April 14, 2009

Use of Cluster Munitions by Georgia

Georgia also used cluster munitions during the August 2008 conflict. It fired M85 submunitions in Mk.-4 160mm rockets, weapons that it bought as packages from Israel. Responding to a Human Rights Watch inquiry related to cluster munitions, the Ministry of Defense said Georgia launched 24 volleys of 13 GRADLAR (Mk.-4) rockets each.[136] While these rockets can have unitary warheads as well, if they all were cluster munitions, they would have carried 32,448 M85 submunitions. In the strikes that Human Rights Watch confirmed, these cluster munitions caused fewer identified casualties than their Russian counterparts—at least four civilian deaths and eight injuries—but like all cluster munitions, they killed and injured civilians both during attacks and afterwards, and their duds continue to cause socioeconomic harm.

The Georgian Ministry of Defense has acknowledged using cluster munitions, saying its armed forces aimed at Russian targets between the Roki Tunnel and Tskhinvali in attacks from August 8 to 11.[137] Because it did not conduct a fact-finding mission to the region to investigate cluster munition use in particular, Human Rights Watch has not independently verified Georgia’s description of this use of cluster munitions against targets in South Ossetia. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, a member of the Ossetian militia, who had been assisting in the evacuation of civilians along the Dzara road south of the Roki Tunnel, said he saw “a rocket which exploded in the air, and then small clusters started exploding.”[138] Human Rights Watch did not corroborate this report or establish whether the use of these munitions caused civilian casualties in this area.

Russia reported on Georgian use of cluster munitions in South Ossetia only in February 2009. The Russian authorities’ January 30, 2009 letter to Human Rights Watch did not respond to a request for information about this Georgian use during the conflict.  A February 27, 2009 letter from the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General’s Office, however, reported that Georgian armed forces “used heavy offense armaments—heavy artillery, Grad multiple-launch firing systems, 500-kilogram aerial bombs and cluster munitions—in shelling the civilian population and objects in South Ossetia.”[139]

During several missions just south of the South Ossetian administrative border in the Gori District, Human Rights Watch researchers found unexploded M85 submunitions, ribbons from detonated submunitions, and Mk.-4 160mm rockets, all pieces of Georgian weapons.[140] They conducted interviews with villagers who had fallen victim to M85 submunitions, deminers who work in the area, and high-level government officials. Through these sources, researchers gathered evidence of M85s in or near a band of nine villages in the north of the Gori District: Brotsleti, Ditsi, Kvemo Khviti, Meghvrekisi, Pkhvenisi, Shindisi, Tirdznisi, Zemo Khviti, and Zemo Nikozi. A villager also showed them a Mk.-4 160mm rocket and red M85 ribbon in Variani, but because the town is further south and does not fit the geographic pattern, Human Rights Watch has not determined for certain if it landed in that location.

Several factors, which are discussed later in this chapter, suggest that the submunitions landed on these villages because of a massive failure. If the Georgian cluster munitions that Human Rights Watch documented landed where intended, their use would have violated international humanitarian law’s prohibition on indiscriminate attacks because many struck populated areas.[141] If the weapons failed dramatically, the attacks highlight the fact that cluster munitions are highly dangerous to use. The large number of duds makes the consequences of failure enormous. Human Rights Watch is unable to assess whether Georgia’s use of cluster munitions between Tskhinvali and the Roki Tunnel violated international humanitarian law because, as mentioned earlier, researchers did not do an in-depth investigation in the area.

Civilian Casualties at the Time of Attack

Georgian cluster munitions killed at least one civilian and wounded at least two more when they landed on or near the towns of Tirdznisi and Shindisi. Witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported that Georgian, but not Russian, troops and tanks were in the area at the time of the incidents.

Shindisi

M85s caused two casualties during a strike on the edge of Shindisi on August 9 at around 3:30 p.m. Vano Gogidze, 45, was killed, and his sister Ketino Gogidze, 38, was wounded.[142] Human Rights Watch found M85s near the site of their death.

