The statement accompanied a 200-page report documenting indiscriminate attacks on civilians when conflicts over Georgia’s attack on the breakaway region of South Ossetia intensified into a five-day war following Russia’s military response.
The pro-Russian breakaway region has since claimed independence along with another separatist region, Abkhazia. Russia immediately recognized both former provinces as states.
The report demanded clarity on issues such as Georgia’s use of multiple-rocket launchers on the separatist capital Tskhinvali, alleged ethnic cleansing by South Ossetian forces, and the Russian bombing of apartment buildings, amid other human rights abuses.
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“Human Rights Watch urges the Georgian and Russian governments to investigate and hold accountable those from their respective forces responsible for international humanitarian law violations, including war crimes,” the report states.
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The document also criticized occupying Russian forces for failing to secure public order and safety, as well as using ‘indiscriminate aerial, artillery, and tank fire strikes, killing and wounding many civilians.’
“Instead of protecting civilians, Russian forces allowed South Ossetian forces who followed in their path to engage in wanton and widespread pillage and burning of Georgian homes and to kill, beat, rape, and threaten civilians,” Deber said, adding ‘such deliberate attacks’ were war crimes, and would be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Moscow and Tbilisi deny using unnecessary force or disregarding possible civilian casualties in attacks. South Ossetia’s leaders, for their part, have denied targeting ethnic Georgian civilians.