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Human rights violated during war

By Temuri Kiguradze
Wednesday, November 19
Amnesty International, a worldwide organization for the protection of human rights, considers that all sides of the conflict violated international law during the August Georgian-Russian war and that these violations continue.

On November 18 Amnesty International presented a report containing the results of monitoring conducted in the conflict zone and interviews with civilians. “Based on its research and analysis Amnesty International is concerned that all parties to the conflict may have committed serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Amnesty International is concerned that Georgian forces do not appear to have adopted necessary precautionary measures to protect civilians in their 7 August assault on Tskhinvali, using weapons known for their limited accuracy to attack areas with concentrations of civilians and civilian objects. Dozens of civilians died and many more were injured in these attacks, which also caused extensive damage to civilian homes and property.” says the report.

Amnesty International accuses Georgia of using cluster bombs, which international law says are not to be used in populated areas, during the war. This was admitted by Georgian Government on September 1, 2008, although the Government claimed that the bombs were used only against Russian military objects in non-populated zones. Amnesty International also accuses Russia of attacking Georgian settlements and failing “to distinguish between military objectives and civilians, causing civilian deaths and the destruction of civilian objects.” “Certain attacks by the Russian military, such as the bombing of the town centre of Gori and other attacks recorded in this report; do not appear to have targeted particular military objectives, raising concerns that civilians and civilian objects may have been directly attacked.” The organization also accuses Russia of using cluster bombs, something Moscow has not admitted.

The Georgian Government has several times claimed that ethnic cleansing took place in the Georgian-populated villages of the South Ossetian conflict region. Avoiding the term “cleansing,” Amnesty International confirms that “armed groups of disparate and unclear composition, but loyal to the de facto administration of South Ossetia, attacked ethnically Georgian-majority settlements in South Ossetia. Militia groups carried out targeted pillaging and arson of Georgian homes, particularly in those villages associated with the Tbilisi-backed alternative de facto administration headed by Dmitry Sanakoev. In some cases reported to Amnesty International by eye-witnesses, Georgian civilians were also beaten and killed by South Ossetian militia groups.” Amnesty International raises the question of the responsibility of Russian troops for violations of the human rights of Georgian civilians. “As the occupying power, Russian armed forces failed to ensure and protect the human rights of the ethnic Georgian populations living there. Russian military forces did not uphold their obligation to maintain law and order and prevent looting by South Ossetian militia groups in areas under their control, and Russia must assume responsibility for human rights violations committed in these circumstances,” says the report.

Concerning the present state of the conflict areas, Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty's Europe and Central Asia Programme Director, said that more than 20,000 people are still not able to return to their homes in South Ossetia, prevented by “lootings and kidnappings along Georgia's de facto border” with the separatist region. "A new twilight zone has been created along the de facto border between South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia, into which people stray at their peril," he added. The total number of people who had to abandon their homes after August 2008, according to the organization’s data, is about 200,000.

"International monitors must be allowed to go to all places, and all sides need to intensify their efforts to guarantee the safe return of displaced people without discrimination," said Nicola Duckworth, "There can be no reconciliation, and no lasting peace, without truth and accountability." Amnesty International is further calling on all parties to take the necessary measures to guarantee the security of all persons in the conflict-affected areas and ensure conditions which would allow displaced persons to return in safety and dignity.