A witness, Zura Tatrishvili, told Human Rights Watch that Georgian troops had taken position in the fields adjacent to Shindisi during their multiple attacks into and retreats out of Tskhinvali. The area is a farming village, and though the village was not occupied, Tatrishvili stated, a large Georgian Army force spent the night in the fields from August 9 to 10.[143] According to two witnesses, Georgian troops and tanks were passing through the area, although not the location of the casualties, when the submunitions fell.[144]

Tirdznisi

In Tirdznisi, M85s injured Alexandre Zerekidze, a driver and farmer, during an attack on August 9 at around 3:30 a.m. He opened his front door to investigate the noise he heard. Zerekidze told Human Rights Watch:

There was big shooting, and I came out to see what was happening. I heard screams and came out to see if someone was wounded. As soon as I came out, something exploded. I turned back, and shrapnel hit my back, stomach, and leg. I started bleeding. My kids were inside of the house. I tried to cover them. My wife treated me first and stopped the bleeding.[145]

The next morning Zerekidze went to a hospital in Tkviavi and then on to Tbilisi. He was released a couple days later. Zerekidze reported that there were no troops in the village the day of the attack.

Zerekidze showed Human Rights Watch an M85 fragmentation ring from the incident and three small craters consistent with an M85 explosion in his front yard and neighboring garden.

Other witnesses reported that Georgian submunitions fell in the middle of Tirdznisi. Pridon Solomonian, 26, showed Human Rights Watch the red ribbon of an M85 that had landed right in front of a store. He recalled:

People were leaving en masse. It was around August 9, 2008, in the first half of the day. I was in my house [next door]. I saw [the submunitions] falling down. One exploded, and when I got here I found two red ribbons. There were many [M85s] in the village. There are some craters around.[146]

Civilian Casualties from Submunition Duds

Human Rights Watch documented that, after the Georgian cluster munition attacks, M85 duds killed at least three civilians and wounded six when they were disturbed in Brotsleti, Pkhvenisi, and Shindisi.[147] Notwithstanding the absence of casualties in Ditsi, two incidents documented there by Human Rights Watch show the ongoing and widespread danger of duds in the area.

Brotsleti

Tariel Kikilashvili, a 38-year-old farmer, and Alika Kikilashvili, a 48-year-old farmer, were hiding in the fields outside Brotsleti during an attack on August 11. Tariel said, “When cluster bombs were dropped, they exploded first in the air, and then there were many more. I saw small craters every two meters in the fields.”[148] Alika recalled that on their way back home they saw “many of the small bombs.”

Three days later, Alika Kikilashvili was confronted with one of those duds. Between 1 and 2 p.m., he was headed to the fields to tend his cows. On his way, he met Tero Surameli, 46. Surameli was holding in his hands two small objects that to Kikilashvili looked like light sockets. One had a white ribbon, and one had a red ribbon. Someone had brought them from the fields and given them to Surameli. Kikilashvili told his friend to put them down.

Then, he said:

I had my phone in my hand and it vibrated. I was five steps away [from Tero], and as soon as I answered it there was a big explosion. I felt a kind of wave of wind hit me. I couldn’t understand what has happening…. I started running away and didn’t feel wounded. I ran 700 to 800 meters. A dog started barking. I hid somewhere near my house because I [thought the Ossetians might be coming].  When I didn’t see anyone, I realized maybe something else had happened. Maybe that what Tero was holding had exploded.

After recovering from the shock, Kikilashvili realized he had shrapnel in his stomach, both arms, and both legs. Much of that shrapnel remained in his body in October 2008. He said:

For four days I got no help. In particular my left leg had a hole. I poured vodka inside so there would be no infection. Four days later the Russians came. They had a field hospital here. Someone told them I needed help, and they took me to the field hospital. I was taken back and forth and treated.

