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Abandoned housing in Abkhazia will be dealt with appropriately12.03.2009 | 14:56
Georgians who fled Abkhazia are sounding the alarm: their homes might be confiscated. Tbilisi is accusing Sukhumi of violating the Geneva agreements on the return of refugees. But Abkhazia is only implementing the laws adopted during Soviet rule.
The Abkhazian authorities have started to confiscate houses, flats and land belonging to Georgians, reports Rosbalt with reference to Imedi TV. Georgian families registered in the Tkvarcheli region are intending to defend their property rights in the European Court in Strasbourg.
As the deputy speaker of the Georgian parliament, Paata Davitaya, explains, the seizures of property in Abkhazia began a year ago, when a law on the nationalization of property was passed. Moreover, Davitaya claims that the Georgians' houses are passing into the hands of Russians. Tbilisi sees this as a refusal to allow the "adequate return of refugees, which the international community has demanded in all types of recommendations". According to the Georgian theory, Sukhumi is demanding that the leaders of the Tkvarcheli region's administration provide them with a list of families who have not been living Chkhortoli, Okumi, Agubedia and Bedia for the last six months. These villages used to be part of the Gali region, where it is said that confiscations of
property are also being planned. Georgia is afraid that the refugees' empty houses will either be sold at auction, or will be occupied by other families.
And this could definitely happen, but in full accordance with Abkhazian law, and also the international practice for managing housing. The chairman of the Abkhazian State Property Committee, Konstantin Katsia, emphasized this in an interview with GeorgiaTimes. He noted that local administrations, and not his department, are responsible for dealing with issues concerning housing. And the councils are acting not according to new laws, but are following Residential and Civil Codes adopted back during Soviet times. So these standards do not exist outside international law, although some people may not like them.
In Russia, for example, in accordance with Article 225 of the Civil Code, property in abeyance is subject to state registration. It should be registered by a local government body. If nobody has declared their right to it after a year, then the town council legally acquires the property rights. Moreover, according to Russian law, a proprietor should not just abandon his property, because it could present a danger to those living in the vicinity. Confiscation following a court's verdict is even fixed in the Constitution of the Russian Federation. Similar standards also exist in Kazakhstan, where many flats were abandoned in the 1990s. If their missing owners relinquish the burden of maintaining the residence, then the courts can quite easily grant the town council control of the property.
The Abkhazian authorities have the right to deal with empty houses in exactly the same way. If the Abkhazian residents who have fled to Georgia really want to return, the way is open for them to do so. The Foreign Minister of the republic, Sergey Shamba, recently declared that the Gali region was ready to accept them back straight away, and in other territories the question "would be decided based on the actual situation".
You must agree that leaving abandoned housing in its current state is inappropriate. Firstly, buildings that become dilapidated without any repair work being carried out could one day collapse. Secondly, in Abkhazia there are plenty of people who need a roof over their heads.
Incidentally, following the August war, according to RIA Novosti, about 100 Russian families were forced to flee Georgia. The Abkhazian authorities helped to organize their resettlement in the Krasnodar krai. The republic's head of the Department for Emergency Situations, Lev Kvitsiniya, explained at the time that all the refugees had been forced to leave the place of their permanent residence because of harassment. Their documents were being taken away and they were not being allowed to sell their property. Therefore, before accusing Sukhumi of violating private property rights, Tbilisi should have recalled its own indiscretions.