Neither South Ossetia`s local government nor the Russian army are providing adequate security for citizens in the breakaway territory after last month`s Russia-Georgia war, rights groups said on Thursday, according to Reuters.
Representatives of U.S.-based Human Rights Watch and Russian group Memorial were reporting on a trip to the province, which until the conflict was a patchwork of South Ossetian and ethnic Georgian villages.
"South Ossetian authorities are not ensuring the defence of property of residents of Georgian enclave villages or the safety of people remaining there," said Alexander Cherkasov of Memorial.
"Currently the (ethnic) Georgian villages we visited...are practically burnt to the ground. Now, a month after military operations, the final houses are being torched, and every day we saw new fires."
Georgia and Russia went to war on August 7-8 after Tbilisi ordered artillery strikes on the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali in a bid to recapture the rebel, pro-Russian region.
South Ossetia had declared de facto independence in the 1990s, though remained de jure within Georgia proper. A tri-partite peacekeeping mission with Russia had maintained a semblance of order for over a decade.
Georgia says it had to attack to prevent its peacekeepers from being killed by South Ossetian troops. Russia says it was morally obliged to invade to prevent what it called "genocide".
In the days following Russia`s military push into Georgia and its subsequent drubbing of well-equipped but improperly managed Georgian forces, irregular troops and bandits began looting and burning civilian homes in the region.
"Danger remains not just for Georgian and mixed families, but for Ossetian villagers as well from looters who, sensing their impunity, steal and torch not just what belongs to Georgians, but any abandoned home," Cherkasov said.
"Russian troops set up block posts and were able to prevent the death of hundreds of ethnic Georgians at the time. Unfortunately this is no longer happening," Lokshina said.
Lokshina said during the visit to South Ossetia they saw armed irregulars looting furniture, fixtures and valuables from homes in the area. "The enclaves are still burning, and they made no attempt to hide it," she said.