Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lessons for Moldova from Georgia


I've had a chance to look through volume 1 of Ms Tagliavini's fact finding report on the August 2008 Russo-Georgian war.  It is an intelligent and thorough piece of work, and, due to the parallels between Georgia's frozen conflicts and the Transnistrian rebellion, contains important lessons for Moldova and its international partners.  I've listed a few of these below:

  1. Page 17:  South Ossetia and Abkahzia did not have the right under international law to secede from Georgia, and other nations do not have the right to recognise them as independent states.  Zimbru: Transnistria does not have the right to secede from Moldova.
  2. Page 17 & 21:  No genocide took place in South Ossetia.  There were 162 civilian deaths, not the 2000 claimed by the Russians and South Ossetians.
  3. Page 18:  Persons living in South Ossetia and Abkhazia are in most cases Georgian citizens.  Russian passports held by South Ossetians or Abkhaz who are Georgian citizens are invalid because Georgian law does not permit dual citizenship.
  4. Page 18:  Under international law, citizenship may only be granted where there are significant personal ties between the applicant and the state concerned.  The mass conferral of Russian citizenship to Georgian nationals represents an open challenge to Georgian sovereignty and interference in its internal affairs.  Zimbru: The Russian nationality of Russian passport holders in Transnistria does not need to be respected unless they have a significant personal link with Russia.
  5. Page 22:  The shelling of Tskhinvali on August 7th by Georgian forces was not justified under international law.  This is because of the existence of agreements between Georgia and South Ossetia ruling out the use of force.  Had the Georgian military only taken "necessary and proportional" actions in response to aggression by the other side, then this would have been justifiable.  Zimbru:  I'm not suggesting doing it, however Moldova would probably be justified in using necessary and proportional force to reclaim the Tighina railway station and the Varnita river terminal, both of which were Moldovan 'posessions under the 1992 ceasefire.
  6. Page 23:  Russia had the right to use "proportional and necessary force" to defend its peacekeepers.
  7. Page 24:  Russian military action in Georgia went far beyond the limits of reasonable defence, and was therefore illegal.  Conversely Georgian efforts to constrain Russian force were legitimate.  
  8. Page 24:  There is no customary law allowing states to undertake military actions outside their borders in defence of their citizens, the only possible exception being actions limited to rescuing and evacuating citizens.  Zimbru:  Russia please take note.
  9. Page 25:  According to the 1994 ceasefire agreement between Georgia and Abkhazia, the upper Kodori gorge was not abkhaz-controlled territory and therefore the attack on it by Abkhaz and Russian forces constituted an illegal use of force.  Conversely, Georgian defence of the territory was justified.  Zimbru:  There are few legal justifications for incursions into Moldovan territory by Transnistrian forces or vice-versa.
  10. Page 26:  All sides to the conflict committed abuses under international humantitarian and human rights law.
  11. Page 26:  Ethnic cleansing (forced displacement) was conducted against ethnic Georgians both during and after the conflict.  Russia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia must take appropriate measures to allow the return of internally displaced persons, including those from the conflict in the early 1990s.  Zimbru: Transnistria should allow the return of Moldovans displaced in 1992, and should also restore their land and properties to them.
  12. Page 29:  Prior to the conflict, the Georgians had offered South Ossetia and Abkhazia autonomy within a federation.  The regional authorities rejected this, pushing for 'confederation', under which their sovereignty and right to secede is recognised.  Zimbru:  As noted above, Transnistria doesn't have the right to secede.  Federation is the best deal it's going to get.
  13. Page 30:  Russia is an interested party, not an 'honest broker', and this has complicated attempts to reach a settlement.  Zimbru:  Russia is not an appropriate power to be acting as either mediator or peacekeeper in the Transnistrian dispute either
  14. Page 31:  The lack of timely and sufficiently determined action by the international community contributed to the unfolding crisis.  Zimbru:  I hope Brussels and Washington are listening.
  15. Page 34:  As needs on the ground may change with new developments, the international community must be prepared to reassess, readjust and reinforce the stabilising arrangements and institutions which were put in place during or immediately after a crisis situation.  Zimbru:  Ditto for Transnistria.  It's time to review the framework such that an acceptable agreement can be reached.  For example, let the Norwegians mediate and do the peacekeeping and give Russia a seat at the table as an interested party.
  16. Page 34:  No party to the conflict or party which is considered to be strongly supportive of any of the sides should assume a position of command, or chair, or arbiter nor exercise any other control of an operation which rests on the notion of impartiality and even-handedness in order to be effective.
  17. Page 36:  International law (e.g. the non-use of force and respect for territorial integrity) should continue to be respected and observed in its entirety.  Zimbru:  Amen to that.
  18. Page 36:  Political concepts and notions such as privileged spheres of interest or otherwise laying claim to any special rights of interference into the internal or external affairs of other countries are irreconcilable with international law. They are dangerous to international peace and stability and incompatible with friendly relations among States.  Zimbru:  The Kremlin should put a sock in it.
  19. Page 37:  Regular armed forces have a responsibility to protect non-combatants.

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