HRW: Georgian villages burnt, looted

Georgia Materials 14 August 2008 03:15 (UTC +04:00)

Researchers from the Human Rights Watch said they witnessed "terrifying scenes of destruction" and looting by the South Ossetian militias in the Georgian villages of the region. ( Civil )

HRW said on August 13 that its researchers, while moving from Java to Tskhinvali a day before, saw that numerous houses in the Georgian villages of Kekhvi, Kvemo Achabeti, Zemo Achabeti and Tamarasheni.

"Human Rights Watch researchers also saw armed Ossetian militia members in camouflage fatigues taking household items - furniture, television sets, heaters, suitcases, carpets, and blankets - out of houses in the village of Nizhniy (Kvemo) Achabeti and loading them into their trucks. Explaining the looters' actions, an Ossetian man told Human Rights Watch, "Of course, they are entitled to take things from Georgians now - because they lost their own property in Tskhinvali and other places," HRW said.

The villages were virtually deserted, with the exception of a few elderly and incapacitated people who stayed behind either because they were unable to flee or because they were trying to save their belongings and cattle, it said.

"The remaining residents of these destroyed ethnic Georgian villages are facing desperate conditions, with no means of survival, no help, no protection, and nowhere to go," Tanya Lokshina at Human Rights Watch said.

HRW has also interviewed a women from the Ossetian villages and one of them said that the Georgian soldiers stole whatever money she kept at the house. While another woman said, according to HRW, that the Georgian forces told them not to be afraid and said that they would not shoot if they were not attacked.

Meanwhile, Anna Neistat of Human Rights Watch (HRW), who is leading a team investigating the humanitarian damage in South Ossetia, told the Guardian that Russian estimates of 2,000 dead in the conflict were "suspicious." Russia accuses Georgia of "genocide" of the Ossetians.

"The figure of 2,000 people killed is very doubtful," Neistat said. "Our findings so far do not in any way confirm the Russian statistics. On the contrary, they suggest the numbers are exaggerated."

She said that Russia's propaganda of deliberately exaggerating number of death toll was triggering revenge against ethnic Georgians in the region.