RESPONSE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY - Page 12

Georgia/Abkhazia: Violations of the Laws of War and Russia's Role in the Conflict - RESPONSE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

Georgia/Abkhazia: Violations of the Laws of War and Russia's Role in the Conflict - RESPONSE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

Article Index

RESPONSE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

Notwithstanding the various agreements that were reached between the parties, the U.N. Security Council took a skeptical approach to each of those propositions. Despite heavy lobbying by the Russians, the U.N. declined to grant their peacekeeping forces U.N. auspices.

The attitude of the United Nations and the Security Council throughout the conflict has reflected at least five distinct concerns. First, the U.N. has been aware of and expressed concern over the serious human rights abuses in the conflict. For example, the Security Council issued a number of resolutions registering dismay over human rights violations by the parties. In addition, the Secretary General, pursuant to instructions of the Security Council, sent a mission in October 1993 specifically to investigate human rights conditions in Abkhazia, and released a report in November.[182] However, the U.N. has not gone beyond expressions of concern over human rights, and its cease-fire monitoring team was given no human rights mandate, not even to monitor violations of the laws of war.

This attitude seems to Human Rights Watch unjustified, particularly with respect to international humanitarian law. Formation of the Yugoslavia war-crimes tribunal under the direct mandate of the Security Council to maintain international peace and security pursuant to Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter decisively established that the maintenance of international peace and security includes conformity with international humanitarian law. If U.N. cease-fire monitors are sent to a zone with the mission of reporting to the Security Council any breaches of a ceasefire, pursuant to the Security Council's mandate to maintain international peace and security, it seems to Human Rights Watch that they ought also to be instructed to monitor serious breaches of humanitarian law.

Second, the Security Council has repeatedly expressed support for the territorial integrity of Georgia.[183] Abkhazia's declaration of independence has not been recognized by the world community. Human Rights Watch takes no position on territorial disputes. Nevertheless, the U.N.'s failure to take more decisive action on human rights issues appears partly related to its concerns about the territorial integrity of Georgia, and so cannot be ignored.

The U.N. has, for example, sacrificed the unconditional right of all refugees to return home in order to win political concessions from the Abkhaz side in negotiations. Article 3(c) of the April 4, 1994, quadripartite (U.N., Georgia, Abkhazia, Russia) agreement denies returnees immunity when there are"serious signs" that they had committed a "military offense...a serious criminal offense or earlier participated in military actions and currently belong to armed formations that are preparing for military actions in Abkhazia." No one should be immune to investigation of alleged human rights violations. However, the very real fear of biased prosecution discourages displaced persons from returning to Abkhazia. The restrictions stipulated in the April agreement are also objectionable since they target a particular group - the overwhelmingly Georgian population that fled Abkhazia.

Third, the U.N. has been concerned with the safety and utility of sending U.N. troops to the Abkhaz conflict zone in any capacity, particularly as peacekeepers deployed in the thousands and not just as cease-fire observers numbering, as of this writing, only 155. This concern has mirrored the general disquiet of Security Council members over the ability of U.N. forces to carry out missions successfully. During the course of the Abkhaz conflict, the Security Council has observed the experience of foreign troops in Somalia, Bosnia, and Rwanda, among others. Its enthusiasm, or lack thereof, for deployment in Abkhazia has reflected its evolving views of those experiences.[184]

Fourth – and contrapuntal to the generally ambivalent view on deploying U.N. troops – the Security Council and particularly the Secretary General have been optimistic as to the ability of the U.N. to help resolve the Abkhaz conflict, both diplomatically and through the deployment of small numbers of U.N. forces. In part this appears to reflect a belief that the Abkhaz conflict is relatively small and amenable to political solution.[185] The Security Council has therefore been reasonably willing to authorize the dispatch of a few cease-fire observers to the zone.

Fifth, western Security Council members have been reluctant to permit Russia to proceed with its stated intent of deploying Russian troops as the backbone of a U.N. peacekeeping force in Abkhazia.[186] This may in part reflect concern about Russian forces' complicity in human rights abuses in the conflict. Western powers are more likely to also be concerned about the security implications of Russian forces redeploying in the former Soviet republics, whether or not under the U.N. flag. Western powers fear a revival of Russian imperialism in the former republics, under the guise of "peacekeeping" or "peacemaking."

Human Rights Watch takes no position on the circumstances under which peacekeeping troops are or are not deployed, nor on their national composition or command. It does, however, express concern that the existing record of the Russian forces, both directly and in support of abusive parties, warrants serious concern.

UNITED STATES POLICY TOWARD THE ABKHAZ CONFLICT

In the post-Cold War world, the influence of the United States in the former Soviet republics has grown tremendously. U.S. policy toward the conflict in Abkhazia therefore also merits scrutiny. American policy appears to have been guided by three overall principles: first, support for the independence of Georgia; second, support for the territorial integrity of Georgia with respect to Abkhazia; and third, support for Shevardnadze personally. Although these three policies are themselves political matters beyond Human Rights Watch's mandate, they have led the U.S. to be, in Human Rights Watch's view, less demanding on matters of human rights from the Georgian government than it might have been. They have also led the U.S. to pursue a policy of engagement with the Georgian government that appears to Human Rights Watch, from the standpoint of human rights protection, unjustifiably credulous.

The U.S. has, however, been sensitive to the humanitarian crisis in Abkhazia. Shevardnadze stated during his March 1994 visit to Washington that the U.S. had provided some $200 million in humanitarian aid, principally for the support of refugees from the Abkhaz war.[187] President Clinton, too, noted the need for continuing humanitarian aid, stating that the U.S. intended to render another $70 million for humanitarian purposes.[188] Shevardnadze's meeting with Clinton on March 8 was reported to include discussion of deployment of U.N. peacekeeping forces to Abkhazia, humanitarian and economic aid to the Georgian government; and Washington's support for Shevardnadze and the territorial integrity of Georgia.[189] With respect to the deployment of peacekeeping forces to the region, Clinton stated that if a durable political settlement were reached in Abkhazia, the U.S. would be "inclined to support a U.N. peacekeeping operation in Georgia"; he added that U.S. forces would "not participate in it."[190] Shevardnadze met in Washington with both the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili and U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry. Shalikashvili subsequently stated that any peacekeeping force sent to the Abkhazia, under the "moral and legal mandate" of the U.N., should be made up of Russians and representatives of "as many other nations as possible."[191] Those talks reportedly concerned military cooperation between Georgia and the United States, including military assistance to train Georgian forces and "contribute to restructuring the Georgian military complex in the conditions of democracy and civil control."[192] If it included discussion of human rights matters, this fact was not disclosed in the press with the result that, publicly, the U.S. painted the situation in Abkhazia as exclusively a humanitarian crisis, rather than a playing field for gross human rights abuse, some committed under the command of Mr. Shevardnadze himself.[193]

