After the Russian-Georgian war of August 2008, and the recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia by the Russian Federation, Georgia adopted a Law on Occupied Territories, which limited the ability of foreign citizens to travel and conduct economic activities on the occupied territories. The violation of this law constitutes a criminal offence and is punishable with a fine or imprisonment.
Recent events have raised questions about whether this law is being properly implemented. For instance, in May 2017, former mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov entered and left Georgia without any obstacles, despite the fact that he had illegally visited Abkhazia in 2010. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 363 cases of foreigners illegally entering occupied territories were reported in 2009-2016 (see chart #1). The number of violations has decreased from 78 in 2009, to 19 in 2016. As for illegal economic activity on occupied territories, the Ministry reported only 4 such cases in 8 years (see chart #2).
Unfortunately, the Ministry refuses to disclose statistics about the number persons being arrested or denied entry into Georgia due to the violation of the law in 2009-2016. The Ministry also refuses to disclose the so-called black list of foreign public officials that have violated the law, and the dates when they were added to the list. This makes it impossible to determine whether the law is enforced or not.
For example, in case of Yuri Luzhkov, the Ministry explained that he was not on the black list at the time of his visit in May, 2017; therefore, the border police could not deny him entry. However, since the Ministry refused to disclose the black list, it is impossible to verify this claim.
The Ministry also stated that it was unable to launch an investigation against Yuri Luzhkov because he had illegally visited occupied territories in 2010 and the 6 year limitation period had already passed by the time he visited Georgia in 2017.
The justification given by the Ministry of Internal Affairs about Luzhkov’s case indicates that it either fails to keep the black list up to date, or does not have the political will or is otherwise unable to execute the Law on Occupied Territories.
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