Kikilashvili, who was facing Surameli at the time of the explosion, said it was a “miracle” he survived.  According to Kikilashvili:

Tero’s face was completely damaged. There were a lot of open wounds. He was alive for about an hour and then died. There was no treatment or medicine. Someone covered his wounds. He was buried in his yard and later moved to a cemetery.

Kikilashvili told Human Rights Watch that a third man, Amiran Khaduri, was walking behind the pair and was also injured, although less severely. He came to Surameli’s aid when he heard the noise.[149]

Human Rights Watch also found two unexploded M85s in the fields of Brotsleti in October 2008. One had a red ribbon and one a white.[150]

Pkhvenisi

On August 18, Veliko Bedianashvili, 72, found an unexploded M85 submunition with a red ribbon in a field close to his house in Pkhvenisi. It exploded and killed him. His son, Durmishkhan Bedianashvili, told Human Rights Watch, “There are so many of those lying around. The fields are full of them.”[151] Human Rights Watch researchers also found a Mk.-4 160mm rocket in Pkhvenisi.

Shindisi

On August 10 at around 11 a.m., several men from the village of Shindisi decided to inspect one of the sites that had been hit the previous day. At the site they found an M85 submunition with a red ribbon, which they brought back to the village. When Ramaz Arabashvili, around 40, tried to disassemble it, the submunition exploded, killing him and wounding four others.[152] The injured included Dato Arabashvili, Malkhaz Maisuradze, Nugzar Maisuradze, and Vaso Papunashvili.[153] Neighbors drove them to the hospital in Gori and then on to Tbilisi.[154]

On their first visit to Shindisi on August 19, Human Rights Watch researchers found three M85s at the northern end of town. They also found two Mk.-4 160mm rockets. Zura Tatrishvili, 62, said at that time, “My garden is full of [unexploded ordnance]. There are three lines of these small mines. The lines start at my place and stretch for about a kilometer.”[155]

On October 19 Human Rights Watch researchers identified two additional M85 duds in fields on the edge of town. Vazha Mazmishvili, 46, said he had found the duds four to five days earlier. Civilians reported that the Georgian military had cleared many duds, but that several more remained in the neighboring fields two months after the conflict. The researchers also found the inside packaging assembly of a Mk.-4 160mm rocket, which holds the submunitions before they are released by the canister.

Ditsi

Although they did not cause any civilian casualties, two incidents in Ditsi highlight how duds create an unsafe environment for the local population.

One incident is a vivid reminder that children are attracted to submunitions because they often resemble toys. Having been displaced by the conflict, Omar Mindiashvili, a 40-year-old driver, and his family returned to Ditsi six days before Human Rights Watch arrived on October 17. On October 13, his daughter Salome Mindiashvili, 13, and her cousin Mari Mindiashvili, 13, were playing on the rooftop porch of their house. They found two M85s, and Mari began twirling one around on her finger by its ribbon. Mindiashvili told Human Rights Watch:

Salome called, “Father, come, I’ll show you something.” I realized it could be something dangerous and took it to the [Georgian] police. When I saw the [firing] pin in, I realized it was an explosive. I had seen warning ads on TV.[156]

Afterwards, a neighbor found a third M85 in Mindiashvili’s backyard, and a deminer came to clear it on October 16. During Human Rights Watch’s visit, researchers found a red ribbon on the roof where the girls had been playing.

Describing a second incident, Giorgi Barishvili, 57, said he picked up a submunition on the side of the road. It looked like a light socket, but had no ribbon, and he threw it away. When it did not detonate, he gave it to his son, who tossed it in the water. Only then did it explode. Barishvili did not recall the exact date of this incident. He also showed Human Rights Watch part of a Mk.-4 160mm rocket, which delivered M85s and was dug out of crater in a field outside of the village. It measured 160 millimeters in diameter and had a characteristic red ring and deployable fins at the base.

