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Georgia: Amnesty calls on all sides to ensure civilians protected

Organisation issues war crimes warning

Amnesty International has today called on all sides to the conflict in Georgia to fully respect international humanitarian law and to ensure that civilians are protected from hostilities.

Amnesty International said:

"All parties to the conflict must abstain from direct attacks on civilians.

“Their operations must also avoid attacks which do not attempt to distinguish between military and non-military targets.

“We are concerned that some of the attacks mounted in South Ossetia could amount to war crimes.”

In addition, Amnesty International insisted that Georgia and Russia must provide protection and safe passage to people fleeing from the conflict and allow unimpeded access to humanitarian relief to those in affected areas.

Background to international humanitarian law
All parties to the conflict must comply with principles of international humanitarian law that are binding on states and non-governmental armed groups. These include:

The principle of distinction between civilian and military targets

The protection of civilians - direct attacks against civilians or non-military objects are prohibited

Also prohibited are indiscriminate attacks which do not attempt to distinguish between military and non-military targets, or which use inherently indiscriminate weapons

Disproportionate attacks are prohibited too which, while aimed at a legitimate military target, have a disproportionate impact on civilians relative to the military objective

Parties to conflict must take measures to protect the civilian population from the dangers arising from military operations - this includes not locating military objectives among civilian concentrations

Civilians must have access to humanitarian assistance, and humanitarian agencies must be allowed access to the civilian population

All prisoners, the wounded and those seeking to surrender, must be treated humanely - prisoners must never be killed or held as hostages

Anyone responsible for grave breaches of international humanitarian law should be brought to justice in a fair trial, and reparations should be provided to the victims of such violations.

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