UN HR Field Office in Abkhazia concerned about Georgian schools

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Date: Sat, 21 Feb 1998 09:30:51 -0800
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Subject: UN HR Field Office in Abkhazia concerned about Georgian schools 

From: MINELRES moderator   <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>

Original sender: Britt Elliott    <tbelliott@email.msn.com>

UN HR Field Office in Abkhazia concerned about Georgian schools

I came across this statement on the website of the UN High Commission
for Human Rights  (http://www.unhchr.ch).  I thought it might interest the
readers of MINELRES-L


Press Release


13 February 1998


The United Nations Human Rights Office in Abkhazia, Georgia, has
expressed serious concern to the local authorities regarding the
violation of the rights of parents to choose the kind of education their
children receive. Since 1995, following an order from the authorities,
children starting school in the Gali district of Abkhazia, Georgia, are
only offered education in Russian speaking classes. After three years
of this policy, it has resulted in grades 1 - 3 being taught primarily in
Russian. However, the population of this region is estimated to be nearly
100% ethnic Georgian. The remaining higher classes are taught in
Georgian, which was previously the normal policy for all grades, in the
nine traditionally Georgian language schools in this district. The aim
appears to be to phase out Georgian as the language of instruction, and
convert all schools to the Russian language. This is a cause of anxiety
among parents in this district.

In the remaining two schools in this district - School No. 1 which opened
in the 1940s, and a secondary school in Primorsk - the Russian language
was traditionally the language of instruction. Approximately 95% of the
students in these schools are ethnic Georgian, the remainder being ethnic
Armenian, Greek and Russian. Since 1994, in accordance with a decree
issued by the de facto Abkhaz authorities, teaching of Georgian language
and literature was no longer allowed in these schools.

The parents of the children in the Gali district began protesting these
policies to international organizations in 1996, and in October 1997, they
brought it to the attention of the UN Human Rights Office in Abkhazia,

The head of the Human Rights Office, Elisabeth Stam, said the issue of
language in schools was highly sensitive and urged the authorities to
respond to the requests from the United Nations and the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that the Georgian language be
reinstated as the language of instruction for ethnic Georgian students, and
that Georgian language and literature be taught in the two Russian language

The concern by the UN Human Rights Office in Abkhazia, Georgia, which is
jointly staffed by the United Nations and OSCE, was communicated to the
de facto Abkhaz authorities in Sukhumi and referred to the situation in the
Gali district of Abkhazia, Georgia. The response from the Abkhaz
authorities, most recently on 4 February, during talks with Ms. Stam on the
issue, is that they do not approve of the Georgian history books, and they
would concentrate on Abkhaz schools and Abkhaz language as a priority.

The right of parents to choose the kind of education given to their children
is strongly protected in international law, as seen in Article 26(1) of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Article 4(a) of the UNESCO
Convention against Discrimination in Education; Article 2 of Protocol 1 to
the European Convention on Human Rights; Article 13(3) of the United
Nations Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Article 18(4)
of the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and Articles 5
and 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well
as in other international treaties.

Security Council Resolution 1077, of 22 October 1996, established the UN
Human Rights Office in Abkhazia, Georgia with a mandate to promote
respect for human rights, contribute to a safe and dignified return of refugees
and internally displaced persons, and to report on human rights developments.
The programme of the Office includes human rights monitoring and technical
cooperation. The last human rights report on Abkhazia, Georgia, can be found
in the Secretary General's report to the Security Council (S/1997/827).

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