Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 October 2014, 12:39 GMT

The Worst of the Worst 2012 - South Ossetia

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 4 July 2012
Cite as Freedom House, The Worst of the Worst 2012 - South Ossetia, 4 July 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ff420f62d.html [accessed 22 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 70,000

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 6
Status: Not Free

Ten-Year Ratings Timeline for Year under Review
(Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)
Year Under Review2002200320042005200620072008200920102011
Rating7,6,NF7,6,NF7,6,NF7,6,NF

2011 Key Developments: As South Ossetia's November 2011 presidential election approached, officials loyal to outgoing president Eduard Kokoity jailed and threatened opposition figures and changed legislation to prevent the registration of certain candidates. Leading opposition candidate Alla Dzhioyeva appeared to come out ahead in a runoff against Moscow-backed candidate Anatoly Bibilov, but the Supreme Court annulled the vote over significant electoral violations and called for a repeat election in March 2012, touching off a series of protests. The parliament rejected the terms of a Russian-brokered compromise, and the dispute remained unresolved at year's end. The political standoff took place in a general atmosphere of intimidation and occasional violence, with both Russian officials and the South Ossetian leadership suggesting the annexation of the territory by Russia.

Political Rights: Elections conducted by the separatist authorities are not monitored by independent observers or recognized by the international community. Most ethnic Georgians have either declined to or been unable to participate in such elections. During the May 2009 parliamentary elections, opposition parties reported significant violations, including mishandling of ballot boxes, restrictions on observer access to polling stations, and alleged coercion of voters in favor of Kokoity's supporters. Opposition representation was reduced as a result of 2008 election laws, which set a 7 percent vote threshold for parties to enter the parliament and required all lawmakers to be elected by proportional representation. The 2011 presidential election campaign period featured violence and other abuses. The leading opposition candidates were prevented from registering after a 10-year residency requirement was added to the constitution in April. Other opposition candidates were beaten or jailed, and one senior member of a recently disqualified candidate's party was murdered in North Ossetia in October. Russia exerts a dominant influence on South Ossetian politics. Russians reputedly endorsed by Moscow held key cabinet positions in 2011, including the premiership. Corruption is believed to be extensive, spurring pressure from Russia and the public to curb the alleged embezzlement of funds earmarked for postwar reconstruction. Before the 2008 war with Georgia, the territory reportedly hosted large- scale smuggling and black-market activities.

Civil Liberties: South Ossetia's electronic and print media are entirely controlled by separatist authorities, and private broadcasts are prohibited. Independent or opposition-oriented journalists in the territory face various forms of intimidation. Freedom of religion has sometimes been adversely affected by the political and military situation. Civil society groups operate under the close scrutiny of the authorities, and activists are subject to intimidation. South Ossetia's justice system has been manipulated to punish perceived opponents of the separatist leadership, while government allies allegedly violate the law with relative impunity. Indiscriminate attacks by both sides in the 2008 war killed and displaced civilians, and Ossetian forces seized or razed property in previously Georgian-controlled villages. Authorities have barred ethnic Georgians from returning to the territory unless they renounce their Georgian citizenship and accept Russian passports. The de facto border with Georgia was tightened in 2011, with several Georgians subjected to detention by Ossetian and Russian border guards. Russian authorities have prevented ethnic Ossetians from entering Georgia, but travel to Russia is unimpeded.

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