Georgia Taking Russia to Court? And Vice Versa?

by Chris Borgen

As the fighting winds down or escalates (depending on whom you believe), the legal battle that Ken discussed yesterday seems to be gearing up and getting more complex, with the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and the European Court of Human Rights now all being mentioned in news stories.

The AP is reporting the following:

The Georgian security council says it has filed a lawsuit in the International Court of Justice for alleged ethnic cleansing.

Council chief Alexander Lomaia told The Associated Press that Georgia made the filing Tuesday with the international court. He gave no other details of the lawsuit.

Russian officials have accused Georgia of committing genocide by launching an offensive last week to try to retake control of the breakaway province of South Ossetia. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, meanwhile, accused Russian forces Monday of cleansing another breakaway province, Abkhazia, of ethnic Georgians..

While the AP report says Georgia has filed something before the ICJ, this may or may not be when a reported has gotten the different courts at the Hague mixed up.  The Russian press is reporting (according to an English translation on a Finnish site) that the Georgians have been talking to the ICC:

Georgia will lodge a suit against Russia at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, RIA Novosti reports. Eka Zguladze, Georgia’s Deputy Minister of Interior, said the suit contains facts of genocide against Georgians in Abkhazia since 1992 until today.

Earlier, Russia announced it intended to file claims against Georgia at the ICC and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for the Georgian attack on South Ossetia. Russian prosecutors are now collecting evidence of genocide in South Ossetia.

This last paragraph may be the latest spin on the investigations that Ken wrote about yesterday, but now focusing Russia’s interest ont he ICC and the ECHR.

Of course the Georgians and the Russians may each be attempting to access multiple tribunals simultaneously and seeing “what sticks.” 

If readers get any more information on which, if any, courts are becomeing involved, please post a comment.

http://opiniojuris.org/2008/08/12/georgia-taking-russia-to-court-and-vice-versa/

10 Responses

  1. Georgia filed an application  today against Russia before the ICJ, alleging that Russia violated the Convention against Racial Discrimination (CERD), in three distinct phases of the Abkhazia/Ossetia conflicts, going back as far as 1991, inter alia by conducting ethnic cleansing. At a cursory read, Georgia seems to have found a clear jurisdictional title in Art. 22 CERD. It also reserved its right to extend its application for violations of the Genocide Convention.

    However, Georgia will have the major difficulty of trying to fit the entirety of the conflict through a pretty narrow jurisdictional space. For example, it’s not enough for it to allege that Russia unlawfully used force, it must prove that Russia used such force in a racially discriminatory manner. A similar thing happened in the Bosnian Genocide case, where the Bosnian side tried to portray the entire conflict as one big genocide, which was fatal for its litigation prospects.

    If the case reaches the merits, we might have the Court deciding interesting questions of attribution (e.g. whether Russia was responsible for the acts of Abkhazia and South Ossetia), as well as on the extraterritorial applicability of the CERD.

    There’s also that 2007 interstate application of Georgia against Russia before the Eur Court of Human Rights. More could happen on that front as well.

  2. http://www.kommersant.com/p-13069/South_Ossetia/

    (August 10)

    Vladimir Lukin, Russian Human Rights Ombudsman, has called for the creation of an international tribunal on South Ossetia, RIA Novosti reports. Those responsible for the mass murder in the conflict zone have to be put on trial, Lukin said. The number of the dead in South Ossetia reaches the thousands, he pointed out. “The one who gave the order for the night destruction of Tskhinvali bears the main responsibility,” he added.
    The Russian Foreign Ministry has already mentioned the possibility of taking action in the international courts in The Hague and Strasbourg to investigate the deaths of Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone. The Russian military prosecutor initiated a criminal case in connection with their deaths.

    Very interesting if you consider Russia’s stance towards ICTY. Then again, check:

    http://www.interfax.com/3/418666/news.aspx

    (August 12)

    Russia’s Prosecutor General Yury Chaika has said it is not necessary to set up a special international tribunal to try those guilty of mass annihilation of civilians in South Ossetia. “I don’t think setting up a special court is necessary. Complaints and applications from our citizens which will be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague would suffice,” Chaika said in answer to an Interfax question on Tuesday.

    That would be odd, given the relationship between Russia and ICC.
    Seems to me that Russia is considering, as you say, every possible option (and doing that not only regarding the tribunals).
    And the proposed platform doesn’t include establishment of  the special tribunal, for now (http://www.russiatoday.com/news/news/28896).

    I have to check Georgian sources, though…

  3. For information on the proceedings instituted by Georgia against Russia at the ICJ, you can take a look at this link,

    http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/140/14659.pdf?PHPSESSID=e2e1f6ee92d1091827cba6e13e513716

  4. For information on the proceedings instituted by Georgia against Russia at the ICJ, you can take a look at this link, http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/140/14659.pdf?PHPSESSID=e2e1f6ee92d1091827cba6e13e513716

  5. The European Court issued an interim measure (at the request of Georgia) on the Georgian-Russian situation on Monday 11 August. This is its press release:
    Press release issued by the Registrar
    European Court of Human Rights grants request for interim measures
     
    The European Court of Human Rights has today indicated to the Government of the Russian Federation interim measures under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court.
     