Human Rights Watch shares the generally accepted assessment that Georgian armed forces are characterized by an abysmal lack of respect for civilian authority, military discipline, command and control responsibilities, or the restraints required by human rights and humanitarian law. During the conflict in Abkhazia they showed themselves to be little more than paramilitary militias responding primarily to their warlords and only in few respects to civilian authority.[194] It therefore understands the viewpoint, supported by Pentagon policy, that an important way to improve the dismal human rights record of the Georgian forces is by training those forces. Human Rights Watch believes, however, that this effort is premature and likely to be counterproductive from a human rights standpoint. Human Rights Watch therefore opposes the provision of any security assistance to Georgian forces until there is real evidence that it will not simply be swallowed up by corrupt and abusive forces.

IX. "VOLUNTEERS," "MERCENARIES," AND "OUTSIDERS" IN THE ABKHAZ CONFLICT

A persistent feature of many conflicts in the former Soviet republics is the participation of fighters who are not from the conflict zone and who did not reside in the territory of any of the formal parties to the conflict before the conflict began. Human Rights Watch does not take a position on the legality or illegality of "volunteers," "mercenaries," or other such "outsiders" to the conflict per se; and unlike mercenaries, "volunteers" and "outsiders" do not even have particular status in international law, unless they are formally incorporated into the armed forces of a party to a conflict. A mercenary is defined in Protocol I, Article 47(2) as any person, not a national of a party to the conflict or a resident of territory controlled by a party to the conflict, who has been specially recruited to fight in an armed conflict, takes part in hostilities, and is motivated to do so by the desire for private gain.[195]

Rather than focusing on the status of mercenaries and other outsiders in international law, Human Rights Watch limits itself to documenting and criticizing human rights and humanitarian law violations by any party or combatant of whatever origin, including mercenaries and volunteers. Moreover, to the extent that such mercenaries or volunteers offer their services to a party to the conflict that consistently commits atrocities, they would be complicit in these abuses regardless of the question of whether or not they participate directly in the commission of such abuses.

In the view of Human Rights Watch, it is the obligation of the parties to a conflict, as well as those having influence over the parties, to ensure that those taking part in armed conflict comply with international law regarding combatants. Parties to a conflict have an obligation to maintain discipline among all their fighters, including those who come from the "outside." In addition, to the extent that a state has a legal capacity to prevent its nationals or residents from joining a party to a foreign conflict that engages in gross abuses of international humanitarian law, Human Rights Watch would urge that government to enforce its laws. If the persons involved are active members of that government's armed forces, the absence of measures to restrain or recall such forces would tend to support conclusions that their deployment was on the authority of that government.

OUTSIDE FIGHTERS IN THE ABKHAZ CONFLICT

In the case of the Abkhaz conflict, many of these "outside" fighters came from the Confederation of Mountain Peoples, a loose coalition of ethnic, tribal, and regional groups in the Caucasus mountains (unrecognized by Moscow), which early on in the conflict aligned itself with the Abkhaz. Fighters from the regions represented by this Confederation, Chechens in particular, showed up on the Abkhaz side very soon after fighting started. Several hundred of these fighters were airlifted from Gudauta during one of the early, Russian-brokered, cease-fires.

It may be overstating matters to say that these fighters were "sent" by the Confederation. The fighters in the Confederation respond to local leaders; some of those leaders, however, sent fighters or went with their men, while other fighters went individually. According to interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch, motivations for joining the fighting varied. Some fought because they felt solidarity with a small ethnic group (the Abkhaz) who were fighting for independence from a larger administrative territory. The Chechens, in particular, were fighting a similar fight, trying to win independence from the Russian Federation.[196] Others fought merely for the purpose of gaining weapons; they showed up to be issued a rifle and ammunition, and then slipped away.[197] Others fought for booty; in numerous interviews by Human Rights Watch, refugees and captured combatants stated that the worst pillage was committed by the "outside" fighters.[198]

In addition to these fighters, a significant number of ethnic Russians who did not previously reside in Georgia or Abkhazia have been seen fighting on the Abkhaz side. Although Human Rights Watch has evidence that at least some of these fighters were professionals paid and sent to the conflict by some branch of the Russian government in Moscow, many more appear to have been freelance, including Cossacks.[199] Their motives for fighting also appear to have been mixed. Some fought for various perceived political causes, including Russian nationalism, others for what they perceived as the oppression of the Abkhaz (identified for these purposes with Russia), and again others for the perceived oppression of ethnic Russians in Georgia.

A third category of "outsider" combatants consisted of ethnic Abkhaz from Turkey, Syria or other places of Abkhaz diaspora. Abkhaz authorities acknowledged that they had received significant financial assistance from the Abkhaz diaspora, in addition to an unspecified number of essentially freelance fighters.[200]

These categories of outsiders fought almost entirely on the Abkhaz side. Their numbers were so significant at certain points in the conflict that press reports and the U.S. State Department estimated that they constituted a majority in the September 1993 battle for Sukhumi.[201]

RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT SURROGATES?

A second issue is the question of whether, and to what extent, any outside fighters were surrogates for branches of the Russian government or armed forces, apparently operating on their own or under command of the Abkhaz, but in fact following orders laid down by officials in the Russian government. This latter question is central with respect to Russian nationals fighting in the conflict. It is also central to one of the key inquiries of this report, viz., whether the Russian government has provided security assistance to abusive parties; whether its forces, acting either overtly or covertly, have directly committed human rights abuses in the conflict; and at what level of command such actions were permitted or ordered.

In August 1993, Human Rights Watch interviewed a group of six Russian fighters at a refugee hotel in Gudauta, Abkhazia.[202] Human Rights Watch found the six in a small room of the hotel, late at night, cleaning their weapons. They said they had arrived a few days earlier by helicopter from the then-besieged town of Tkvarcheli. When asked what they had been doing in Tkvarcheli – a city under siege, by that time, for nearly a year, whose residents were reportedly suffering from malnutrition and deprivation – the leader initially said they were "businessmen just visiting the area." After a little more conversation, he acknowledged that he and his men had been fighting "against the Georgians who were trying to wipe out our little brothers, the Abkhaz."

