1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Russia-backed borders in Georgia condemned by rights court

April 9, 2024

Europe's top rights court ruled Russia violated a human rights charter by helping set up borders blocking movement from the Moscow-backed breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia into Georgian controlled areas.

A green border sign in front of barbed wire
A barbed wire fence set up between the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia and GeorgiaImage: picture-alliance/epa/Z. Kurtsikidze

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday ruled that Russia violated the European Charter of Human Rights by supporting border enforcement between Georgia and the breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 in support of pro-Moscow separatists. After the conflict, Moscow recognized the regions as independent states.  

Since then, Russia's military has been building barbed wire fences and guard towers between the enclaves and the rest of Georgia, with the aim of creating a "state border."

Russia prevents freedom of movement in Georgia

The ECHR calls the process "borderisation," and defined it as "blocking people from crossing the administrative boundary lines freely between Georgian-controlled territory and the Russian-backed breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia."

Those who dared to cross the border faced detention, arrest, ill-treatment  and even death, according to the Georgian government.

There are recorded cases of land confiscations and family separations, divided between different sides of the boundary lines, according to a ECHR press-release.

The judges also reported that these are "not isolated cases" and there are reasons to consider the "official tolerance" of such methods by the Russian authorities.

In November 2023, Russian troops shot and killed a killed a Georgian civilian near the line of control.

Former Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said in a statement that the civilian was killed by a Russian soldier who illegally tried to detain him near the village of Kirbali.

"This incident reaffirms the dire security situation on the ground and bears witness to the severe consequences of occupation," he said.

In making its decision, the ECHR referred to testimony of witnesses, victim lists, and reports from media and international organizations.

Georgian Justice Minister Rati Bregadze said the court decision was a "historic victory" and "another big step towards complete de-occupation of the country."

The West has accused Russia of effectively annexing  South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which comprise one fifth of Georgia's territory. Tbilisi considers South Ossetia and Abkhazia to be occupied by Russia.

ac/wmr(AFP, dpa, AP)