Amnesty slams Georgia, Russia over war conduct
By MATT SIEGEL, Associated Press Writer
TBILISI, Georgia – Both Georgia and Russia seriously violated international law during their war in August, rights group Amnesty International charged Tuesday.
Its sweeping 69-page report cites evidence suggesting that Georgian forces indiscriminately fired on civilian targets in Tskhinvali, the capital of the Russian-backed breakaway province of South Ossetia.
The rights group said the use of notoriously inaccurate Grad rockets in the Georgian assault on Tskhinvali resulted in "scores of civilian deaths" and violated international law on the conduct of war.
Amnesty also took Moscow to task for failing to stop killings, torture and abuses against civilians perpetrated by Russia's allies — the South Ossetian militias — in ethnic Georgian enclaves inside the breakaway region.
"It is clear that the Russian authorities singularly failed in their duty to prevent reprisals and serious human rights abuses being carried out by militia groups loyal to South Ossetia," the report said.
There was no immediate comment from Russian or Georgian authorities on the report.
The war, which badly damaged ties between Moscow and the West, erupted Aug. 7 when Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili launched an attack to regain control over Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia. Russia responded with overwhelming force, pushing deep inside Georgia and keeping troops in Georgia for weeks.
Tbilisi says it entered the separatist region in response to the shelling of Georgian villages from within the enclave, and only entered after Russian troops and tanks had entered from the north.
Russia has denied that it entered South Ossetia before the Georgian attack and defended its actions, saying they were necessary to protect the lives of its peacekeepers and civilians in South Ossetia.
Moscow has recognized the independence of South Ossetia and another separatist Georgian province, Abkhazia.