Human Rights Watch asked the backgrounds of the men. All of them reported they had been either KGB- or Russian-army trained. They said they had been part of an "independent formation that had decided to fight for the rights of Russians." One man showed us a photograph of what he described as the original group of some thirty men in Moscow. When asked when the photograph was taken, he said it was before the group first saw action in Moldova.[203] Asked where the group had seen action, another replied, "Abkhazia, Transdniester,[204] and some other places," but he did not elaborate. The leader said they had started out in Moscow with about thirty men, "all experienced, disciplined Russian professionals, not like the Georgians here," but that over time they had been reduced to just these six. Most of the casualties had occurred elsewhere, but, he said, they had lost half a dozen or so in Tkvarcheli during the months they had been there.

Asked how the fighters had reached Tkvarcheli in the first place, and how they were kept supplied with ammunition, the leader replied that they had gone in on Russian helicopter flights under the auspices of the Russian government's State Committee for Extraordinary Situations. The leader emphasized that, as he saw it, the mission of the fighters and the humanitarian relief workers was the same – to protect the civilian population in Tkvarcheli from being driven out of their homes by the Georgians. It was his opinion that the entire operation of feeding civilians and delivering humanitarian assistance to Tkvarcheli was integrated with a military effort, of which he was part, to prevent what he referred to as the "ethnic cleansing" of Tkvarcheli. If the Georgians "broke through," he said, they would "destroy these people. They have elsewhere." He also emphasized that Tkvarcheli had a large ethnic Russian population for which he had a special responsibility.

Human Rights Watch asked how the fighters were paid. One said that the Abkhaz government "has nothing." Another said that they were paid by the authorities of the "Dniester Moldovan Republic," the autonomous region in eastern Moldova that won de facto independence and finances itself with Russian assistance. They would not reveal how much they were paid, but did say that they were paid in U.S. dollars and that the money was deposited into bank accounts in Moscow.

Asked directly whether they were Russian government troops, the leader appeared to consider carefully before replying. He then said that no, they were not Russian government forces. They were, he said, "independent patriotic fighters – but professionals who know how to fight well." After a moment he added, "Of course, there are many in the [Russian] Army who share our patriotism."

Human Rights Watch's interviews with these Russian fighters are of significance because they provide evidence that Moscow may have been supplying direct military assistance in the Abkhaz conflict. The fighters stated that they, their weapons, and ammunition were transported on official Russian government relief flights. Human Rights Watch is inclined to believe that the Russian officials who arranged the entire relief effort may have thought of the provision of Russian fighters as consistent with the humanitarian nature of the mission, just as these men did. These men saw preventing the Georgians from achieving their military aims – the fall of Tkvarcheli – as inextricably intertwined with protecting the civilian inhabitants from pillage and forced relocation by Georgian forces who, as they correctly pointed out, had engaged in such practices in Sukhumi and elsewhere. In this respect, at least, they saw little reason to conceal their connection with the Russian government.

On the basis of these interviews, and in light of the abuses that have taken place in the Abkhaz war, Human Rights Watch is concerned that Russian government officials in Moscow have sanctioned the sending of Russian fighters to Abkhazia as agents of the Russian Federation. Regardless of the question as to which Russian officials were in charge of sending Russian fighters to Abkhazia, Human Rights Watch holds the government of the Russian Federation responsible for the actions in Abkhazia of individual active-duty members of Russia's armed or security forces.

X. SUMMARY OF WEAPONS TRANSFERS TO ABUSIVE PARTIES IN THE CONFLICT AND THE ROLE OF THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT AND ARMED FORCES

The evidence of the preceding chapters demonstrates that both parties in the Abkhaz conflict – Georgian government forces and Abkhaz secessionist forces – have been appallingly abusive of human rights and international humanitarian law. Each side has engaged in numerous and serious violations of international humanitarian law. Moreover, there has been almost no effort to hold anyone accountable for these crimes of war. Human Rights Watch believes that such serious human rights abusers ought not to receive weapons or security assistance unless and until it is shown that they will comply with fundamental norms of human rights and humanitarian law, and will seek accountability for past abuses. The evidence of the preceding chapters also shows, however, that the two sides have obtained considerable quantities of weapons and other security assistance. The weight of the evidence and conclusions to which it points regarding sources of supply of these weapons and security assistance can be summarized as follows.

GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT FORCES

Georgian government forces inherited a certain amount of weaponry in the break-up of the former Soviet Union. To this were added, during the Abkhaz war, weapons, bases, transportation, and other material under bilateral agreements reached between Georgia and the Russian Federation in connection with Georgia's independence and initial refusal (later reversed) to join the CIS. In addition, Georgian forces obtained supplies by raids on Russian military bases in Georgia, until Russian forces made clear that such raids would be met with force. These three categories account for the vast majority of armaments used by Georgian forces in the conflict.

Significant categories of weapons used by the Georgian forces have included Kalashnikov rifles of several varieties; rocket- propelled grenade launchers (RPG-7); light and heavy machine guns; many varieties of Soviet antipersonnel and antitank landmines; light mortars and artillery; heavy mortars and artillery, including self-propelled guns; Grad (multiple, rack-mounted) rockets on mobile launchers; various types of armored personnel carriers and tanks, including T-72s, heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles; helicopters armed with rockets and machine guns; and SU-25 fighter-bombers armed with bombs, rockets, missiles and cannons.[205]

ABKHAZ FORCES

Abkhaz forces used ground systems that were essentially the same as those of the Georgian forces listed above. The Abkhaz used heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles far more than the Georgian forces did, at least measured by effectiveness in shooting down aircraft, which included several civilian craft.

So far as Human Rights Watch has been able to determine, Abkhaz forces did not have their own aircraft or ships. Air attacks carried out against Georgian forces were, on the weight of the evidence and consistent with what other Western observers believe, carried out on their behalf by Russian forces.[206] The clearest case of such attacks was that of the SU-27 shot down by Georgian forces in March 1993 and piloted, according the U.N. military observers, by a Russian major.[207]

Possible sources for Abkhaz weapons included raids on Russian facilities in Abkhazia, black market purchases from corrupt Russian sources, supplies and support authorized by local Caucasus commanders of the Russian forces, and supplies and support authorized by branches of the Russian army or government in Moscow. Human Rights Watch believes that the sources included raids on Russian facilities and black market purchases. At the same time, however, these sources would have fallen far short of the massive quantities of supplies consumed over the period of conflict between August 1992 and May 1994. Other cases of military supply where the weight of the evidence points to Russian military involvement, such as the shot-down SU-27 and air intervention on the side of the Abkhaz generally, do not allow Human Rights Watch to reach any conclusion as to whether these operations were arranged or approved from Moscow, or were instead the work of local Russian commanders.

