The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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In Wake of Russia-Georgia Conflict, Return, Security and Truth a Long Way Off, Says Amnesty International

New Report by Human Rights Group Points to Violations of International Law by All Parties, Thousands Still Displaced


In a new report, Amnesty International
says that the evidence it has collected strongly suggests that serious
violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed
by all sides in the August conflict between Russian, Georgian and South
Ossetian forces.

"The Georgians and Russians have accused
each other of war crimes for their conduct during the conflict. It
is essential that such serious allegations be investigated thoroughly and
impartially by all parties. If found to be true, those responsible must
be brought to justice," said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia
program director at Amnesty International.

Between August 7-8 and 13, villages and residential
areas in towns were bombed and shelled, and some civilians even reported
being bombed while fleeing. The overall number of civilian deaths significantly
outnumbered that of combatants. Homes, hospitals, schools and other mainstays
of civilian life were damaged or destroyed in communities across the conflict

Cluster bombs were fired on and near inhabited
areas by both Georgia and Russia, resulting in numerous civilian casualties
and the contamination of large areas of land with unexploded ordinance.
They continue to present risk as civilians return home after the conflict.

In the report released today, Civilians
in the line of fire: The Georgia-Russia conflict,
Amnesty International
calls on both parties to request an inquiry by the International Humanitarian
Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC) and to report publicly on its findings.

"There can be no reconciliation, nor lasting
peace, without truth and accountability," added Duckworth.

The report also pointed to the major humanitarian
concern posed by the many people who are still displaced as a result of
the August conflict. At its peak, the conflict displaced nearly 200,000
people. Now, one hundred days later, over 20,000 ethnic Georgians are still
unable to return to their homes in South Ossetia, while many of those on
both sides of the conflict who have gone back have found their homes pillaged
or destroyed.

"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. Looting, shooting, explosions
and abductions have all been reported in the last few weeks," said Duckworth.
"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."


Amnesty International's report is based
on several research missions to the main areas of the conflict carried
out as early as August and as late as October 2008, as well as interviews
with victims and correspondence with the relevant authorities of Georgia,
Russia and the de facto South Ossetian administration.

The IHHFC is a permanent body of independent
experts provided for by Article 90 of Protocol 1 to the Geneva Convention
to investigate allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian
law. Russia made a declaration under Article 90 when it ratified Protocol
1 (in 1989), authorizing the IHFFC to enquire into any conflict that may
arise between itself and another state that has made the same declaration.
Georgia did not make such a declaration.

In order to enable the IHFFC to conduct an
enquiry, under the rules of Article 90, both Georgia and Russia would now
have to accept the Commission's competence and request that it investigate
violations in this particular conflict. Consent to such an enquiry may
be limited to this specific conflict and would not constitute permanent
acceptance of the Commission's competence. Investigations by the IHHFC
are conducted by a Chamber constituted of five members of the Commission
and two ad hoc appointees. (Each party to the conflict nominates one of
the ad hoc members.)

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning
grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters,
activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human
rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates
and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice,
freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

Amnesty International is a global movement of millions of people demanding human rights for all people - no matter who they are or where they are. We are the world's largest grassroots human rights organization.

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