Russia’s Reversal on the ICC?

by Kevin Jon Heller

According to Interfax, Russia is considering referring the situation in South Ossetia to the ICC. It quotes Russia’s Prosecutor General, Yury Chaika, as saying that he “doesn’t think setting up a special [international] court is necessary. Complaints and applications from our citizens which will be referred to the International Criminal Court would suffice.”  That’s an interesting statement, given that Russia has signed but not ratified the Rome Statute (citing constitutional issues) and has strongly criticized Moreno-Ocampo’s decision to indict Bashir on genocide charges. A decision by Russia to formally seek ICC involvement in South Ossetia would thus represent a considerable shift in policy toward the Court, perhaps opening the door to eventual ratification of the Rome Statute — which would be a very good thing, both for Russia and for the ICC.

We will see what happens.  Human Rights Watch has already publicly claimed that Russia is deliberately exaggerating the number of civilian casualties in South Ossetia.  If that’s true, Russia’s ICC claims may prove to be all talk and no action.

UPDATE: You can’t trust the media to get anything right.  The original version of this post cited an AFP report that Georgia had asked the ICC Prosecutor to investigate the situation in South Ossetia.  As Andreas Paulus kindly pointed out in the comments, that report is inaccuate — in fact, Georgia has filed a complaint for ethnic cleansing with the ICJ.

UPDATE 2: Moreno-Ocampo has acknowledged that he has been contacted about the situation in South Ossetia — by whom he does not say — and that “it is a possibility” he will open an investigation into the situation there.

http://opiniojuris.org/2008/08/14/georgia-and-russia-give-the-icc-much-love/

2 Responses

  1. Kevin, I share your interest in the ICC, but the information you refer to is based on a confusion in a Georgian press release between the ICC (International Criminal Court) and the ICJ – the complaint referred to is the one to the ICJ based on the Convention for the Elimination of Race Discrimination (CERD). Maybe a complaint under Article 14 of the ICC Statute is still to come, but it is not yet here.
    Best regards,
    Andreas Paulus
    University of Goettingen

  2. See the comments in this post for links regarding the ICJ and ECHR cases.

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