Burning ethnic Georgian villiges in South Ossetia

Rusiko Amirejibi-Mullen 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  
Watch says.

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  
has recognised.

On Friday, Georgia said it had decided to cut diplomatic ties with Russia.

'Compelling evidence'

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
Rachel Denber
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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