Sep 14, 2010

ICJ Begins Hearings In Russia-Georgia Dispute

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) began hearings today on charges by Georgia of Russian human rights abuses in two Moscow-backed breakaway regions.

The September 13 hearing will be followed with three others this week and all the four public hearings will focus only on “the preliminary objections to jurisdiction, raised by the Russian Federation,” the Hague-based court said in August.

Georgia filed a complaint with the court in August 2008, claiming Russia had been committing violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination since Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Tbilisi's control in the 1990s. Read More..

Georgia has complained to the International Court of Justice of the murder of thousands of ethnic Georgians and alleged displacement of some 300,000 people in a two-decade campaign of discrimination by Russian authorities and separatist militias in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. More than 17 000 Georgians were killed in 1992-93 war activities. After collapse of Soviet Union, Abkhazians made up 17% of Abkhazian population, Georgians – 52%. 250 thousand Georgians left Abkhazian territory as a result to Abkhazian events. Georgians now live only in Gali region of Abkhazia.

According to a statement published  24 october 2008 by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in cooperation with three other human rights organisations, the investigation has concluded that ethnic cleansing continues in the de-facto border region between Georgia and South Ossetia. "The Human rights monitors found evidence of the burning of houses, attacks on civilians and forced displacement of the Georgian population as late as Friday 17 October. There is still fear and tension in the conflict zone. The Russian Federation effectively controls South Ossetian territory and is responsible for maintaining security and allowing the displaced population to return and to investigate numerous allegations of crimes committed in the areas that have been and continue to be effectively under Russian control during and after the armed conflict in August, irrespective of who actually committed them. The Georgian government, on the other hand, is responsible for providing security to the population in the areas it controls, including in the de facto border regions, and for investigating the numerous allegations of crimes committed during and after the armed conflict, irrespective of who actually committed them"

‘No More Georgian Enclaves in S.Ossetia’ - Pro-Russian rebel "president" Kokoity, "Georgian enclaves within South Ossetia have been “liquidated,” the breakaway region’s leader, Eduard Kokoity, said on August 22 as quoted by the Russian online news agency, Regnum. “Villages of Kekhvi and Tamarasheni, which were uncontrolled [by the South Ossetia authorities] are now totally destroyed as a result of military operations,” Kokoity was quoted as saying.

In South Ossetia, Human Rights Watch researchers traveling on the evening of August 12 on the road from the town of Java to Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, witnessed terrifying scenes of destruction in four villages that used to be populated exclusively by ethnic Georgians. According to the few remaining local residents, South Ossetian militias and Russian soldiers that were moving along the road looted the Georgian villages and set them on fire.

But Russia's representative, Kirill Gevorgian, in opening statements to the court today said that the case was only about the war and not about the treaty. Russia denies Georgian claims of ethnic cleansing.

Russia has also argued that the court has no jurisdiction to hear the case.

Georgia's legal representatives are expected to make their formal case to the court's 16 judges on September 14.