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Georgia-Russia conflict: Thousands still can't return to own homes - new report

Safe return across ‘twilight zone’ needed

One hundred days after this autumn’s Georgia-Russia conflict, over 20,000 ethnic Georgians are still unable to return to their homes in South Ossetia, said Amnesty International today (18 November), while of those on both sides of the conflict who have gone back to their homes, many have found them pillaged or destroyed.

Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Programme Director Nicola Duckworth said:

“A new twilight zone has been created along the de facto border between South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia, into which people stray at their peril. Looting, shooting, explosions and abductions have all been reported in the last few weeks.

“International monitors must be allowed to go to all places and all sides need to intensify their efforts to guarantee the safe return of displaced people without discrimination.”

Amnesty’s new report - “ Civilians in the line of fire: The Georgia-Russia conflict ” - gathers together evidence suggesting that serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by all sides.

Between 7-13 August, villages and residential areas in towns were bombed and shelled, and some civilians even reported being bombed while fleeing. The overall number of civilian deaths significantly outnumbered that of combatants, and homes, hospitals, schools and other mainstays of civilian life were damaged or destroyed in communities across the conflict zone.

Cluster bombs were fired on and near inhabited areas by both Georgia and Russia, resulting in numerous civilian casualties and the contamination of large areas of land with unexploded ordinance. They continue to present a serious risk as civilians attempt to return to their homes after the conflict.

Nicola Duckworth added:

“The Georgians and the Russians have accused each other of war crimes for their conduct during the conflict. It is essential that such serious allegations be investigated thoroughly and impartially by all parties. If found to be true, those responsible must be brought to justice.”

In light of the divergent accounts and mutual recriminations being put forward by both the Georgian and Russian authorities, Amnesty is calling on both parties to request an inquiry by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission - the body of experts with responsibility under the Geneva Conventions to investigate allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law.

Read the report Civilians in the line of fire - The Georgia-Russia conflict /em> (PDF)

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