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Disappeared in captivity without a trace…2009-02-16 10:08
The August events are fading into history. Peace, albeit a fragile one, has been established in this area chronically ravaged by conflicts. Meanwhile both in South Ossetia and Georgia the families of those who have still not returned from the war are waiting for them to come home. Those who are not on the lists of the dead. But cannot be found among the living either...
These people are regarded as missing without trace. Although many people are convinced that they are being held in captivity by the opposing side.
At a governmental level, it appears impossible at the moment to clarify the fate of the missing men. The leaders of the hapless triangle - Russia, Georgia and South Ossetia - are constantly making accusations against each other, hence a constructive dialogue is too distant a prospect. Therefore this burden has fallen on the non-governmental organizations in these countries.
Last week a session of the public commission for normalizing the situation in the Caucasus took place in Minsk. It was established last December at the initiative of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation. At the first meeting which was held in Moscow, Russian and Georgian representatives agreed to make efforts to solve the problems of those men who are being held forcefully (prisoners and hostages).
At the time, according to Mamuka Areshidze, spokesman for the Georgian delegation and director of the NGO "Caucasian Centre of Strategic Research", as a result of exchanges of information it had been established that about 30 hostages were still being held by the Ossetian side, and 9 by the Georgians. And shortly after, according to Aleksandr Cherkasov, a member of the human rights organization Memorial, they managed to clear up the fate of the several people who were thought to be missing and possibly to have been taken prisoner.
Now, a month and a half later, the participants in the meeting have noted that in this short amount of time some progress has managed to be achieved.
Hence in January, Mamuka Areshidze, the expert on Caucasus affairs who is also head of the "Home for Free Thinking", reported that one of the captive Georgian soldiers had been found in the North Caucasus. With the help of the Russian human rights organization Memorial.
"I will refrain from saying exactly where he is located. I suspect that he is there under a different name," he said in an interview with GHN.
At the time, the following comment by Temur Yakobashvili, Georgian Minister for Reintegration, appeared in the local media:
"The Georgian side did not take any prisoners. As far as Georgian prisoners are concerned, it's hard to say how many there were. But according to existing information, approximately 12 of them are alive. On the whole, we are talking about soldiers. With regard to the civilian population, we know that there are people who were killed, and we know approximately where they were buried, but we can't get there."
Some time later, the South Ossetian side also made a comment. At a press conference in Moscow, the representative of the republic's president for human rights David Sanakoev said that four of their citizens had been taking prisoner during the fighting in August, and a further 11 were abducted after the conflict. According to him, all of them are still being held prisoner by the Georgians.
Human rights activists, who have refused to imitate the accusatory tone of the statesmen, have somewhat clarified the situation.