In a letter sent to EU foreign ministers, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the EU to stress at international talks on the Georgia crisis the right of all people to return to their homes.
“We are particularly concerned about the ability of ethnic Georgians whose homes are in ethnic Georgian enclave villages north and east of South Ossetia’s capital, Tskhinvali to exercise this right,” the letter reads. “… the homes in these villages were systematically looted and torched in August and September; some were completely bulldozed.”
“While many of the inhabitants fled in the lead-up to assault by Georgian armed forces which started on August 7, they currently have no home to return to, nor do they enjoy any guarantees of protection and security should they attempt to return.”
Attached to the letter is a memorandum giving a brief summary of the organization’s findings and research carried out into post-war events in South Ossetia.
“Georgian, Russian, and Ossetian forces all committed violations of human rights and humanitarian law during the conflict, as described briefly in the attached memorandum,” the letter reads. “Much needs to be done to create a comprehensive record of these violations and hold those responsible for serious crimes accountable. We ask that the EU press all sides to ensure credible and transparent investigations and accountability for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed by forces and groups under their control or in areas under their control.”
The organization also urged the EU to expand the mandate of its observer mission in Georgia – EUMM - to include the protection of civilians.
“We are aware that EUMM will not have access to South Ossetia; however, we hope you will continue to press for access to South Ossetia to ensure protection to ethnic Georgians who remain,” it said.