18:45, Thursday, 21.03.2019
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One day in the post-war Karaleti village


Natia Gogolashvili

Karaleti – village in Gori municipality, Shida Kartli region. It is located on the Gori-Tskhinvali central motor-way. Locals recall the days of the 2008 August war. The crimes committed 9 years ago are still unresolved. The ruins of the destroyed houses are still standing in the village. The walls still have holes from bullet-cartridges. Locals have not forgotten the war days. The trace of the war is still visible in Karaleti.

In the Karaleti village center, a house fence still has holes of three bullet cartridges, which, together with dozen more burnt houses, describe the developments of 2008 August war very clearly.  Resident of Karaleti village A.B was killed in the center of the village on August 12. His wife showed the place, where her husband was killed.

“When the war started, we did not expect the situation will aggravate in Karaleti. We could not leave home during military operations and stayed here. We just sent my son with his family from the village. On August 12, the situation got particularly tense. They started burning of the house. On August 12, my husband went to the village center and they shot him after he left the shop. He had three bullets. Two persons witnessed it (both of them have passed away). A car was moving along the street and people sitting in it were shooting from the automatic weapon. When I saw my husband all in blood, he was already dead. We took his body home. We thought the situation will improve but just the opposite. My mother-in-law and I managed to keep the body of my husband for 4 days but then it was impossible to stay there; we buried him in the garden and only 14 days later we managed to bury him in the cemetery,” the victim of the war Z.B recalled.

She added that on the same day, another neighbor V.G was also killed by the people driving by the car in the village center. He was shot in the street too.

Another victim of the war took us into the basement of his house, where he showed the ceiling, which was damaged by shell. The owner said he did not repair the ceiling - they keep it as a symbol of the 2008 war. 

“My house was burnt on August 12. None of us were in it at that moment. The furniture was destroyed and burnt. When we arrived, everything was still smoking. Our car, which was standing in the yard, was riddled. It did not have engine and they could not start it. The house had irons and the door was locked. So, they throw shells inside the building and burnt it. The house was not fully burnt – the shell exploded in the basement. We expected the government would assist us but did not receive even a penny,” the victim of the war said.

Victim B.Dz complained about insufficient compensation. He said, their family had to start life from the beginning. The compensation, which the government paid to them, was not enough. He showed ruins of her relative’s house next to his house and recalls the developments of the 2008 August with tears.

“It was August 12. Masked people were moving around by cars; they were armed with automatic guns and shot and burnt houses. I saw they were coming by silver Opel and Niva. They were shooting houses and people randomly. We did not care about our properties; we wanted to rescue the families. We had two-storied house and now only walls are left from it. I could not restore the house completely; only ground floor. The compensation was not enough. When you enter empty house, you need everything – furniture, other items. Besides that we had to feed the family. We started life from the beginning,” the victim of the war B.Dz said.

As victim of the war H.P recalled, his house was burnt last. He and his family had to flee from Karaleti village on August 12 because the village was intensively bombed. “Some men stayed in the village and they were informing us about our house; though looters were coming. They started looting my house on August 12 and needed three days to take everything from my home. On August 14, neighbors called and said my house was burning. It seriously affected my health. I do not know why they burnt my house. I had not done anything wrong with either Russians, or Ossetians or Georgians. 33 houses were burnt in Karaleti village and my house was the last. I specially left doors open – let them take anything but not burn it. We lost absolutely everything.”

Nowadays, neither H.P could restore his 3-storied house; only ruins are left from it. Smashed vessel are still scattered in the destroyed kitchen. 

Executive director of Human Rights Center Aleko Tskitishvili said the issue of compensations is very important for the victims of the war. It is noteworthy that some victims have not received any compensation at all. 

“9 years have passed and the outcome of the August war was not addressed yet. Citizens could not restore their houses. Although the state partly satisfied the families with compensations, it was not enough for the victims to restore the destroyed houses and properties. The victims expect to receive additional compensation to improve their living conditions. The applications were sent to the European Court of Human Rights but not every victim participated in the application process. Consequently, every victim of the war will not be compensated. Consequently, the state shall continue working on the restoration of the rights of those people, who were victimized during the august war. The social conditions of the victims shall be studied to identify how adequate the compensations were. Also, it should be found out why some of the victims could not get compensation at all. Although almost ten years have passed, many victims expect restoration of their rights,” Aleko Tskitishvili said.

Human Rights Center continues assisting the victims of the 2008 August war to get official status of the victim. Lawyer Ana Gurieli said the Center actively works on the defense of the rights of the war victims.

“Besides the strategic litigation in the Strasbourg Court and the Hague International Criminal Court, it is very important to carry out strategic litigation on the national level too. Human Rights Center appeals the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia to grant victim status to the victims of the war. Besides that it is important to collect information about the people, who still do not have the status. The society and human rights defenders shall have possibility to monitor the work of the prosecutor’s office in this direction. The Center has studied the cases of several victims. First of all, it is essential that the prosecutor’s office proactively interrogated the victims and collect as much information as possible about concrete persons, who allegedly participated or committed the war crimes,” lawyer Ana Gurieli said.

According to the lawyer, victims have information about the alleged war crimes, which may become very important for The Hague Court. “Human Rights Center pays field visits to the regions of Georgia to communicate with the victims of the war. Their testimonies may contain the information, which may influence the investigation of the prosecutor’s office. Considering that, it is important that the prosecutor’s office had communication with the people, question them and based on their testimonies carry out relevant legal procedures.”

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