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Brosse Street Journal » Education:

“Legalization” of Children in Conflict Region.

By Dato Chaganava
Brosse Street Journal
Friday, October 7 2005
Print article  |  Mail article   

Six-year-old Kemuka Beruashvili lives with his family in the small village of Duisi, which is located near Tskinvali, the capital of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia.

Although he is school age, Kemuka's parents cannot send him to the local school. They say the school requires an official birth certificate, which the child doesn't have. The only document Kemuka has is a certificate given to him by the Tskinvali maternity hospital where he was born. Because the territory of South Ossetia isn't officially recognized under Georgian legislation since the 1994 conflict between the two sides, Georgian officials say documents issued by the Ossetians are illegal whether the students studies at a Georgian school or an Ossetian school.

Kemuka's grandmother, Dali Beruashvili, says that at the time of his birth the family didn't think the choice of hospital would cause problems for the child.

"Quite simply, childbirth in Tskinvali was much cheaper than in the (nearby) Gori maternity hospital, which is on the territory of Georgia. Besides, it was closer to us," she said.

According to the Georgian Ministry of Justice, there are more than 250 children with the same problem in the conflict region. Most of them are under the school age, so it will be a problem for their families to send them to school.

The only way for those families to get birth certificates that are recognized under Georgian legislation is in a courtroom. The court officially approves the facts of a birth in Tskinvali and gives the child a Georgian birth certificate. But the family has to pay an official fee, which is a minimum 30 lari (about $16.70). They also need to pay a lawyer. The total sum for getting a birth certificate can be 200 lari (about $110), which is a large sum in an area with heavy unemployment.

Lia Gambashidze has been struggling to get a birth certificate for her five-year-old daughter Megi for two years. The family lives in the village of Argveti near Tskinvali.

"I went to everyone in the (Gori) local government and the court, but in vain," she said. "Judge Gocha Gochitashvili discussed my case three times, but as I had no money for a lawyer and the official fee, the court refused me all the time."

Last month Gambashidze managed to get a birth certificate from the same Gori court without paying for a lawyer or the official fee. The court decision came after a new initiative by the Georgian Ministry of Justice. Under the initiative, the court will give families in these situations free birth certificates. "There was no special changes in legislation. The law has an article for special cases for people who are unable to pay, and now we will use this article for all those cases," said Minister of Justice Kote Kemularia.

Gori court judge Gochitashvili, who wasn't using the article that allowed him to give free birth certificates to children in the past, now says that families will have no problems in the future.

"Families can simply submit all necessary documents, bring witnesses who can confirm that the child really belongs to these parents, and write an official statement to the court. After discussion, the court will give them a birth certificate without an official fee," the judge said.

The initiative was declared one month ago, and so far 37 families have obtained birth certificates. Many other families are waiting for court action. According to Minister of Justice Kemularia, "the court couldn't serve all of them in a small period of time. Soon all of them will have official documents to go to school."

So as the school year began, Kemuka was still waiting for his chance to attend.

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