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Table of Contents
Country Reports
GEORGIA, Landmine Monitor Report 2002

GEORGIA

Key developments since May 2001: A Defense Ministry official told Landmine Monitor that Georgian Armed Forces laid antipersonnel mines in several passes in the Kodori gorge in 2001. The government has denied this. There were reports of private armed groups from Georgia laying antipersonnel mines in Abkhazia. Russia began the process of destroying its obsolete landmine stocks in Georgia. According to the ICBL Georgian Committee, in 2001 there were 98 new landmine/UXO casualties in Georgia.

MINE BAN POLICY

Georgia has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty, although it has frequently expressed support for a global ban on antipersonnel mines. In a July 2002 letter to Landmine Monitor, Georgia said it “attaches great importance to the issue of banning antipersonnel mines” and expressed support for the “noble goal [of a] mine-free world.”[1] On 29 November 2001, Georgia voted in favor of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 56/24M, calling for universalization and full implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty. It has supported similar UNGA resolutions in the past.

Georgia has stated that it is unable to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty at this time because it has no jurisdiction over mined areas in Abkhazia and Samachablo, and because it will have difficulty clearing the mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) left by the forces of the former Soviet Union and Russia.[2] Georgia has said that “without financial and technological assistance, Georgia will not be able to fulfill its obligations” under the Mine Ban Treaty.[3]

Georgia did not attend the Third Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in September 2001, nor did it attend the intersessional Standing Committee meetings in January or May 2002.

Georgia is party to the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its original Protocol II, but it has not ratified Amended Protocol II on landmines. Georgia did not participate in the Third Annual Conference of States Parties to Amended Protocol II, nor the Second CCW Review Conference, both held in Geneva in December 2001.

USE

Georgia has had an official moratorium on the use of antipersonnel mines in place since September 1996.[4] However, in February 2002, a representative of the Ministry of Defense admitted that in 2001, Georgian Armed Forces laid antipersonnel mines in several passes in the Kodori gorge on the border with Abkhazia.[5] In July 2002, the Defense official confirmed this information, including that antipersonnel mines, not antivehicle mines, were used by Georgian forces.[6]

A press report in July 2002 stated that “Georgian frontier guards blew up while laying mines in the upper Kodori gorge of Abkhazia,” noting that one died and another was seriously wounded. It said that a press release from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeepers office stated that “the staff of Georgian Border Protection Department are laying mines in the upper part of the Kodori gorge...in particular the territory between the 107th post of CIS peacekeepers and the village of Kvabchara.”[7] It said Georgia’s Defense Minister requested Russian peacekeepers to provide timely evacuation of the servicemen.

Abkhazian officials also accused Georgian troops of using antipersonnel mines in Kodor valley in October 2001.[8] (see below). In early May 2002, Russian peacekeepers and United Nations military observers on patrol in the Georgian-controlled section of the Kodor valley in Abkhazia reportedly found a stockpile of weapons in a school, including 600 landmines. The Georgians are reported to have said that they “did not manage to get rid of it on time,” and promised to remove the weapons as soon as “the roads open.”[9]

In an initial response to a Landmine Monitor letter about allegations of mine use, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia stated in July 2002, “Let me assure you that the official structures of Georgia, including the Georgian Armed Forces, strictly observes the moratorium declared by President Shevardnadze in 1996. Since then Georgia has been strictly abstaining from use, manufacture and import of antipersonnel mines.”[10] In a second response, after receiving a full draft of the report from Landmine Monitor, the Deputy Minister said, “Georgian side reiterates that during the year 2002 [sic] neither Georgian Armed Forces nor the staff of the State Department of the State Border Protection or any other official structures of Georgia laid any anti-personnel mines in the Pankisi and Kodori gorges or elsewhere in Georgia.”[11]