Socioeconomic Harm

M85 duds have not only cost lives but also interfered with livelihoods. Local civilians, who in the Gori District depend heavily on agriculture, have been forced to choose between going to their farms and risking injury or death from an unexploded dud, and staying at home and having little with which to feed their families. Most of those Human Rights Watch spoke to chose the latter option.

Alika Kikilashvili, the farmer from Brotsleti who was injured by two duds, described how the weapons have ruined his source of food and income. In October 2008 he told Human Rights Watch,

I am not going to my fields. The harvest is now ready, but there are weeds and it is hard to notice anything [suspicious] so I am not going there. I hope there will be some deminers. My harvest includes apples and corn, which I sell. That’s how we survive. That’s how people live here. My peaches were lost completely. Now my apples are.[157]

Other farmers in Brotsleti echoed Kikilashvili’s comments. After being injured by an explosion in his overgrown plum orchard, Zhora Chinckriki feared returning to his fields. “Until someone goes to clean it up, I’m afraid to go back. I don’t know if the deminers have been in my field,” he said.[158] Sergo Nikolaishvili, 34, said most of the village shares this sentiment. He told Human Rights Watch that “unless they do some clearance, people are afraid to harvest. They have not been able to collect their food.”[159]

Human Rights Watch heard similar statements in towns across the region. In Shindisi, two women who lived near the site where Vano Gogidze was killed expressed fear of the duds left behind. “All our gardens and fields went bad because no one dares to go there to harvest,” said one.[160] Dato Lapachi, a 46-year-old Tirdznisi farmer, said he was too afraid to farm.[161] Although Human Rights Watch did not document casualties in Zemo Nikozi, at least one civilian said he stayed away from his fields because of unexploded submunitions.[162]

Georgian Statements about Cluster Munitions

Georgian statements about cluster munitions evolved dramatically from August 2008 to March 2009. Georgia moved from completely condemning the weapon to acknowledging limited Georgian use to recognizing the possibility of a deadly failure of Georgian clusters yet defending their military advantage.

Initial Condemnation

In August 2008 Georgia repeatedly blamed Russia for using cluster munitions but failed to acknowledge its own use. For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on August 15 that said, “It must be especially stressed, that the use of cluster munitions against civilian population is especially cynical next to the background of the efforts applied by the international community to restrict and even ban such types of weaponry.”[163] The same day, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, in a press conference with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, described cluster munitions as “an inhuman weapon” and the Russians as “21st century barbarians” and “cold-blooded killers” for using them against civilians.[164]

Acknowledgment of Use

In early September, however, Georgia acknowledged its own use of cluster munitions. In a letter to Human Rights Watch made public on September 1, the Georgian Ministry of Defense stated that it had used cluster munitions “against Russian military equipment and armament marching from Rocki [sic] tunnel to Dzara road.”  The ministry also insisted that cluster munitions “were never used against civilians, civilian targets and civilian populated or nearby areas.”

The letter, later made public, identified the type of cluster munitions used as Mk.-4 LAR160 rockets carrying M85 submunitions. It said the rockets were launched from the GRADLAR 160 multiple launch rocket system and had a range of 45 kilometers. It also claimed Georgia only had M85s with self-destruct mechanisms. The ministry denied launching rockets toward Shindisi, despite Human Rights Watch’s discovery of M85s there. It also said the Russians had not destroyed any GRADLAR launchers during the war.

 

The ministry concluded:

 
The discovery of M85 bomblets in Shindisi raises a lot of suspicion.... This fact demands proper investigation and Georgian side is ready to participate in and provide all necessary assistance for the conduc[t] of such investigation. If needed, for the investigation purposes, we can provide the name of the supplier company.[165]

Confusion and Investigation

In a meeting with Human Rights Watch on October 21, 2008, then-First Deputy Minister of Defense Batu Kutelia presented a more nuanced position on Georgia’s use of cluster munitions. He said Georgia has limited M85 stocks and used them only against Russian troops in the area north of Tskhinvali. He did not deny, however, that the M85s Human Rights Watch found in Georgia could be Georgian weapons.

