Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Georgia accused of Ossetia war crimes

The BBC has done an in-depth report into this summer's conflict in Georgia and has found evidence of potential war crimes committed by Georgian soldiers.

Among the claims made in the BBC report were eye-witness accounts from the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali from residents of an apartment building who claimed that Georgian tanks rolled up to their apartment building and systematically fired shells into each of its five floors. The BBC crew found damage to a nearby building that was consistent with the eye-witness accounts. Others told of Georgian soldiers firing at civilian cars fleeing the city. (For another eye-witness account of the conflict read "I survived the Georgian war. Here's what I saw")

The conflict began on the night of August 7 when Georgian forces bombarded Tskhinvali with artillery and rockets.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called Georgia's actions "reckless" and called for a full, independent investigation into the conflict to look for possible war crimes.

The BBC story is another that contradicts the version of the conflict popular with the American press and politicians that had an aggressive Russia attacking their peaceful and democratic neighbor, Georgia. Early in September OSCE (the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) released a report accusing President Mikhail Saakashvili of numerous rights violations in his re-election bid in May. A recent Human Rights Watch report also took Saakashvili to task for being less than democratic in his rule.

The Ossetians are not blameless in the BBC report either. They talked with several Ossetians who admitted to burning the houses of Georgians living in Ossetia, but only – they stressed - after the owners had fled.

"You can call it ethnic cleaning, but I think I just did it to prevent a future war," one Ossetian man said.
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