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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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At UN, Abkhazia IDPs Urged to Cite Precedents While Kosovo Is Distinguished

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, November 29 -- Georgia's deputy foreign minister George Manjgaladze spoke at the UN on Thursday, not about the turmoil in Tblisi or of the missiles and shoot-outs with Russia, but rather those displaced from Abkhazia. There was talk of ethnic cleansing and of the right to return. Inner City Press asked what the UN mission in Georgia could be doing to help on the issue, and how lessons from the UN's work in Kosovo and Congo might be applied. Video here, from Minute 1:14:49. Lawyer Paul Williams said the UN should set up "look, see" visits back to Abkhazia, and arrange for property restitution. He cited Bosnia as a precedent, estimating restitution rates there as high as 93%. He said that few Serbs have returned to Kosovo, and that displacement in Congo continues still.

            Mr. Manjgaladze, when he spoke, said there's a role for the UN's refugee agency as well as UNOMIG. He said he expects the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations to begin the review of UNOMIG that Georgia has requested.

Georgia signs papers, precedents can wait

            In the final minutes, the debate heated up, when the question was asked, what is Russia recognizes as independent Abkhazia (and South Ossetia), if other so recognize Kosovo after December 10? Paul Williams, after disclosing that his law group represents Kosovo, urged Georgia in this scenario to come out quickly with the argument that Kosovo is unique and not a precedent. But as told, Kosovo sounds like... Darfur.  It's strange when lawyers start downplaying the importance of the system of precedents known as stare decisis -- especially just after urging Georgia to pursue the rights of IDPs in the European Court of Human Rights, under another precedent. Arbitrary but interesting, a story sure to further break, on December 10 or before. Watch this site.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540