Kutelia said he could not explain the presence of M85 submunitions in areas south of the South Ossetian administrative border. He said:

We received reports of M85s in a number of Georgian villages. How they ended up there is unclear. Our system would not fire there itself.... Perhaps an accident happened. That might be the explanation…. It’s a real mystery how they ended up there. It is physically impossible someone fired there.

He said Georgia had opened an investigation into the situation and had requested assistance from the company from which they bought the weapons.[166] He did not disclose the name of the company, but it is presumably Israel Military Industries.

A massive failure is one possible explanation for the many M85 duds Human Rights Watch documented south of the South Ossetian border. In villages other than Tirdznisi and Shindisi, Human Rights Watch found no evidence of M85 submunitions that exploded on impact and much evidence of M85s that had failed to function. According to witnesses, there were also no Russian troops in the areas hit at the time of the strikes. The Mk.-4 rocket has a minimum range of 12 kilometers.[167] According to Kutelia, Georgia fired its rockets from about eight to ten kilometers north of Gori (although the Georgian Ministry of Defense, in a February 2009 response to a Human Rights Watch inquiry, refused to release more detailed information about the launch sites, saying that the information “is not public”).[168] If Kutelia’s information about the launch sites is correct, the rockets that landed in the Gori District fell short of their minimum range, which would explain why there were high dud rates and why so many submunitions were unarmed.

Georgian officials claimed that their military directed cluster munition strikes only against military targets in fairly unpopulated areas just south of the Roki Tunnel. If a massive failure of the weapons system caused the civilian casualties and contamination of a large populated area in the Gori District, however, the consequences of the failure highlight the danger of these weapons. The large number of submunitions dramatically increases the harm caused by any failure.

Kutelia also expressed surprise at the large number of M85 duds found not only by Human Rights Watch researchers but also by Georgian military deminers. Like the former, the latter found no evidence of self-destruct mechanisms, but according to Kutelia, “our contract was for self-destruct.” He said the Ministry of Defense, with the company’s help, would also investigate that issue.[169]

Echoing Kutelia’s statements, in February 2009, the Ministry of Defense wrote to Human Rights Watch that the M85s may have landed in the Gori District because of a “failure of the weapons system.” It said a final answer would have to wait for the findings of the investigation, which was ongoing at that time.[170] The investigation, however, does not appear to be looking into Georgian use of cluster munitions in South Ossetia and the possibility that international humanitarian law violations occurred there. Such a study is necessary for a full understanding of the effects of Georgia’s use in this conflict.

In its February 2009 letter to Human Rights Watch, the Georgian Ministry of Defense wrote that it still has RBK-500 cluster munitions and BKF blocks of submuntions, but that their shelf-lives have expired and that they are slated for destruction.[171]

While acknowledging the presence of submunition duds in Georgian towns and villages and the possibility that a massive failure occurred, in October 2008 Kutelia said that Georgia’s cluster munitions had military utility, helping Georgia “contain the Russians for two days.”[172] He added that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was asking the Ministry of Defense for its opinion on the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Kutelia said:

As an agency, the Ministry of Defense in principle supports this type of convention to help us diminish civilian casualties and indiscriminate attacks on populated areas. We are ready to start reviewing, but we are not ready to make a commitment to abolish them from our arsenal.... Since Georgia is still under the occupation of a foreign military [referring to Russian troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia], it is very sensitive for us.[173]

As a result, although Georgia has joined CCW Protocol V, the Ministry of Defense has recommended that Georgia not sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions at this point. It told Human Rights Watch that it is considering replacing cluster munitions with an alternative but has immediate concerns about cost and security. Minister of Defense Vasil Sikharelidze himself said, “We need something more effective and need to be able to defend ourselves…. Technically cluster munitions should be possible to replace. How quickly and what would we replace them with?  We don’t know.”[174]

