Amnesty International Satellite Images Reveal Damage to South Ossetian Villages After...

Thu Oct 9, 2008 1:48pm EDT

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Amnesty International Satellite Images Reveal Damage to South Ossetian
Villages After Major Fighting Ended

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Amnesty International USA
(AIUSA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
released today a damage assessment of 24 villages around the South Ossetian
capital of Tskhinvali. It reveals that 424 structures -- including homes and
offices -- sustained additional damage after the end of large-scale
hostilities in South Ossetia on August 10, 2008. AIUSA and AAAS obtained the
images from August 10 and August 19 through commercially available satellite
imaging. The assessment is based on a comparative analysis of the two images. 

"These images do not lie: the additional destruction shown from August 10 to
August 19 must be used to establish who had responsibility for protecting
civilians from attacks by militia," said Ariela Blatter, Amnesty International
USA's director for the Satellites for Human Rights Project. "The destruction
of civilian infrastructure highlights the need for the international community
to undertake an independent investigation of abuses during the conflict, with
the complete support of all parties involved." 

The satellite images show that the majority of the damage in Tskhinvali was
sustained on or before August 10 -- likely during the intense fighting between
the Georgian and Russian militaries around August 8. The images also support
Amnesty International assessments on the ground that more than 100 civilian
houses in Tskhinvali were hit by shelling during the initial Georgian

However, a number of villages near Tskhinvali (to the east and south) show
additional damage on August 19, after the majority of the hostilities ended.
The village of Tamarsheni, for example, which was mostly inhabited by ethnic
Georgians before the conflict, shows no damage at all on August 10. Nine days
later, the analysis identified 152 damaged structures, a large proportion of
the total number of structures in the village. 

These two images also reveal signs of significant military activity including
tracks from presumed movement of military vehicles and 455 crater images from
shelling, all between August 10 and 19. 

The satellite image from August 19 shows fire damage that supports eyewitness
accounts -- documented by Amnesty International -- of arson attacks by South
Ossetian forces, paramilitary groups and privately armed individuals on
property owned by ethnic Georgians. During these attacks, several residents
were threatened; some were killed. Amnesty International is concerned that
Russian forces failed to take effective measures to protect civilians and
their property from such abuses in areas under their control. 

The satellite image analysis also indicates the level of reconstruction
necessary before tens of thousands of people displaced by the August conflict
can return to South Ossetia. It is estimated that there are 22,000 individuals
displaced from South Ossetia, whose voluntary return requires, among other
things, the restoration of security and the reconstruction of destroyed

"The U.S. government must uphold its commitment and continue funding pressing
humanitarian needs in the next administration," said Daphne Jayasinghe,
Amnesty International USA's acting Europe and Central Asia advocacy director.
"It must ensure that the majority of this funding supports the protection of
human rights of those displaced by the August conflict." 

The images from South Ossetia are part of a joint human rights monitoring
effort between Amnesty International and AAAS, which is funded by a grant from
the Oak Foundation. 

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist
organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers
in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The
organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the
public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and
dignity are denied. 

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's
largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal Science
( AAAS was founded in 1848, and serves 262 affiliated
societies and academies of science, reaching 10 million individuals. 

For more information about human rights concerns in Georgia, please visit: 

SOURCE  Amnesty International

Sharon Singh of Amnesty International USA, +1-202-544-0200x289,; or Ginger Pinholster of American Association for the
Advancement of Science, +1-202-326-6421,
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