Burning ethnic Georgian villiges in South Ossetia
r.amirejibi-mullen at qmul.ac.uk
Fri Sep 5 10:02:51 UTC 2008
Pictures 'show Georgia torching'
Satellite images have confirmed that ethnic Georgian villages inside
South Ossetia have been deliberately burned, US-based Human Rights
It said analysis by UN experts showed the damage "was caused by
intentional burning and not armed combat".
HRW researchers had "personally witnessed Ossetian militias looting
and burning down ethnic Georgian villages".
The group said this was evidence of war crimes and urged Russia to
prosecute those responsible.
The conflict in the region began on 7 August when Georgia tried to
retake South Ossetia by force after a series of lower-level clashes.
Russia launched a counter-attack and the Georgian troops were ejected
from both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The two breakaway regions have declared independence which only Russia
On Friday, Georgia said it had decided to cut diplomatic ties with Russia.
The satellite images show active fires in five ethnic Georgian
villages around the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, on on 10, 12,
13, 17, 19 and 22 August - well after active hostilities ended in the
area on 10 August, Human Rights Watch said.
"The images strongly indicate that the majority of the destruction in
five of the villages - Tamarasheni, Kekhvi, Kvemo Achabeti, Zemo
Achabeti, and Kurta - was caused by intentional burning.
"The high-resolution images of these villages show no impact craters
from incoming shelling or rocket fire, or aerial bombardment."
All of this adds up to compelling evidence of war crimes
HRW deputy director, Europe and Central Asia
The images were analysed by UN experts in Geneva, Human Rights Watch said.
"The expert analysis indicates clear patterns of destruction that are
consistent with the evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch
researchers working in the region," the human rights group said.
The researchers had spoken to several members of the Ossetian militias
who "openly admitted that the houses were being burned by their
associates, explaining that the objective was to ensure that ethnic
Georgians would not have the houses to return to," it said.
"All of this adds up to compelling evidence of war crimes and grave
human rights abuses," said Rachel Denber, deputy director of the
Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch.
"This should persuade the Russian government it needs to prosecute
those responsible for these crimes."
Researchers have suggested both sides may have violated the codes of
war - using violence that was either disproportionate or
indiscriminate, or both - claims that the International Criminal Court
is currently investigating.
Russian prosecutors have announced they are opening criminal cases
into the deaths of 133 civilians who they say were killed by Georgian
And Georgia has filed a lawsuit against Russia at the International
Court of Justice, based at The Hague, alleging the country had
attempted to ethnically cleanse Georgians from the breakaway regions.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/08/29 16:49:19 GMT
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