Legal Analysis

As previously mentioned, Human Rights Watch has not conducted an in-depth investigation into the use of cluster munitions in the area south of the Roki Tunnel, which the Georgians acknowledge having targeted with cluster munitions, and therefore, it cannot assess whether strikes in this area were in violation of international humanitarian law. If Georgia’s strikes on populated areas documented by Human Rights Watch further south were intentional, then they violated international humanitarian law.[175] These strikes landed in or near towns and villages, and Human Rights Watch believes that cluster munition attacks in such locations are indiscriminate and thus unlawful. The attacks if intentional were also likely disproportionate. Human Rights Watch found no evidence of the Russian military at any of the strike sites at the time of the strikes, and the rockets caused civilian casualties both during attacks and afterwards. Human Rights Watch believes there should be a presumption that cluster attacks on populated areas are disproportionate, and the evidence in these cases supports that position.

If Georgia’s cluster munitions suffered from massive failure, it would highlight that cluster munitions are highly dangerous when used in any circumstances. They can cause significant humanitarian harm when they fail.

To address the problems caused by these failed munitions, the Georgian military has carried out significant clearance of submunition duds, as will be discussed below. It should supplement these efforts by sharing with international, nongovernmental deminers information on strike locations, weapon types, and numbers of submunitions used, in order to facilitate and expedite their clearance work. It should also share information about its strikes in South Ossetia with those clearing submunitions in that region. It should embrace CCW Protocol V’s standards while waiting for it to enter into force.

The cluster munitions used by Georgia fall under the scope of the new Convention on Cluster Munitions, and for those states party to the convention, their future use would violate its basic prohibition on all use of cluster munitions.

Georgia, like all states, should sign and ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions as soon as possible. It would not only assume responsibility under the convention but also benefit from it. If it became a state party, Georgia, as an affected state, would be eligible for international support for clearance, risk education, and victim assistance once the treaty entered into force.

If it cannot join the treaty at this point, Georgia should take immediate interim measures to minimize the humanitarian harm of cluster munitions. It should ban use in populated areas and adopt remedial measures to ensure civilians are not harmed from the duds it left behind. Most urgently, it should continue to provide further assistance for clearance and risk education.

 

[136] “Some Facts,” attachment to email communication from David Nardaia, head of Analytical Department, Ministry of Defense of Georgia, to Human Rights Watch, November 18, 2008.

[137] Human Rights Watch interview with Batu Kutelia, then Georgian first deputy minister of defense, Tbilisi, October 21, 2008; Response of Georgian Ministry of Defense to Human Rights Watch Questions, February 12, 2009.

[138] Human Rights Watch interview with Mokhar N., Tskhinvali, August 14, 2008.

[139] Letter from M.G. Yadrov, head, Department for International Legal Cooperation's Investigative Committee, Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, to Human Rights Watch, February 27, 2009 (on file with Human Rights Watch). According to a March 26, 2009 press report, a Prosecutor General’s Office spokesman said that cluster munition debris was found in the South Ossetian village of Pris. “Russian Claims Proof Georgia Used Cluster Munitions,” Russia Today, March 26, 2009, http://www.russiatoday.com/Top_News/2009-03-26/Russia_claims_proof_Georgia_used_cluster_weapons.html (accessed March 28, 2009).

[140] In initial reports, Human Rights Watch attributed the M85 attacks around Pkhvenisi and Shindisi to Russia, based upon the accounts of nearly a dozen witnesses, interviewed separately, who said that Russian air strikes on Georgian armored units in the area were followed by extensive cluster munition strikes. There were no Russian ground forces reported in the area at that stage of the conflict. “Georgia: Civilians Killed by Russian Cluster Bomb ‘Duds,’” Human Rights Watch news release, August 21, 2008, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/08/21/georgia-civilians-killed-russian-cluster-bomb-duds. Further investigations led Human Rights Watch to change that original attribution. “Clarification Regarding Use of Cluster Munitions in Georgia,” Human Rights Watch news release, September 3, 2008, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/09/03/clarification-regarding-use-cluster-munitions-georgia.

