Amnesty: Plenty of blame to go around from August War

Yet another international organization is poking holes in the Georgian government’s official narrative of last August’s war. A new Amnesty International report finds that all participants in the conflict–the Georgian and Russian militaries as well as South Ossetian seperatists–failed to protect civilians. The New York Times reports: Researchers in Tskhinvali concluded that Georgian forces had ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
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591474_081118_ossetia5.jpg

Yet another international organization is poking holes in the Georgian government's official narrative of last August's war. A new Amnesty International report finds that all participants in the conflict--the Georgian and Russian militaries as well as South Ossetian seperatists--failed to protect civilians. The New York Times reports:

Researchers in Tskhinvali concluded that Georgian forces had aimed Grad rockets at military targets — a Russian peacekeeper base, fuel depots and munitions stockpiles, among others — but that the targets were adjacent to civilian areas. The impact of the rockets had a radius of as much as 500 feet, and in some cases missiles struck a third of a mile away from what appeared to be their targets, the report said.

The researchers also found that several thousand civilians were in Tskhinvali the night of the attack, Aug. 7, and that 182 structures in the city were damaged, mostly in the first hours of the war.

Yet another international organization is poking holes in the Georgian government’s official narrative of last August’s war. A new Amnesty International report finds that all participants in the conflict–the Georgian and Russian militaries as well as South Ossetian seperatists–failed to protect civilians. The New York Times reports:

Researchers in Tskhinvali concluded that Georgian forces had aimed Grad rockets at military targets — a Russian peacekeeper base, fuel depots and munitions stockpiles, among others — but that the targets were adjacent to civilian areas. The impact of the rockets had a radius of as much as 500 feet, and in some cases missiles struck a third of a mile away from what appeared to be their targets, the report said.

The researchers also found that several thousand civilians were in Tskhinvali the night of the attack, Aug. 7, and that 182 structures in the city were damaged, mostly in the first hours of the war.

Unlike the Georgian attack — described as “a fixed, localized incident that took place over eight hours” — the Russian bombardment that followed was sporadic and lasted for days, Mr. Dalhuisen said. The Georgian authorities commented on their military strategy to Amnesty International’s researchers, but Russian leaders did not.

The report found that Georgian towns, villages and civilians were hit during Russian bombing raids, sometimes “in the apparent absence of nearby military targets,” which would violate international law.

Russian infantry treated civilians in a disciplined fashion, but the Russians allowed South Ossetian forces to loot and set fires in the ethnic Georgian villages north of the separatist capital, the report determined. Amnesty International’s researchers “documented unlawful killings, beatings, threats, arson and looting” by armed South Ossetian groups, the report said.

On balance, the Russians probably come out looking worse, but the report’s evenhanded tone will probably irritate the Georgian government, which has sought to portray itself as the innocent victim of Russian agression.

It also follows reports from OSCE monitors and the Times accusing Georgia of firing the first shot in the conflict, and one from Human Rights Watch condemning Georgia’s use of cluster bombs in civilian areas. Facing increasing internal opposition, the Saakashvili government is disputing the reports and calling for a new international investigation.

Whatever the Georgian government’s guilt, the Amnesty report makes clear that its people continue to suffer the consequences.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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