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Rights group calls for international probe of civilian deaths in South Ossetia conflict

[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called Tuesday for an international investigation into the deaths of civilians during the August 2008 conflict [BBC backgrounder] between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia [JURIST news archive]. A new AI report [text, PDF; AI press release] entitled "Civilians in the Line of Fire: the Georgia-Russia Conflict" faulted both Russia and Georgia, as well as South Ossetian forces, for the deaths of civilians. The report outlined possible human rights violations during the conflict, including attacks on civilians and civilian targets by both sides, the use of land mines and cluster bombs [JURIST news archive], the treatment of prisoners of war and civilian detainees, and the wide-spread displacement of civilians during and after the fighting. Amnesty observed:

The fact that information documented by Amnesty International and others indicates that serious violations of international humanitarian law have been committed by Georgian and Russian forces, and by groups loyal to South Ossetia, demands investigation and remedial action. Georgia and Russia are conducting investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian law. Amnesty International is calling for these investigations to cover all illegal acts and omissions and to be conducted promptly, independently, impartially and thoroughly, in accordance with international standards for such investigations. The results of these investigations must be made public, and perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law be brought to justice. Amnesty International further calls upon the South Ossetian authorities to ensure the independent, impartial and transparent investigation of alleged violations of international humanitarian law perpetrated by their armed forces.
The New York Times has more.

Shortly after hostilities began, the Georgian government filed a complaint with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] alleging that Russian troops had engaged in the murder, rape, and mass displacement of civilians [JURIST report]. In October, the ICJ called on both Georgia and Russia to meet their obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)[text] in respect of all persons in the conflict zone. Tensions between the two countries remain high following Russia's signing of military defense agreements with South Ossetia and Abkhazia in September, which were ratified [JURIST reports] by the lower house of the Russian parliament in October.

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