The same holds true for the extensive logistical support given by Russian forces to certain Abkhaz operations, such as the sea attacks on Sukhumi during 1993. Human Rights Watch reaches no conclusion as to what parties might have approved these operations, whether in Moscow or locally, except that it believes the evidence suggests that Russian forces were involved at some level.

THE RUSSIAN ROLE IN WEAPONS SUPPLY AND HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE

Evidence presented in this report has shown that on occasion, Russian forces have intervened directly in the Abkhaz conflict in ways

that were violative of the laws of war. The February 1993 air attack against civilian areas of Sukhumi was one such instance, one admitted to by the Russian ministry of defense.

Evidence in this report has also shown that the Russian government provided security assistance to the Georgian government in fulfillment of its bilateral agreements, although that aid went to forces that were engaged in serious human rights abuse. Human Rights Watch believes that treaty obligations notwithstanding, the Russian government was not obligated and ought not to have transferred security assistance to forces engaged at that very moment in serious human rights and humanitarian law abuse.

This report has further presented evidence that Russian forces provided weapons and security assistance to Abkhaz forces which themselves engaged in serious human rights and humanitarian law violations. Whereas the transfer of bases and supplies to the Georgians was fundamentally a continuation of policies and agreements separate from the Abkhaz conflict, Russian military aid to the Abkhaz was directly related to the conflict and intended to influence its course in favor of the Abkhaz.

Most of the legally-transferred material passed from Russian to Georgian hands prior to the outbreak of hostilities in August 1992. However, pursuant to the bilateral agreements, some significant transfers took place after the war began, such as the transfer of the Akhaltsikhe motorized rifle division to the command of the Georgian defense ministry in September 1992. At this date, there was considerable public evidence of massive human rights and humanitarian law abuses by Georgian forces in Abkhazia. Human Rights Watch believes that the Russian Federation should have withheld any such transfers pending resolution of the human rights issues.

Russian officials, in conversations with Human Rights Watch, stressed their obligations under pre-existing agreements to make the transfers. They emphasized that failure to make the transfers would have undercut the Russian government's ability to broker a peace. In addition, a refusal would have undercut its credibility with other republics of the former Soviet Union as to its willingness to abide by its agreements.

Human Rights Watch, while understanding the force of such concern, nonetheless believes that all agreements for security assistance should be subject to human rights terms, and that a party to an agreement is obligated to refuse to transfer security assistance on bona fide human rights grounds. Where the abuses are massive and on-going, as in Abkhazia in September 1992, the norms of human rights and humanitarian law are peremptory and overriding. The Russian government might have considered seeking a finding by the Security Council as to the human rights abuses to buttress its human rights bona fides in refusing to make the transfer.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This report was written by Kenneth Anderson, former director of the Human Right Watch Arms Project, and Louis Hammond, consultant to Human Rights Watch/Helsinki (formerly Helsinki Watch). It was edited by Joost R. Hiltermann, director of the Arms Project.

The report covers violations of the laws of war and the misuse of weaponry during the armed conflict in Abkhazia from August 1992 through December 1994. It is based in part on field research conducted in Abkhazia, Georgia, and Russia by Mr. Anderson, Erika Dailey, research associate and Moscow office director for Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, and journalist David Rieff, a member of the Arms Project's advisory committee, in July and August 1993, with follow-up work conducted in Georgia and Russia throughout 1994, as well as early 1995. Kathleen Bleakley, research assistant with the Arms Project, provided additional research and prepared the report for publication.

Human Rights Watch interviewed government officials, diplomats, fighters in both armed forces, displaced persons, prisoners taken during the conflict, wounded combatants and noncombatants, medical personnel, journalists, human rights monitors, representatives of international humanitarian organizations, and representatives of the United Nations and the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (O.S.C.E., formerly C.S.C.E.). Human Rights Watch expresses its thanks to all of them, and regrets that confidentiality and safety do not permit them to be identified individually.

Human Rights Watch also thanks Elizabeth Fuller, Senior Analyst at the Open Media Research Institute in Prague for her advice and expert review of the draft report; Human Rights Watch is, however, solely responsible for its contents.

Finally, Human Rights Watch gratefully acknowledges funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, New York.

APPENDIX 1: NOTES ON GEOGRAPHY, ETHNOGRAPHY, AND TRANSLITERATION

GEORGIA AND GEORGIANS

Today's Republic of Georgia covers 26,872 square miles (69,700 square kilometers) of the Caucasus Mountains on the southeastern coast of the Black Sea, sharing a border with the Russian Federation to the north (specifically the republics of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan), Turkey and Armenia to the south and Azerbaijan to the southeast. The Georgian nation was formed from the consolidation of Kartvelian groups living in the Caucasus Mountains.

In the modern era, Georgia became a protectorate of the Russian empire in 1783 and was incorporated gradually until 1878, gaining a brief independence from May 1918 to 1921 following the collapse of tsarist Russia. On March 12, 1922, Georgia joined Armenia and Azerbaijan in signing the treaty that formed the Federal Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of Transcaucasus, later part of the USSR. In 1936 Georgia became a separate part of the USSR – the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic – eventually declaring independence from the Soviet Union on April 9, 1991. Two years later, on October 23, 1993, Georgia became a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the successor body to the USSR.

According to the most recent census (1989), Georgians (in Georgian, "Kartvelebi") number some seventy percent of the republic's 5.5 million population; almost all ethnic Georgians live in Georgia. The rest of the population is mixed, with Abkhaz representing two percent of the general population, or around 100,000 people. The Georgian language belongs to the southwestern branch of the Caucasic language family, and has used its own unique script (Georgian), with systematic changes, since before the fifth century. Most Georgians are nominally Eastern Orthodox Christians, although some Georgians are Muslim or Jewish; it is not known how many are practicing.

