Georgia/Russia: an inspector should call

What were you doing on Friday 8 August?

As it happens, I can remember because that’s when I was working for Amnesty at the Edinburgh Festival. Why do I ask? Because this was when the astonishing news broke that Georgia and Russia were fighting over disputed territory in Georgia.

The suddenness was shocking. I remember looking at a Sky News report from our office foyer thinking “This is unbelievable, a new war … just like that”. Actually, the tensions had been there for years, it was just that a “frozen conflict” had been very hastily defrosted, chucked in the microwave.

Anyway my blog post back then (three days in) included the following couple of sentences: “What we now need to know, though, is whether Russia and Georgia can settle this without further bloodshed. Or, whether we really are in for another of those horrible dances of death in the Caucasus.”

Now, 100 days on, I know the answers: “no they can‘t” and “yes we are”.

Amnesty’s new report (see the Independent’s big article on it today) details the bloody, atrocity-filled fighting (bombardment of civilian areas, use of cluster bombs, torching of villages) and the terror-filled aftermath (abductions, shootings, house ransackings). The house pictured, for example, is in a  Georgian administered village called Eredvi in South Ossetia, torched either by South Ossetian militia or Russian forces.

The reality, then, makes that earlier post seem impossibly hopeful (just because it might not have happened this way).

I guess we got a glimpse of the brutality and venom of this conflict from recent reports of how at the time Putin had astonished Sarkozy (in the region to barter a peace deal) that he was going to “Hang Saakashvili by the balls”. For more on this and the report itself, read Amnesty Russia country coordinator Sara Hall – blogging on the Telegraph blog site (not forgetting her post inviting comment on our own humble blog platform).

So, have you remembered what you were doing on 8 August? No. Well, then we’ll have to take you in for questioning. Only joking. But, the fighting in the Caucasus has definitely included numerous crimes. Are they ever going to get investigated? Is anyone ever going to be made answerable for that orgy of house burning and terror?

Or, am I going to be writing in my next Caucasus post about how having even posed the question has come to seem hopelessly optimistic?

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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