Private armed groups from Georgia continued in 2001 and 2002 to cross into Abkhazia and lay antipersonnel and antivehicle mines. It has been alleged that these groups are linked to the Georgian government.[12] In January 2002, the armed groups “White Legion” and “Forest Brothers” reportedly began mining footpaths linking Georgia’s Zugdidi region with the Gali region of Abkhazia, including paths to CIS peacekeeping positions. They reportedly warned the CIS peacekeepers of mine-laying. They also reportedly mined the left bank of the Inguri River, separating Abkhazia and Georgia.[13]

In October 2001, Abkhazian officials alleged that armed irregulars, with the active support of regular Georgian troops, moved into the northern part of the Kodor valley in violation of the cease-fire agreement of May 1994 and deployed new mines during the military operation.[14]

However, in his July 2002 letter, the Deputy Foreign Minister said that the “Georgian side would like also to reiterate its position and state that the government of Georgia has neither tacitly nor openly supported Georgian partisans in their alleged use of antipersonnel mines.”[15]

PRODUCTION, TRANSFER, AND STOCKPILING

Officials continue to state that Georgia has never produced, exported, or imported antipersonnel landmines since independence. Georgia, however, inherited what is believed to be a small stockpile of antipersonnel mines from the former Soviet Union. The exact size and composition of that stock remains unknown. An inventory of the landmine stocks was conducted three times in 2001 by representatives of the Defense Ministry, the office of the military prosecutor, and the security service.[16]

Russia began the process of destroying its obsolete landmine stocks in Georgia during the reporting period. Russia is believed to have landmines stockpiled at three military bases in Georgia.[17] On 15 March 2002, Russia reportedly destroyed 500 mines stored at its former base at Sagarejo. However, differences remain between Moscow and Tbilisi regarding the timeframe for completing destruction of the Sagarejo stockpile. Tbilisi believes the process can be finished within nine months. Moscow believes it will take three years.[18]

Police confiscated 38 antivehicle shells, one antivehicle mine, grenades, and bullets from the inhabitants of the Kotchubani village in the Sagarejo region, indicating that stockpile security is a problem in Georgia.[19]

LANDMINE PROBLEM AND MINE ACTION

Past editions of Landmine Monitor have described the landmine problem in Georgia in detail. (See also separate Landmine Monitor entry on Abkhazia in this edition). Mines pose dangers to civilians in Georgia mainly in areas near the border with Abkhazia and near Russian military bases. The majority of accidents in 2001 took place near military bases. In March 2002, it was reported that HALO Trust and the Georgian Defense Ministry were going to conduct a survey of two Russian military bases.[20] HALO Trust, a British demining organization, operates primarily in Abkhazia, but does some survey and assessment work elsewhere in Georgia.

Georgia has no State programs for humanitarian mine clearance, mine awareness, or survivor assistance. Responsibility for mine clearance in the zone of military actions and at military bases is entrusted to the Ministry of Defense, whereas the Ministry of Internal Affairs is responsible for populated areas, roads, and railroads, and the State Department of Border Guards is responsible for border areas.

During the reporting period, Georgia’s Defense Ministry demined three paths of the Kodori gorge in the region of Amtkeli and Verkhniy Adjari; Georgian troops defused and removed numerous items of UXO and munitions.

Peacekeeping forces in the zone of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict found and destroyed four landmines in February 2001; peacekeeping forces in the region regularly clear unexploded ordnance.[21]

As a part of the “Beecroft Initiative,” the US transferred demining equipment to Georgia in 2001 and 2002. In 2001, the US transferred to Georgia five mine detectors, two generators, a computer, a car, and various engineering materials.[22]  In March 2002, the equipment included seven mine detectors, 10 sets of Personnel Protective Equipment, four SUVs, a truck, and other equipment, totaling US$80,000.[23] Present at the 12 March 2002 transfer ceremony were the US Ambassador to Georgia, the Georgian Assistant Minister of Defense, and a representative from the US State Department’s Office of Humanitarian Demining Programs.[24] The US trained 20 Georgians as instructors, who have in turn trained 34 others, giving Georgia a force of 54 trained deminers.[25]

The US has said that the “recent creation of a US Train and Equip program” in Georgia has prompted the US to consider again Georgia’s request for mine action assistance, and a Policy Assessment Visit will occur in Georgia in the August-September 2002 timeframe.[26]

The Assistant Minister of Defense announced at the March 2002 ceremony that Georgian sappers were ready to participate in demining operations on the territory of Abkhazia.