ABKHAZIA AND ABKHAZIANS

Abkhazia spans 3,300 square miles on Georgia's northwest coast, sharing a border with the Russian Federation to the north, and the region of Mingrelia, within Georgia, to the south. Some three-quarters of the land is mountainous, although its coastline is subtropical. There were some 525,000 residents of Abkhazia recorded in the last (1989) census: forty-six percent ethnic Georgians (239,872); eighteen percent ethnic Abkhaz (93,267); fifteen percent ethnic Armenians (76,541); fourteen percent ethnic Russians (74,914); three percent ethnic Greeks (14,664); and the rest mixed.[208] Although no reliable data exist, it is certain that the ethnic composition of the area is significantly different as of this writing.

Abkhazia became a Russian protectorate in 1810, and was forcibly annexed in 1864, sending thousands fleeing into the arms of Russia's rival, the neighboring Ottoman empire. Following the 1917 Russian Revolution, Abkhazia became part of the Allied Union of Cossack Troops; between 1918 and 1924, it was part of the Mountainous Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. On March 31, 1921, the Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia was declared; in February 1931, Abkhazia was made an autonomous republic within Georgia. On July 23, 1992, the Abkhazian parliament voted to replace the region's 1978 constitution with the constitution of 1921, which made Abkhazia a sovereign state.

About 93,000 ethnic Abkhaz (in Abkhazian, "Apswa") live in Abkhazia; although no reliable statistics are available, there is a significant Abkhaz diaspora in Turkey.[209] Abkhaz belong to the Abazgo-Circassian ethnic group. The Abkhaz language is part of the Abazgi division of the northwest branch of the Caucasic language family. It developed a literary language in the mid-nineteenth century using the Cyrillic alphabet; after periods of using the Latin and Georgian alphabets under Soviet rule, the Abkhaz language readopted Cyrillic in 1954. Traditionally, the dominant religion among Abkhaz was Sunni Islam; since the mass emigration of the majority of Abkhaz to Turkey in the mid-nineteenth century, however, most of those remaining by far are nominally Eastern Orthodox Christians, although it is not known how many are practicing.

TRANSLITERATION

Some locations in Abkhazia bear various names for speakers of various languages. The regional capital, for example, is "Sukhum" in Abkhaz, "Sokhumi" in Georgian, and "Sukhumi" in Russian. For the sake of simplicity, Russian transliterations are used throughout this report. No linguistic preference is thereby implied. This report uses the Library of Congress system of transliteration.

 

Publication Date 1 March 1995


This report documents war crimes in order to determine responsibility for them, and to inform the international community about events in the region so as to mitigate and prevent additional abuses. The roughly 200,000 displaced persons who fled the conflict zone, mostly in a mass exodus at the end of 1993, are being deprived of their unconditional right to return home. Once returned, they may either perpetrate or be the victims of discrimination and physical abuse. Perpetrators of war crimes on both sides of the conflict are not, by and large, being prosecuted and punished, and there is a near certainty that individuals accused of war crimes will not receive fair trials.
Disclaimer This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


[1] According to the Georgian government's Committee on Human Rights and Interethnic Relations, 4,000 individuals from the Georgian side, both civilians and combatants, were killed, 10,000 were wounded, and 1,000 are missing. Human Rights Watch interview with Committee chairman Aleksandre Kavsadze, Tbilisi, January 2, 1995. The Abkhazian Committee for Human Rights gives the following casualty figures for the "duration of the war," which they set as August 14, 1992 through September 30, 1993: 4,040 killed (2,220 combatants, 1,820 civilians); approximately 8,000 wounded; 122 missing in action.

[2] Both parties have accused each other of engaging in "ethnic cleansing," a term that has gained currency during the war in Bosnia. Because of the euphemistic nature of the word "cleansing," Human Rights Watch has chosen not to use this term to describe practices of forced population movement or hostage taking on the basis of ethnicity during the Abkhaz war.

[3] It is important to note that pre-war Abkhazia had a highly mixed ethnic composition, that residents were multi-lingual, and that mixed marriages were common. As a result, loyalties during the conflict did not always align with ethnic affiliations. Georgian troops reportedly abused not only ethnic Abkhaz but Armenians, Russians and Greeks as well, believing them to be allied with the Abkhaz. Human Rights Watch also notes that in numerous independent testimonies, victims on both sides reported having been assisted and sometimes even saved by individuals from the "enemy" ethnic group.

[4] Committee on Human Rights and Interethnic Relations, Human Rights Watch interview, January 1995.

[5] Human Rights Watch interview with Tore Börresen, U.N.H.C.R. representative in Georgia, Tbilisi, January 4, 1995.

[6] On February 28, 1993, Russian president Boris Yeltsin declared that "the moment has come when responsible international organizations, including the United Nations, should grant Russia special powers as a guarantor of peace and stability in the region of the former union." Quoted in Helsinki Watch, "War or Peace? Human Rights and Russian Military Involvement in the 'Near Abroad'" (New York: Human Rights Watch, December 1993). (Emphasis added).

[7] "Inside Georgia itself," one political commentator has noted of the Abkhazia conflict, "the Russians have now afforded military and political support to all sides." And, he adds, "only they can mediate a political settlement. Whether they can do so successfully is an open question." Misha Glinny, "The Bear in the Caucasus," Harper's Magazine, March 1994, p. 52.

[8] See, Helsinki Watch, Conflict in Georgia: The Government of Gamsakhurdia (Human Rights Watch, December 1991), and Helsinki Watch, Bloodshed in the Caucasus: Violations of Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in the Georgia-South Ossetia Conflict (Human Rights Watch, April 1992).

[9] The purpose of this discussion of political factors leading to the Abkhaz conflict is not to seek to establish definitive causes or assign "fault," but instead merely to provide essential background to the nonspecialist as to the circumstances under which war broke out. The conclusions reached later in this report as to human rights violations committed in the course of fighting are independent of agreement or disagreement with this description of political factors.

[10] This report terms the Georgian conflict a "civil war" to signify that notwithstanding its regional flavor, especially by the end, unlike the ethnic separatist conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the fundamental issue was political legitimacy with respect to all of Georgia. It always remained in important respects a war as to who was the legitimate ruler of Georgia – Gamsakhurdia or Shevardnadze. See generally Stephen F. Jones, "Georgia's Power Structures," RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. 2, No. 39 (October 1, 1993).

[11] On April 9, 1991, the Georgian parliament "endorsed," but did not vote on, "a statement by Gamsakhurdia declaring Georgia independent of the USSR." Elizabeth Fuller, "Eduard Shevardnadze's Via Dolorosa," RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. 2, No. 43, October 29, 1993, p. 17.

