Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Human Rights And Ethnic Cleansing Watch In Tempore Belli: The Uncovering Of Evidence Of Terrible Human Rights Abuses

The 12th anniversary of ethnic cleansing in Abkhazia which was held in Tbilisi in 2005. One of the visitors of the gallery recognized her dead son on the photograph.


"On August 7, Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia’s president, announced a unilateral ceasefire in South Ossetia, after days of skirmishes between Georgian and Ossetian villagers. He blamed the Ossetians for firing on Georgian villages but said: “I want to say with full responsibility and admit that a few hours ago I took a very difficult decision – not to reply with fire.”

Hours later, the Georgian army launched a mass artillery assault on Tskhinvali, capital of South Ossetia, and followed it up with ground troops the next morning. It is hard to assess the level of civilian casualties that resulted. The Russian authorities’ claim of 2,000 dead has not been independently verified. Human Rights Watch is urging caution, saying it has seen only dozens of wounded in hospitals in North Ossetia.

But we do know that many civilians died – and if more did not it was thanks to the thick cellars of Tskhinvali, not Georgian restraint. Ossetians talk of a continuous bombardment for 14 hours of both the city and the road north.

Ossetians also allege atrocities, such as the Georgians throwing grenades into cellars where civilians were sheltering.

The Russians will press two arguments on South Ossetia. The first is that the Georgians unilaterally violated the peacekeeping framework under the aegis of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and can no longer be allowed a presence in the region.

The second is that there must be a tribunal for war crimes committed there.

Georgia is a party to the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute, which means that a prosecutor from the court can unilaterally investigate alleged abuses committed on Georgian territory – both by Georgians and Russians. The Russians are not party to the statute but have said they might file complaints. Potentially, the court could prove an arena where the facts of this conflict are properly investigated – but only if both sides co-operate with an inquiry that might uncover evidence of terrible human rights abuses."

Thomas de Waal "Moral outrage is cover for strategic agenda" Financial Times, August 13, 2008


"Human Rights Watch researchers in South Ossetia on August 12, 2008, saw ethnic Georgian villages still burning from fires set by South Ossetian militias, witnessed looting by the militias, and learned firsthand of the plight of ethnic Ossetian villagers who had fled Georgian soldiers during the Georgian-Russian conflict over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

In South Ossetia, Human Rights Watch researchers traveling on the evening of August 12 on the road from the town of Java to Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, witnessed terrifying scenes of destruction in four villages that used to be populated exclusively by ethnic Georgians. According to the few remaining local residents, South Ossetian militias that were moving along the road looted the Georgian villages and set them on fire. Human Rights Watch saw numerous vehicles carrying South Ossetian militia members, as well as Russian military transports moving in the direction of Tskhinvali."

"Georgian Villages in South Ossetia Burnt, Looted" Human Rights Watch, August 13, 2008


Amnesty International: 'Georgia and Russia Must Protect Civilians In South Ossetia'


Photo credit: (c) Timur Chirikba. 2005. Copyright controlled. With thanks.


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