MINE RISK EDUCATION

Other than in Abkhazia, there are no governmental or non-governmental programs for mine risk education. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines Georgian Committee (ICBL GC) has criticized the Georgian Minister of Education for not taking measures to adequately educate students on the dangers of landmines.[27] The Minister of Education wrote in response that a decree was issued in 2001 requiring all secondary schools to teach a course on “Extreme situations and Civic Defense.” The Minister also said that such courses had been taught since 1995 during primary military training and in secondary schools in mountain and border regions, in addition to one day a year devoted to mass defense activities. The ICBL GC has not been able to identify any instances of such courses being taught.[28]

LANDMINE CASUALTIES

In 2001, the ICBL GC collected data on 98 new casualties in Georgia caused by landmines, UXO or improvised explosive devices (IEDs): 34 people were killed including four children, and 64 people were injured including 14 children.[29] Casualties continue to be reported in 2002: in February, a 14-year-old boy was injured in Khashuri,[30] two young men died in an incident in the Sagaredgo region,[31] and a seven-year-old boy was injured in the eye and his mother in hand in an incident in the Sachkhere region.[32] The ICBL GC also reports 33 casualties from 1 January to 23 July 2002.

There are no comprehensive official statistics on the number of people killed or injured by landmines and UXO in Georgia. The Central Hospital of the Ministry of Defense registered four military mine injuries in 2001.[33] The Defense Ministry registered three mine casualties in the Pankisi gorge: one border guard was killed, one military officer was injured, and one local inhabitant of the Kodori gorge was killed.[34] The Head of Zugdidi Republican Hospital, the main health facility in the border region with Abkhazia, reported treating nine mine casualties in 2001.[35]

SURVIVOR ASSISTANCE

Hospitals throughout Georgia, including in Abkhazia, routinely run short of basic medical supplies due to a lack of funding. The International Committee of the Red Cross regularly provides equipment, supplies, and medicines to surgical hospitals, including the Zugdidi Republican Hospital, the regional referral hospital, and two facilities in Darcheli and Jvari. Three referral hospitals and two front-line hospitals were also assisted in Abkhazia. In October emergency surgical assistance was provided to the Agudzera military referral hospital and several other facilities. In 2001, 14 mine/UXO casualties benefited from ICRC assistance, including three in Abkhazia.[36]

The ICRC, in collaboration with local authorities, supports two prosthetic/orthotic centers in Tbilisi and Gagra, for the disabled, including landmine survivors. The centers are the only facilities available for physical rehabilitation in Georgia. The main activities of the centers are the delivery of services to the physically disabled and professional training for technical staff.[37] In 2001, physical rehabilitation services were provided for patients who were fitted with 463 prostheses; 21 percent of the fitted amputees were mine survivors.[38] The Centers also produced 612 orthoses, 28 wheelchairs, and 688 crutches.[39] All responsibilities for the running of the Gagra Center have been handed over to the Abkhaz health authorities.[40]

Since May 2000, six orthopedic technicians have been undergoing training in order to reach a higher professional level in prosthetics and orthotics, equivalent to the International Society of Prosthetic and Orthopedics (ISPO) level II. Final examinations took place in May 2001 and five passed. The training course and its final diploma have been internationally recognized by ISPO.[41]

The government-run Social Rehabilitation Center for the Disabled in Tbilisi provides orthopedic devices to persons with disabilities. The center currently assists 10 to 13 patients a month with orthopedic appliances, however it has the capacity to assist as many as 30 a month. The center’s budget has been decreasing over the last few years. The 2001 budget was only US$4,800 (10,656 Georgian Lary).[42] The center produces upper and lower limb prostheses, and other assistive devices. The center also operates a repair service for prosthetic devices. In 2001, 343 prosthetic devices were produced and 112 prostheses repaired at the center. There are currently 1,500 people on the waiting list for orthopedic appliances. All services at the center are free.[43]

