The Russian government justified its intervention in South Ossetia on grounds Georgian military forces had committed “genocide” in that region. President Medvedev has asked the Prosecutor general office to open an investigation that could lead to genocide charges being filed against Georgian leaders, but so far no evidence has been uncovered to justify the claim. South Ossetia’s top police official, Mikhair Mandzayev told reporters on Saturday about 2,100 people were killed and Russian officials have thrown around figures anywhere from 1,600 to 2,100. A fact finding mission for Human Rights Watch has so far only been able to find about 60 bodies. The head of its Moscow bureau, Anna Neistat said the group had only been able to find 44 bodies in the Tskhinvali hospital. “The numbers we are getting is dozens of civilians rather than thousands.” She reported hospital officials said they had treated about 273 civilians for injuries.
However, Alexander Brod of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights who visited South Ossetia on Friday as part of a team with the Public Chamber says a higher figure of 1,600 is likely. “I saw there that a lot of people klled during the first two days of fighting were buried on the spot, right in their own yards because the intense fire did not allow other options.”
The death of a single person in the fighting is a tragedy, but to employ expressions such as “genocide” is misleading and inappropriate. There was no systematic killing of people, those who died undoubtedly were caught in the firing between opposing forces.