[141] For a full discussion of international humanitarian law violations by Georgia in the August 2008 conflict, see Human Rights Watch, Up in Flames.

[142] Human Rights Watch interview with relative of Ketino Gogidze (name withheld), Shindisi, October 19, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with Zura Tatrishvili, Shindisi, August 19, 2008.

[143] Human Rights Watch interview with Zura Tatrishvili, August 19, 2008.

[144] Ibid.; Human Rights Watch interview with Vazha Mazmishvili, October 19, 2008.

[145] Human Rights Watch interview with Alexandre Zerekidze, Tirdznisi, October 17, 2008.

[146] Human Rights Watch interview with Pridon Solomonian, Tirdznisi, October 17, 2008.

[147] An explosive remnant of war also caused an injury in Tirdznisi. It may have been caused by an unexploded submunition, but since Human Rights Watch could not definitively determine that, the casualty is not included in the total number. On August 24, Shota Kaidarashvili, 57, went to his garden to water and take care of his crops. When he started digging in the ground, something exploded. He suffered multiple wounds to the head, requiring doctors to remove part of his skull. He also had an open fracture of his lower right leg, and his right forearm was amputated. He arrived at the Gori military hospital at 10:45 a.m. that day in a coma, and doctors said he was in critical condition with a low chance of survival. Human Rights Watch interview with Shota Lapachi, Gori, August 24, 2008.

[148] Human Rights Watch interview with Tariel Kikilashvili, farmer, Brotsleti, October 16, 2008.

[149] Human Rights Watch interview with Alika Kikilashvili, farmer, Brotsleti, October 16, 2008.

[150] Another casualty occurred in Brotsleti on the afternoon of September 9. It was likely from a submunition dud given the extensive contamination in the town, but it could not be definitively proved because the victim did not see what exploded. Therefore Human Rights Watch has not included the victim in its total casualty figures. On that afternoon, Giorgi Chinchriki, 70, went to his field in Brotsleti to collect plums, which were hidden on the ground by tall grass. As he was cutting the grass to get to them, something exploded. Describing his injuries, he said, “I was hurt in my lip and lost a tooth. I also had 17 pieces of shrapnel in my right leg and one in my left leg. There were also some in my stomach and arm.” After he was injured, he walked to the main road where neighbors came to rescue him. His cousin took him to the GorMed Hospital in Gori, where he spent one week before being transferred to a hospital in Tbilisi. Chinchriki saw several submunition duds in his son's field, which is on the way to his field. He said some had white ribbons and some red. Human Rights Watch interview with Giorgi Chinchriki, Brotsleti, October 16, 2008.

[151] Human Rights Watch interview with Durmishkhan Bedianashvili, Pkhvenisi, August 20, 2008.

[152] Human Rights Watch interview with Ilya Arabashvili, Shindisi, August 27, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with witness (name withheld), Shindisi, August 24, 2008.

[153] Human Rights Watch interview with Ilya Arabashvili, August 27, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with Valiko Arabashvili, cousin of Ramaz Arabashvili, Shindisi, August 19, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with Yulia Maisuradze, mother of Malkhaz Maizuradze, Shindisi, August 19, 2008.

[154] Human Rights Watch interview with Valiko Arabashvili, August 19, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with Yulia Maisuradze, August 19, 2008.

[155] Human Rights Watch interview with Zura Tatrishvili, August 19, 2008.

[156] Human Rights Watch interview with Omar Mindiashvili, driver, Ditsi, October 17, 2008.

[157] Human Rights Watch interview with Alika Kikilashvili, October 16, 2008.