The Ministry of Labor, Health, and Social Affairs is developing a special program to establish centers for the care and rehabilitation of the disabled in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, and Batumi.[44] In 2002, the budget for the program is US$100,000 (222,000 Georgian Lary); part of the budget, US$25,000 (55,500 Georgian Lary), will go toward the ICRC Orthopedic Center and US$75,000 (166,500 Georgian Lary) to the Social Rehabilitation Center for the Disabled.[45] Nevertheless, specialized medical rehabilitation and psychological support appears to remain inaccessible, or unavailable, for many mine survivors.[46]

In May 2002, a representative of the UN Mine Action Service visited Georgia to discuss mine awareness and victim assistance.[47]

DISABILITY POLICY AND PRACTICE

The June 1995 Law on the Social Protection of the Disabled outlines the rights of the disabled; however, it has not been fully implemented because of the economic situation in Georgia.[48]

<FINLAND | INDIA>

[1] Letter from Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Merab Antadze to Mary Wareham, Coordinator, Landmine Monitor, 19 July 2002.
[2] Interview with representative of the Ministry of Defense, Tbilisi, 6 February 2002. The representative also provided written answers to questions submitted by Landmine Monitor. One written answer stated: “There do still exist the mined territories in Abkhazia and Samachablo, on which do not apply the jurisdiction of Georgia and naturally on these territories Georgia cannot carry out monitoring nor demining works. Besides on the territory of Georgia there are hundreds of military objects left by forces of former Soviet Union and Russia, objects where are set mines, explosive substances and the sources which cause various professional diseases, and in the budget of the state and the Defense Ministry of Georgia there were not foreseen the means for liquidation of sources of danger.”
[3] Note Verbale from the Permanent Mission of Georgia to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), FSC. DEL/12/01, 17 January 2001.
[4] The moratorium was proclaimed by President Shevardnadze at the United Nations in September 1996 and has been repeated by officials many times since. See Landmine Monitor Report 1999, p. 792, and Note Verbale to the OSCE, 17 January 2001.
[5] Interview with representative of the Ministry of Defense, Tbilisi, 6 February 2002. The use of mines was confirmed in written answers to questions submitted by Landmine Monitor. He also stated mines were used in the Pankisi gorge.
[6] Telephone interviews with Ministry of Defense official, Tblisi, 23 and 24 July 2002. He stated that the areas where the antipersonnel mines were laid are inaccessible to vehicles.
[7] “Georgian frontier guards blown up on a mine in the upper Kodori gorge,” Caucasus Press (Sukhumi) Georgia, 2 July 2002.
[8] Apsnypress (Abkhazian State Press Agency), accessed at: www.apsnypress.narod.ru, 9 October 2001; RFE/RL Caucasus Report, Vol. 5, No. 13, 12 April 2002; Landmine Monitor Abkhazia researcher interview with representative of the Engineering Forces of the Abkhazian Ministry of Defense, Sukhum, Abkhazia, 3 November 2001.
[9] Apsnypress Report No. 092, 6 May 2002, available at: www.apsnypress.narod.ru.
[10] Letter from Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Merab Antadze to Mary Wareham, Coordinator, Landmine Monitor, 19 July 2002.
[11] Letter from Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, dated 31 July 2002, received 6 August 2002.
[12] A. Studenikin, “Terrorism as Means for Achieving Political Goals, on the Example of Contemporary Georgia,” Research paper submitted to the international conference “Terrorism in Today’s World: Factors, Aspects and Tendencies,” sponsored by William R. Nelson Institute, James Madison University, held in Kishinev, Moldova, 29-30 September 2001. See also, Apsnypress, 9 October 2001; RFE/RL Caucasus Report, Vol. 5, No. 13, 12 April 2002.
