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August 2008 armed conflict in Georgia: serious shortcomings in clarifying the fate of missing persons

Report on monitoring of investigations of missing persons
Strasbourg 29/09/2010
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"Regrettably, there have been serious shortcomings in the process of clarifying the fate of missing persons and ensuring accountability for the perpetrators of illegal acts". With these words, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, published today a report prepared by two international experts, whom he recruited to monitor investigations concerning the treatment and fate of certain missing persons on all sides during and after the armed conflict.

"My experts encountered a situation where a variety of obstacles surged on the path to the truth. It is essential to overcome these obstacles and reveal the truth about these cases. This is of particular importance for the families who have already suffered a great deal from not knowing the fate of their loved ones," says the Commissioner.

The report shows that although there have been serious allegations implicating the involvement of law enforcement officials in certain cases of disappearances which occurred after the August 2008 conflict, the operational conduct of the investigation was not kept separate from the service to which the officials implicated belonged. "The supervision of the investigation should be transferred away from regional prosecutorial authorities and the operational conduct of the work should be moved away from the police in the areas concerned", stresses Commissioner Hammarberg.

The experts were also requested to endeavour to find out what work had been done to clarify the fate of persons who disappeared during the August 2008 hostilities. In addition, they were requested to raise with the opposing side certain cases of captured soldiers who apparently died in captivity.

"Ensuring the humane treatment of detained persons is a principle which must not be abandoned. Any crimes against such persons must be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators should be identified and prosecuted. Whether such crimes occur during armed conflict makes no difference in this regard: ill-treatment of prisoners always constitutes a violation of human rights".