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Russia president proposes bill to expand use of army abroad

[JURIST] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website, in Russian] on Monday submitted a bill [text, in Russian] to the State Duma [official website, in Russian] that would allow Russian troops to intervene beyond Russian borders. The legislation, proposed in response to last August's South Ossetia conflict [BBC backgrounder], would allow intervention by Russian troops in order to protect Russian citizens abroad. The proposed law would also allow intervention for "reflecting and the prevention of aggression against another State" and to "combating piracy and ensuring the safety of navigation." The draft bill would amend existing federal law [BBC report], which allows special military units to be deployed abroad with notification of parliament.

The South Ossetia conflict lasted for five days last August when Georgia tried to take control of its breakaway region, and Russian troops defended the region, entering Georgia. In February, the US State Department released its annual country reports on human rights [JURIST report], accusing both Russia and Georgia [text] of violations during the conflict. In January, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged both Russia and Georgia to investigate possible violations of the laws of war [JURIST report] during and after the conflict. That report followed closely a report [JURIST report] released by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] in November 2008, which alleged possible human rights violations during the conflict, including attacks on civilians and civilian targets by both sides, the use of land mines and cluster bombs, the treatment of prisoners of war and civilian detainees, and the wide-spread displacement of civilians during and after the fighting. Georgia and Russia [JURIST reports] are currently exchanging allegations of war crimes in the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official websites].

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