[13] Anatoliy Gordienko, “In Abkhazia are mined the posts of Russian peacemakers,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 23 January 2002, p. 5; Apsnypress Report No. 10, 22 January 2002; “Prime-News,” TBS (Georgian news agency), 22 January 2002; “Black Sea Press,” Issue 4, 22 January 2002.
[14] Landmine Monitor Abkhazia researcher interview with representative of the Engineering Forces of the Abkhazian Ministry of Defense, Sukhum, 3 November 2001. See also, Apsnypress, 9 October 2001; RFE/RL Caucasus Report, Vol. 5, No. 13, 12 April 2002.
[15] Letter from Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, 19 July 2002.
[16] Information provided by the Ministry of Defense to ICBL Georgian Committee, February 2002.
[17] As reported in Landmine Monitor Report 2001, p. 878, mines are at Sagarejo, Batumi, and Akhalkalaki bases.
[18] “Ammunition is transferred from Russian military stock in Sagaredgo” Svobodnaya Gruzia, (Free Georgia) 16 March 2002, p. 3; Independent TV channel of Georgia, “Kurier” program, 15 March 2002.
[19] “Why did she need such arsenal?,” Khronika, 4-10 February 2002.
[20] Email from Chris Barron, Program Manager, HALO Trust in Georgia, to ICBL-GC, 14 March 2002.
[21] Dilis Gazety, 21 February 2001.
[22] Information provided by the Ministry of Defense to ICBL Georgian Committee, February 2002.
[23] Email from Black Sea Press Agency, 11 March 2002.
[24] Email from Black Sea Press Agency, 6 March 2002.
[25] US Department of State Fact Sheet, “Humanitarian Mine Action Subgroup Minutes of June 14, 2002,” 10 July 2002.
[26] Ibid.
[27] Letter No. 3-09 from ICBL Georgian Committee to Alexander Kartozia, Minister of Education, 7 September 2001.
[28] Letter from A. Kartozia, Minister of Education, to ICBL Georgian Committee, 11 October 2001.
[29] The ICBL GC collects data on incidents from hospitals and media reports and records the information in a database.
[30] Tamar Absava, Akhali Taoba, 5 February 2002, p. 7.
[31] “Two young men become the victims of explosion,” Akhali Taoba, 7 February 2002, p. 7.
[32] “Explosive substance at home?” Khronika, 11-17 February 2002, p. 19.
[33] Information provided by Surgeons Department, Central Hospital of the Ministry of Defense, 30 December 2001.
[34] Information provided by the Ministry of Defense to ICBL Georgian Committee, February 2002.
[35] Fax to ICBL GC from Nona Tacidze, Director, Zugdidi Republican Hospital, 12 March 2002.
[36] ICRC, “ICRC Special Report, Mine Action 2001,” ICRC, Geneva, p. 34; see also Landmine Monitor Report 2001, p. 883.
[37] ICRC, “ICRC Special Report, Mine Action 2001,” Geneva, p. 34.
[38] ICRC Physical Rehabilitation Programmes, Annual Report 2001, accessed at www.icrc.org.
[39] Interview with Rainer Knoll, Head of Orthopedic Program, and Peter Schoenenberger, Ortho-prosthetist, ICRC Orthopedic Center, Tbilisi, 8 January 2002.
[40] ICRC, “ICRC Special Report, Mine Action 2001,” Geneva, p. 34.
[41] ICRC Georgia, “Even Wars Have Limits,” January 2002.
[42] Interview with Archil Shavdia, General Director, Social Rehabilitation Center for the Disabled, 4 January 2002.
[43] Interview with Ramini Kravelishvili, Director, Social Rehabilitation Center for the Disabled, 8 January 2002.
[44] See Landmine Monitor Report 2001, pp. 883-884.
[45] Interview with Marina Gudushauri, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs, 7 February 2002.
[46] See Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 826.
[47] Email from Alexander Russetsky, ICBL GC, 27 May 2002.
[48] Letter to ICBL GC from Marina Gudusauri, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs, Ref. 17/06-134, 23 April 2001.