The following is a guest post by Anna Dolidze, a JSD candidate at Cornell Law School. In 2007-08, Dolidze was an Albert Podell Global Scholar at Risk at New York University Law School and a Visiting Fellow at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute. She has worked for a number of international organizations, including for Save the Children, Russian Justice Initiative, and Human Rights Watch. Our thanks to her for the contribution!
Last week the International Court of Justice handed down the judgment on Preliminary Objections in the case of Georgia v. Russian Federation. With ten votes to six, the Court upheld the preliminary objection by Russia and declined to proceed to consider the case on merits. The judgment presents interesting material for examination from many angles. As the dissenting opinions have already been made publicly available, their close examination will give food for thought to those that study politics at the international court. The judgment is also noteworthy for its detailed treatment of Article 22 of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and its history. It is also interesting to see how the Court examined the political rhetoric from both countries through the lens of international law. Those that study how military confrontation is translated into “lawfare” will also find interesting material for contemplation. One particular aspect of the judgment, with which I shall deal in this post, is how it played out in domestic politics in both countries. Russian and Georgian political actors interpreted the judgment variably. Yet, they were similar in one particular way. Government agencies of both countries announced it as victory for their country. Furthermore, a look at how domestic political players in Georgia handled the judgment confirms, once again, that judgments of international tribunals are part and parcel of Dezalay and Garth’s concept of “international strategies.” Domestic actors “use foreign capital, such as resources, degrees, contacts, legitimacy, and expertise … to build their power at home.” Georgian government and political actors interpreted the judgment with the view to maximize their own domestic political capital.
The case was launched by the application filed by Georgia on August 12, 2008. On the same day President of France Nicolas Sarkozy proposed a cease-fire in the Georgian-Ossetian zone of conflict. Georgia requested the Court to declare that Russia violated its obligations under CERD by engaging in acts and practices, contrary to Articles 2,3,4,5 and 6 of CERD. Its application mainly concerned Russia’s responsibility for actions on the territory of two secessionist republics of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia had filed a complaint on the basis of article 22 of CERD. Article 22 provides, “[a]ny dispute between two or more States Parties with respect to the interpretation or application of this Convention, which is not settled by negotiation or by the procedures expressly provided for in this Convention, shall, at the request of any of the parties to the dispute, be referred to the International Court of Justice for decision, unless the disputants agree to another mode of settlement”. CERD entered into force between in the parties on July 2, 1999.
Both parties have benefited from the legal representation of the prominent figures in international law, including James Crawford and Phillip Sands representing Georgia and Allain Pellet and Andreas Zimmerman representing Russia. Russia raised preliminary objections to the jurisdiction of the Court. Firstly, Russia contended that there was no dispute between the parties within the meaning of article 22. Secondly, that the procedural requirements for the recourse to article 22 have not been met…