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UN Expert on Internally Displaced Persons concerned about the situation in Georgia

14 August 2008

Geneva: - -The Representative of the Secretary General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kalin, is deeply concerned about the growing number of civilians displaced in Georgia, estimated at close to 100,000, the continuing dangers to which many of them are still exposed and the difficulties in providing them with shelter, medical care and food. He is also alarmed about reports that humanitarian access is still blocked and by allegations of widespread looting of property left behind by the displaced.

Kalin urges all parties to the conflict to ensure that persons who wish to do so can leave areas affected by violence, that property left behind be protected, and that unimpeded access for humanitarian organizations to conflict areas be granted so they may reach internally displaced persons and other civilians at risk without further delay. He welcomes aid already provided to Georgia to meet the huge humanitarian needs of the displaced but in light of the extensive needs encourages international organizations, non-governmental organizations and donors to immediately come together to provide support for the efforts of the Georgian Government to alleviate the suffering of its population.

The expert reminds both the Russian Federation and the Georgian Government of their obligation to respect the rights of internally displaced persons and provide protection and assistance to them. He also urges the two governments to adhere to the provisions in the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document declared "an important international framework for the protection of internally displaced persons."

The Representative welcomes the signing of a ceasefire and calls on the Governments of Georgia and the Russian Federation to refrain from all actions that would cause further displacement. He also urges both governments to include in the envisaged peace plan provisions allowing the displaced to voluntarily return to their homes in safety and dignity and to have their property returned to them and compensation paid for damages. Those who cannot or do not want to return should be given the opportunity to integrate elsewhere in the country.

For further information or interview requests, please contact M. Duchatellier +41 22 917 9369 or mduchatellier@ohchr.org.