By Tim Whewell
BBC File On 4
BBC File On 4
The BBC has discovered evidence that Georgia may have committed war crimes in its attack on its breakaway region of South Ossetia in August.
Eyewitnesses have described how its tanks fired directly into an apartment block, and how civilians were shot at as they tried to escape the fighting.
Research by the international investigative organisation Human Rights Watch also points to indiscriminate use of force by the Georgian military, and the possible deliberate targeting of civilians.
Indiscriminate use of force is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, and serious violations are considered to be war crimes.
The allegations are now raising concerns among Georgia's supporters in the West.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has told the BBC the attack on South Ossetia was "reckless".
He said he had raised the issue of possible Georgian war crimes with the government in Tbilisi.
The evidence was gathered by the BBC on the first unrestricted visit to South Ossetia by a foreign news organisation since the conflict.
Georgia's attempt to re-conquer the territory triggered a Russian invasion and the most serious crisis in relations between the Kremlin and the West since the Cold War.
And Georgians themselves have suffered. We confirmed the systematic destruction of former Georgian villages inside South Ossetia.
Some homes appear to have been not just burned by Ossetians, but also bulldozed by the territory's Russian-backed authorities.
The war began when Georgia launched artillery attacks on targets in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, at about 2330 on 7 August 2008.
Georgia said at the time that it was responding to increasing attacks on its own villages by South Ossetia militia, although it later said its action was provoked by an earlier Russian invasion.
Georgy Tadtayev, a 21-year-old dental student, was one of the Ossetian civilians killed during the fighting.
His mother, Taya Sitnik, 45, a college lecturer, told the BBC he bled to death in her arms on the morning of 9 August after a fragment from a Georgian tank shell hit him in the throat as they were both sheltering from artillery fire in the basement of her block of flats. Read more...
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- BBC Has Proof of Georgian War Crimes - Kommersant
- BBC wakes up to Georgian ‘war crimes' in s ossetia - I Report (Video)
- Mikheil Saakashvili: War Criminal , by Justin Raimondo - AntiWar.com