    On 11 August 2008 the Georgian Government requested the Court to indicate to the Government of the Russian Federation interim measures to the effect that the Russian Government should “refrain from taking any measures which may threaten the life or state of health of the civilian population and to allow the Georgian emergency forces to carry out all the necessary measures in order to provide assistance to the remaining injured civilian population and soldiers via humanitarian corridor”. The Agent of the Georgian Government informed the Court that this request was made in the context of an application directed against the Russian Federation alleging violations of Articles 2 (right to life) and 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the Convention.
     
    The terms of the Court’s decision are as follows:
    “On 12 August 2008 the President of the Court, acting as President of Chamber, decided to apply Rule 39 of the Rules of Court (interim measures) considering that the current situation gives rise to a real and continuing risk of serious violations of the Convention. With a view to preventing such violations and pursuant to Rule 39, the President calls upon both the High Contracting Parties concerned to comply with their engagements under the Convention particularly in respect of Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention.
     
    In accordance with Rule 39 § 3, the President further requests both Governments concerned to inform the Court of the measures taken to ensure that the Convention is fully complied with.”
     
    Rule 39 of the Rules of the Court (Interim measures):
    “1.  The Chamber or, where appropriate, its President may, at the request of a party or of any other person concerned, or of its own motion, indicate to the parties any interim measure which it considers should be adopted in the interests of the parties or of the proper conduct of the proceedings before it.
    2.  Notice of these measures shall be given to the Committee of Ministers.
    3.  The Chamber may request information from the parties on any matter connected with the implementation of any interim measure it has indicated.”
     

  6. http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/140/14659.pdf?PHPSESSID=f3e1259d2eeb297b0ee8f9c08e45172c

    Press Release
    Unofficial

    No. 2008/23
    12 August 2008

    Georgia institutes proceedings against Russia for violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

    THE HAGUE, 12 August 2008.

    The Republic of Georgia today instituted proceedings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the Russian Federation for “its actions on and around the territory of Georgia” in breach of the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). In its Application, Georgia “also seeks to ensure that the individual rights” under the Convention “of all persons on the territory of Georgia are fully respected and protected”.
    Georgia contends that the “Russian Federation, through its State organs, State agents, and other persons and entities exercising governmental authority, and through the South Ossetian and Abkhaz separatist forces and other agents acting on the instructions of, and under the direction and control of the Russian Federation, is responsible for serious violations of its fundamental obligations under [the] CERD, including Articles 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6”. According to Georgia, Russia had “violated its obligations under [the] CERD during three distinct phases of its interventions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia” in the period from 1990 to August 2008.
    Georgia requests the Court to order “the Russian Federation to take all steps necessary to comply with its obligations under [the] CERD”.
    As a basis for the jurisdiction of the Court, Georgia invokes Article 22 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It also reserves its right to invoke Article IX of the Genocide Convention, to which both Georgia and Russia are parties, as an additional basis for the Court’s jurisdiction.
    ___________
    The full text of Georgia’s Application will be available shortly on the Court’s website (www.icj-cij.org).

  7. Press Release
    Unofficial

    No. 2008/23
    12 August 2008

    Georgia institutes proceedings against Russia for violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

    THE HAGUE, 12 August 2008.

    The Republic of Georgia today instituted proceedings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the Russian Federation for “its actions on and around the territory of Georgia” in breach of the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). In its Application, Georgia “also seeks to ensure that the individual rights” under the Convention “of all persons on the territory of Georgia are fully respected and protected”.
    Georgia contends that the “Russian Federation, through its State organs, State agents, and other persons and entities exercising governmental authority, and through the South Ossetian and Abkhaz separatist forces and other agents acting on the instructions of, and under the direction and control of the Russian Federation, is responsible for serious violations of its fundamental obligations under [the] CERD, including Articles 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6”. According to Georgia, Russia had “violated its obligations under [the] CERD during three distinct phases of its interventions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia” in the period from 1990 to August 2008.
    Georgia requests the Court to order “the Russian Federation to take all steps necessary to comply with its obligations under [the] CERD”.
    As a basis for the jurisdiction of the Court, Georgia invokes Article 22 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It also reserves its right to invoke Article IX of the Genocide Convention, to which both Georgia and Russia are parties, as an additional basis for the Court’s jurisdiction.
    ___________
    The full text of Georgia’s Application will be available shortly on the Court’s website (www.icj-cij.org).

  8. i apologise for multiple posts, as well as posting the information that was previously posted by others. my connection was really bad at the time, i didn’t see any of the previous comments, and i wasn’t able to post mine.

  9. Thanks to everyone for posting comments. There seems to have been something strange with the comment feature the past day because some of these earlier comments suddenly appeared only today (at least on my computer and seemingly Dragutin’s as well). I will adjust the update accordingly. Again, thank you, all.

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