Charli Carpenter on the EU Georgia-Russia War Report

Charli Carpenter on the EU Georgia-Russia War Report

Charli Carpenter has an interesting short commentary over at RFE/RFL discussing the recently released fact-finding report on the Georgia-Russia war.  I have not had a chance to read the report, so I won’t comment myself (I said something about my experiences as a human rights monitor of the early 1990s phase of the civil war, and then followed up with a limited comment about the current situation, but that’s been it), but suggest those interested in sorting out those issues take a look at the report and Charli’s commentary, including her addendum at CTLab.  Chris has posted extensively on this topic here at OJ, of course, and there have been various discussions of secession and statehood, among other related topics.  A bit from Charli’s RFE/RFL commentary:

On 30 September, the European Union released its report on last year’s August war in the Caucasus. The aim was to establish what happened, since as stated in the preamble, “there can be no peace in the South Caucasus as long as a common understanding of the facts is not achieved.”

Since its release, however, these “facts” have been appropriated by both sides and misconstrued by the press. Russia — and numerous reporters — have spun the report as an indictment of Georgia for “starting” the war. Georgia claims a victory as well, since the report acknowledges the war’s causes must be understood in historical perspective.

Whose interpretation is right? And why did the report fail at its task of creating a “common understanding of the facts” that would move forward the process of reconciliation?

To answer the first question, neither perspective is accurate. In fact, the report blames Russia for starting the war with Georgia. But it also blames Georgia for starting a civil war within its own borders, and no acknowledgements of the historical context lessen that blame. Perhaps more importantly, both parties violated the laws of war.

In a nutshell, two armed conflicts, not one, took place in the Caucasus in August 2008. And two relevant branches of international law — on the use of force and on the conduct of force during and after hostilities — governed the legality of these wars.

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