2015.