Human Rights Watch conclusions and their perception27.01.2009 | 15:38
On January 23 Human Rights Watch presented its report on August 2008 events labeled a "five-day war" by the world community in Moscow and Tbilisi.
The report title is rather catchy: "Up in flames. Humanitarian Law Violations and Civilian Victims in the Conflict over South Ossetia".
It is noteworthy that the mass media reported on the document at the end of the week marked by another turn of confrontation between Moscow and Tbilisi. Russia had requested access to Georgia's military facilities for conduct of inspections referring to its right formulated in the OSCE 1991Vienna document. It was refused in virtue of Georgia's declared force majeure with Russia. "No Russian inspectors at Georgian bases!" - This is what Tbilisi says emotionally. "Georgia is scaling up armaments!" - This is how Moscow resentfully reacts.
The rights defenders' report seems to remind to uncompromising neighbors: the best wars in the human history are those avoided. And when both countries failed to prevent August atrocities both of them are equally responsible for what happened.
The report contains evidence that both Georgia and Russia made excessive use of indiscriminate munitions. According to the authors both parties violated the rules of war, committed war crimes, applied cluster bombs and GRAD rockets. "Both parties neglected the international law norms", - the rights defending organization points out referring to the outrage ("anarchy and violence dominated the region"). Neither South Ossetia is released from responsibility.
For instance there are facts based on interviews and documentary records. Georgian servicemen beat the prisoners of war. There was an incident when an old pacifist and a mentally ill person (both undoubtedly harmless) were detained. The Ossetian militia fighters tortured the prisoners and deliberately burned down the Georgian homes. It is also noted that the Russians could not provide for safety and public order: "Russian servicemen allowed Ossetians to destroy Georgian villages whose citizens have not managed to get back to their homes as yet".
The authors of the report believe that Prosecution of both Russia and Georgia must investigate multiple cases of human rights violation in South Ossetia and the authorities of this republic, Georgia and Russia must do their best to bring the refugees back there.
Later the same day Ann Neystan, Human Rights Watch chief emergency investigator held a press conference at Moscow's Interfax with Russian rights defenders participating in it. She noted that the representatives of the organization had filed numerous requests to Russian and Georgian authorities asking for information that they had obtained during official investigation of the events in question. "The only reply we got was from the Russian prosecution that stated that the Committee of Inquiry was carrying out the investigation and that our address would be passed over there. But until now we have received no reply". Georgia has presented no data either.
However Georgia gave feedback on the Human Rights Watch report. The Foreign Ministry of Georgia disseminated a statement thanking the rights defenders for "presenting a comprehensive picture of the crimes committed at the time of Russia's invasion in Georgia in August 2008 to the world community".
But the Georgian side does not accept the accusations against itself. As the statement goes especially in connection with the "disproportionate" use of force in Tskhinval.
This is the comment on conclusions of Human Rights Watch and Freedom House that expressed concern about insufficient development of democratic institutions in the country made in Smolenskaya square:
"We do not deny there are certain problems in this field but please name any country that does not have similar problems. Russia is ready for any constructive dialogue, on this subject too, - Sergey Lavrov's administration states with a reservation: "Politicization of the rights defending problems will not help solving them but will add to their depreciation".
The Russian Ministry of Defense did not keep out either. According to Interfax Anatoly Nogovitsin, the Deputy Chief of Staff, stated that he had repeatedly contradicted accusations against Russia and did not want to react to such outbursts again. He noted however that "we have what we might claim on the Europeans concerning the events in South Ossetia".
It is appropriate to stress here as it was done in Anna Neystan's speech at the press conference: "We are not trying to find out who initiated the war, who was worse or better. We believe all parties to the conflict have committed serious violations of humanitarian law".