[12] Ibid.

[13] See generally Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch World Report 1992, pp. 523-74.

[14] Richard Woff, "The Armed Forces of Georgia," Jane's Intelligence Review, July 1993, p. 307.

[15] Ibid. See also Fuller, "Via Dolorosa," p. 18. It should be noted that although Gamsakhurdia was not elected president until May 1991, he had been ruling Georgia at least since his election as chairman of the Supreme Council in late 1990, and effectively since early 1990.

[16] Ibid. It also set up a formal ministry of defense, although that institution remained politically much weaker than the paramilitary forces, or else identical with parts of them, during this period.

[17] Fuller, "Via Dolorosa," p. 18.

[18] Ibid.

[19] The Los Angeles Times, March 9, 1992.

[20] Fuller, "Via Dolorosa," p. 18.

[21] Ibid., pp. 18-19. These actions particularly distressed the Russian government, for whom the rail line was, and is today, an important link with the Nagorno-Karabakh region as well as the border with Turkey.

[22] See generally Elizabeth Fuller, "The Georgian Parliamentary Elections," RFE/RL Research Report, No 47 (November 27, 1992).

[23] Fuller, "Via Dolorosa," p. 20.

[24] Radio Liberty Daily Report, August 26, 1992, p. 1.

[25] Reportedly, they were acting under orders of the Abkhaz parliament. Nezavisimaia Gazeta, July 1, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-131, July 8, 1992, p. 86.

[26] The New York Times, June 25, 1992, p. A3.

[27] Tbilisi Radio, July 1, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-127, July 1, 1992, p. 67.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Radio Liberty Daily Report, August 13, 1992.

[30] Interfax, August 14, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-158, August 14, 1992.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Georgian Interior Ministry Press Centre, cited in ITAR-TASS, August 13, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-157, p. 64.

[33] It is possible, as some commentators have contended, that a hidden, consistent policy was at work. See Glinny, p. 47.

[34] Woff, p. 310.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Human Rights Watch interviews with Western military observers, August 1993.

[37] Human Rights Watch interviews, Georgia, August 1993.

[38] Radio Liberty Daily Report, August 28, 1992.

[39] Abkhaz leaders Vladislav Ardzinba and V. I. Zarandia put the number at 1,500, in a telegram (no date given) published in Pravda, August 15, 1992, p. 1, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-159, August 15, 1992, p. 35.

[40] Reporter Christian Bzhani reporting from Sukhumi on Moscow Radio, August 14, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-158, August 14, 1992, p. 47.

[41] Human Rights Watch interview, Gudauta, August 1993.

[42] ITAR-TASS World Service, August 14, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-159 August 17, 1992, p. 35.

[43] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[44] Human Rights Watch interview, Gagra, August 1993.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Radio Liberty Daily Report, September 4, 1992.

[47] ITAR-TASS, August 16, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-159, August 17, 1992.

[48] Radio Liberty Daily Report, September 4, 1992, p. 71.

[49] Christian Bzhani, Moscow Radio, op. cit.

[50] Moscow Mayak Radio, August 15, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-159, August 17, 1992, p. 36.

[51] ITAR-TASS World Service, August 17, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-159, August 17, 1992, p. 39.

[52] Kristiay Nabzhani reporting from Sukhumi, Moscow Radio Rossii, August 18-19, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-160, August 18, 1992, p. 57.

[53] Interfax, August 19, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-161 August 19, 1992, p. 70.

[54] The distance between Sukhumi and Sochi in Russia is an hour or two by car.

[55] ITAR-TASS, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-159, August 17, 1992, p. 37.

[56] Interfax, August 20, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-163, August 21, 1992, p. 6.

[57] See Dale, op. cit.; Small Arms World Report, August 1993, p. 39.

[58] ITAR-TASS World Service, September 22, 1994, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-187, September 25, 1992, p. 53.

[59] Elizabeth Fuller, "Russia's Diplomatic Offensive in the Transcaucasus," RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. 2, No. 39, October 1, 1993, p. 30.

[60] Radio Liberty Daily Report, August 28, 1992.

[61] Moscow Mayak Radio, September 24, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-187, September 25, 1992, p. 53.

[62] Although it was unable to verify specific allegations of rape and other forms of sexual assault, the Human Rights Watch mission received sufficient indirect accounts to believe that cases did occur.

[63] Human Rights Watch interview, Gudauta, August 1993.

[64] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[65] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[66] ITAR-TASS, August 20, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-163, August 21, 1992, p. 78.

[67] Such acts are prohibited in international law by, inter alia, the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and Article 53 of Additional Protocol I of 1977.

[68] Human Rights Watch interview, Tbilisi, August 1993.

[69] See the IV Hague Convention of 1907 Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, Annex (Regulations thereto), reprinted in Adam Roberts and Richard Guelf, Documents on the Laws of War, 2nd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 44.

[70] Human Rights Watch interviews, July 1993.

[71] Human Rights Watch interview, July 1993.

[72] It should be noted that a plea of military necessity – i.e., that the attack was militarily necessary despite the likelihood that war crimes would take place – cannot be used to absolve commanders who ordered the attack. Military necessity must, under international law, conform to the requirements of the laws of war, including the prohibition against pillage.

[73] For example, Russian press reported Georgian helicopter attacks against the villages of Arasadzykh, Gvada, and Gup, in the Tkvarcheli region, on September 23. Sovetskaia Rossiia, September 26, 1992, p. 1, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-191, October 1, 1992, p. 52. And on September 26 and 29, 1992, Georgian helicopters reportedly bombed the Ochamchira villages of Atara Armianskaia, Aradu, Merkula, and Mokva. ITAR-TASS, September 30, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-191, October 1, 1992, p. 51.

[74] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[75] Human Rights Watch interviews with former soldiers who witnessed parts of the fighting, August 1993.

[76] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[77] Radio Liberty Daily Report, October 5, 1992.

[78] Moscow Mayak Radio, October 4, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-193, October 5, 1992, p. 32.

[79] Human Rights Watch interview, Tbilisi, August 1993.

[80] Human Rights Watch interview, Tbilisi, August 1993.

[81] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[82] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[83] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[84] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[85] Human Rights Watch interview, August 1993. The woman had received no news from her husband, who had stayed behind in Abkhazia, at the time of the interview.

[86] Human Rights Watch interview, Tbilisi, August 1993.