[158] Human Rights Watch interview with Zhora Chinchriki, Brotsleti, October 16, 2008.

[159] Human Rights Watch interview with Sergo Nikolaishvili, Brotsleti, October 16, 2008.

[160] Human Rights Watch interview with Alexandra Zhghenti and Marina Mamistarishvili, Shindisi, October 19, 2008.

[161] Human Rights Watch interview with Dato Lapachi, Tirdznisi, October 16, 2008.

[162] Human Rights Watch interview with man (name withheld), Zemo Nikozi, October 16, 2008.

[163] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, “Different Types of Heavy Conventional Weapons Have Been Indiscriminately Used against Civilian Population and Infrastructure of Georgia by Russian Armed Forces,” August 15, 2008, http://georgiamfa.blogspot.com/2008/08/russians-use-cluster-munitions-against.html. See“The War in Georgia: A Caucasian Journey,” The Economist, August 21, 2008, http://www.economist.com/world/europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=11986018 (accessed November 16, 2008); “Georgia Demands EU, NATO to Confirm Use of Cluster Bombs by Russia,” Trend News Agency (Baku), August 16, 2008, http://trend.smart.az/index.shtml?show=news&newsid=1270971&lang=EN (accessed November 16, 2008); Neil Cavuto, “Interview with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili,” FOX News, August 18, 2008, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,405722,00.html (accessed November 16, 2008). See also “Preconference of President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili and US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice,” Office of the President of Georgia news release, August 15, 2009, http://www.president.gov.ge/?l=E&m=0&sm=2&st=10&id=2712 (accessed April 1, 2009).

[164] “Preconference of President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili and US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice,” Office of the President of Georgia news release.

[165] “Georgian Ministry of Defence's Response to the Human Rights Watch Inquire [sic] about the Usage of M85 Bomblets,” Georgian Ministry of Defense press release.

[166] Human Rights Watch interview with Batu Kutelia, then Georgian first deputy minister of defense, Tbilisi, October 21, 2008.

[167] “IMI LAR-160 and AccuLAR 160 mm Rockets,” in Ness and Williams, eds., Jane's Ammunition Handbook 2007-2008, pp. 714-715.

[168] Human Rights Watch interview with Batu Kutelia, October 21, 2008; Response of Georgian Ministry of Defense to Human Rights Watch Questions, February 12, 2009.

[169] Kutelia also noted that the contract was for 85 percent of the M85s to have white ribbons, yet the majority of the duds found by Human Rights Watch had red ribbons. As mentioned earlier, Human Rights Watch has not determined a difference between models with white and red ribbons. The deminers it interviewed did not know either. Human Rights Watch interview with Joseph Huber, then program manager, Norwegian People’s Aid, Tbilisi, October 14, 2008. The Georgian Ministry of Defense told Human Rights Watch it knew of “no technical difference” between the white- and red-ribboned models. Response of Georgian Ministry of Defense to Human Rights Watch Questions, February 12, 2009.

[170] Response of Georgian Ministry of Defense to Human Rights Watch Questions, February 12, 2009.

[171] Ibid.

[172] Human Rights Watch interview with Batu Kutelia, October 21, 2008. High-level officials from the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated Kutelia’s assessment that cluster munitions had slowed the Russian advance and described the weapons as a deterrent. Human Rights Watch interview with Vasil Sikharelidze, Georgian minister of defense, Tbilisi, January 26, 2009; Human Rights Watch interview with Giga Bokeria, Georgian deputy minister of foreign affairs, Tbilisi, January 24, 2009.

[173] Human Rights Watch interview with Batu Kutelia, October 21, 2008.

[174] Human Rights Watch interview with Vasil Sikharelidze, January 26, 2009.

[175] Human Rights Watch did extensive research into humanitarian law violations by Russian, Georgian, and South Ossetian forces in this area. See Human Rights Watch, Up in Flames.