[87] Human Rights Watch interviews, July 1993.

[88] ITAR-TASS, January 21, 1993, cited in FBIS-SOV-93-013, January 22, 1993, p. 85.

[89] Interfax, February 28, 1993, cited in FBIS-SOV-93-038, March 1, 1993, p. 74.

[90] Articles 3(b) and 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949; Article 85 of 1977 Additional Protocol I.

[91] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[92] Human Rights Watch interviews, July and August 1993.

[93] For a description of various exit procedures used to pressure departing persons not to return, including the practice of forcing persons to sign statements saying they were leaving voluntarily and giving up all property rights as well as their right of return, see Report of the Secretary-General's Fact Finding Mission to Investigate Human Rights Violations in Abkhazia, Republic of Georgia, S/26795, November 17, 1993, p. 8. Human Rights Watch found extensive evidence of this practice.

[94] Human Rights Watch interviews, July 1993.

[95] Radio Liberty Daily Report, October 27, 1992.

[96] Dale, p. 52.

[97] Moscow Radio Rossii, October 27, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-209, October 28, 1992, p. 65.

[98] Human Rights Watch interviews, July 1993.

[99] RFE/RL News Briefs, December 10-23, 1992, p. 10; Moscow Radio Rossii, December 15, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-242, December 16, 1992, pp. 55-56.

[100] Fuller, "Russia's Diplomatic Offensive," p. 30.

[101] Dale, pp. 50-52.

[102] ITAR-TASS, October 4, 1992.

[103] Dale, p. 52.

[104] Ibid., p. 53.

[105] Ibid.

[106] Ibid.; ITAR-TASS, March 1, 1993; see also Suzanne Crow, "Russia Seeks Leadership in Regional Peacekeeping," RFE/RL Research Report, No. 15, April 9, 1993.

[107] See "Russia Seeking U.N. Backing for Caucasus Force," New York Times, May 27, 1994, p. A3.

[108] Human Rights Watch interviews, July 1993.

[109] Dale, p. 53; see also Reuters, September 17 and October 6, 1992; Moscow Radio Rossii, October 29, 1992.

[110] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[111] ITAR-TASS World Service, October 14, 1992, cited in FBIS-SOV-92-200, October 15, 1992, p. 9.

[112] FBIS-SOV-92-209, October 28, 1992, p. 66.

[113] FBIS-SOV-92-220, November 13, 1992, p. 82.

[114] The Abkhaz villages included Novyi Afon, site of an ancient monastery, Mokva, Katsikhabla, Tomysh, Atara, Merkula, Baslakhu, and Bedia.

[115] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[116] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[117] Woff, p. 309 (emphasis added).

[118] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[119] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[120] Human Rights Watch interview, Tbilisi, August 1993.

[121] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[122] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[123] Glinny, op. cit.

[124] FBIS-SOV-93-003, January 6, 1993, p. 53.

[125] Human Rights Watch interview, Tbilisi, August 1993.

[126] Reuters, cited in RFE/RL News Briefs, vol. 2, no. 29, July 5-9, 1993.

[127] Human Rights Watch interview, Tbilisi, August 1993.

[128] Reuters, cited in RFE/RL News Briefs, July 12-16, 1993.

[129] Thomas Goltz, "Letter from Eurasia: The Hidden Russian Hand," Foreign Policy, no. 92, Fall 1993, p. 107.

[130] Goltz, p. 106. Human Rights Watch verified this description of the damage during the delegation's visit to Sukhumi in August 1993.

[131] One of the clearest statements of the new policy came in an address by Russia's foreign minister, Andrei Kozyrev, at the General Assembly on September 28, 1993, in which he declared that no other group of nations "can replace our peace-making efforts" in the near abroad. He asked for U.N. endorsement and funding, adding that "Russia has made peace keeping and the protection of human rights, particularly those of national minorities, key priorities of its foreign policy, first of all in the territory of the former Soviet Union." Washington Post, "Russia Asserts Role in Ex- Soviet Republics," September 29, 1993. See also The Economist, "Russia's Armed Forces: The Threat That Was," August 28, 1993; Melor Sturua, "Yeltsin's Newest Proconsul," opinion page, New York Times, October 27, 1993.

[132] Goltz, p. 108.

[133] Ibid., p. 107.

[134] Ibid., p. 108.

[135] Human Rights Watch's general conclusion as to the provision of military assistance by the Russian military to the Abkhaz during the first six months of 1993 echoes that drawn by Goltz:

...without the active assistance of the Russian military, it is impossible to imagine that the separatists could have pushed the conflict out of control...the idea that the Abkhaz fighters, drawn from a population of just 90,000 could hold off forces drawn from 4 million Georgians is surely incredible. With the greatest respect to the scrappy fighters in ...Abkhazia, who may well be the best trained, battle-hardened, and highly motivated fighters in the former USSR, there are limits beyond which reason cannot leap.

Goltz, p. 104.

[136] See Bruce D. Porter and Carol R. Saivetz, "The Once and Future Empire: Russia and the `Near Abroad'." The Washington Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 3, Summer 1994, p. 85.

[137] Goltz, p. 109.

[138] Specifically, Article 12 of the First Geneva Convention of 1949, and Article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949.

[139] Human Rights Watch interview, Gagra, August 1993.

[140] Jane's Intelligence Review described the changes in this period as designed "above all to outflank the dilettanti and military adventurers surrounding Kitovani." Woff, pp. 309-10.

[141] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[142] Human Rights Watch met with the initial contingents of cease-fire monitors as they arrived in Tbilisi, July 1993; it is noteworthy and unfortunate that their mandate included no monitoring of human rights violations, not even violations of international humanitarian law. See also, The Lost Agenda: Human Rights and U.N. Field Operations, Human Rights Watch, 1993.

[143] ITAR-TASS, July 29, 1993, cited in FBIS-SOV-93-144, July 29, 1993, p. 68.

[144] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[145] Celestine Bohlen, "Sukhumi Journal: War Makes a Ghastly Visit to a Black Sea Resort," New York Times, August 30, 1993, p. A4.

[146] RFE/RL Daily Report, August 30, 1993.

[147] RFE/RL Daily Report, September 17, 1993.

[148] Reuters, September 21, 1993.

[149] Reuters, September 17, 1993.

[150] Reuters, September 18, 1993. Sanctions on Abkhazia were lifted by the end of December 1993.

[151] RFE/RL Daily Report, September 21, 1993.

[152] RFE/RL Daily Report, September 22-23, 1993; "80 Are Reported Killed in Downing of a 2nd Jet Over Georgia," New York Times, September 22, 1993.

[153] Reuters, September 29, 1993.

[154] The Independent, October 23, 1993, p. 32.

[155] U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1993, February 1994, pp. 877, 881.

[156] Ibid., p. 881.

[157] Glinny, p. 53.

[158] The Independent, October 23, 1993, pp. 32-33.

[159] Ibid., p. 30.

[160] RFE/RL Daily Report, October 21, 1993.

[161] Washington Post, October 4, 1993, p. A20.

[162] Ibid.

[163] Reuters, October 9, 1993; Akaky Mikadze, Moskovskie Novosti, No. 43, October 22, 1993.

[164] See Porter and Saivetz, p. 85.

[165] Reuters, October 8, 1993.

[166] RFE/RL News Brief, October 25-29, 1993, p. 7.

[167] Transcaucasus: A Chronology, November 1993, p. 6.

[168] Akaki Mikadze, Mosckovskie Novosti, October 29, 1993, p. 1.

[169] RFE/RL Daily Report, November 10, 1993. Porter and Saivetz, p. 85, put the number at 4,200 paratroopers.

[170] Reuters, November 29, 1993.

[171] ITAR-TASS, December 20, 1993, cited in FBIS-SOV-93-242, December 20, 1993.

[172] Porter and Saivetz, p. 85.

[173] Ibid.

[174] RFE/RL Daily Report, October 21, 1993, citing Reuters.

[175] Transcaucasus, A Chronology, Vol. 2, No. 11, November 1, 1993, p. 6.

[176] Glinny, p. 47.

[177] Porter and Saivitz, pp. 85-86.

[178] Novoe Russkoe Slovo, February 7, 1994, p. 1.

[179] Transcaucasus: A Chronology, Vol. 3, No. 3, March 1994, p. 6.

[180] RFE/RL Daily Report, March 25, 1994.

[181] RFE/RL News Briefs, February 7-11, 1994, p. 9; Transcaucasus, A Chronology, Vol. 3, No. 3 (March 1994), p. 6.

[182] Report of the Secretary-General's Fact Finding Mission to Investigate Human Rights Violations in Abkhazia, Republic of Georgia, S/26795, November 17, 1993.

[183] See, for example, U.N. Security Council Resolution 876, adopted October 19, 1993, which reaffirms support for Georgia's territorial integrity; see also RFE/RL Daily Report, October 21, 1993.

[184] It also reflects a concern about costs. The Russian government has sought not only that the Security Council authorize its peacekeeping deployment to Abkhazia, but pay for it as well. Thus far the Security Council has declined on both counts.

[185] Human Rights Watch interviews, July 1993.

[186] New York Times, May 1994.

[187] Georgia had been granted $225 million in US humanitarian aid as of December 1993, ranking third among states of the former Soviet Union, behind Russia and Armenia. U.S. Policy Toward the New Independent States, Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, January 25, 1994; (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1994), p. 62.

[188] Ibid.

[189] ITAR-TASS, March 7, 1994, cited in FBIS-SOV-94-045, March 8, 1994; ITAR-TASS, March 8, 1994, cited in FBIS-SOV-94-045, March 8, 1994.

[190] FBIS-SOV-94-045, March 8, 1994, p. 35. Clinton's statements raised some concerns in the U.S. Congress about Russia's military presence in the former Soviet republics; see Senator Dole, "Peacekeeping in Georgia," Congressional Record, March 8, 1994, p. S2472.

[191] Jane's Defence Weekly, March 26, 1994, p. 16.

[192] FBIS-SOV-94-049, March 14, 1994.

[193] Human Rights Watch's Helsinki division released a press statement and letter to Shevardnadze raising these human rights concerns on March 8, 1994; it is reproduced as Appendix 3.

[194] Although Georgian authorities issued an order in January 1994 that the Mkhedrioni must disarm or be expelled from the organization, Human Rights Watch is not satisfied that this measure has resulted in anything other than cosmetic changes. See RFE/RL Daily Report, January 12, 1994.

[195] In addition, a wide variety of reports, recommendations, resolutions, and other documents have been issued by various bodies in recent years on the role of mercenaries and outsiders in various conflicts. See, in particular, the International Convention Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, adopted by General Assembly Resolution 44/34 of December 4, 1989. This convention has not yet entered into force. Moreover, the Abkhaz conflict is specifically described in a 1994 report of the Special Rapporteur on Mercenaries to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. Cf. "Report on the question of the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination," submitted by Mr. Enrique Bernales Ballesteros, Special Rapporteur, pursuant to Commission resolution 1993/5, E/CN.4/1994/23, 12 January 1994 (Economic and Social Council, Commission on Human Rights, 50th Session, Item 9 of the Provisional Agenda).

[196] Likewise, there are reports that some ethnic Abkhaz repaid the debt of solidarity when Russian forces began bombing Chechnya in December 1994.

[197] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[198] Human Rights Watch interviews, July-August 1993.

[199] Glinny, p. 48.

[200] Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[201] U.S. State Department, Country Reports, p. 877.

[202] The material in this section is drawn, unless otherwise noted, from Human Rights Watch interviews, August 1993.

[203] For a report on the human rights situation in Moldova, see Helsinki Watch, The Turbulent Dniestr: Human Rights Abuses in Moldova (New York: Human Rights Watch, March 1993).

[204] An area of eastern Moldova which was the scene of a bloody conflict between Moldovan government forces and secessionist-minded local residents backed by Russian troops in 1992.

[205] Human Rights Watch observed at least one example of each of these weapons deployed in the field in August 1993, with the exception of heat- seeking missiles and aircraft. The use of all these weapons systems by not only the Georgians, but the Abkhaz, was readily confirmed to Human Rights Watch by a variety of expert military sources, including Western military observers.

[206] Human Rights Watch interviews, July-August 1993.

[207] RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. 2, No. 34, August 27, 1993, p. 55.

[208] Natsional'nyi sostav naseleniia SSSR po dannym vsesoiuznoi perepisi naseleniia 1989g., Moscow: "Finansy i statistiki," 1991, p. 114.

[209] The Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC had no information about Turkey's Abkhaz population. The American-Abkhazian Center reports that some 400,000 Abkhaz live in Turkey, with another 30,000 in the North Caucasus.

Copyright notice: © Copyright, Human Rights Watch