On 12 November Russian Justice Initiative (RJI) submitted the statements of victims on war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the 2008 Georgian-South Ossetian conflict to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Victims complained of the use of indiscriminate weapons, murder, disappearances and torture. Materials were submitted in the framework of a joint submission to the ICC from RJI and the International Partnership for Human Rights.
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatu Bensuda, had on 13 October 2015 requested the ICC judges to authorize the opening of an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed between 1 July and 10 October 2008 in the context of the Georgian conflict. The Prosecutor issued a public notice to victims of the conflict, inviting them to make “representations” to the Court about what happened to them or their relatives during the war.
RJI has been working with victims from the Georgian conflict since 2008 at the European Court of Human Rights. RJI was the only NGO to undertake an effort to collect representations from victims residing in South Ossetia for submission to the ICC. In the materials sent to the ICC, victims describe alleged crimes committed by the Georgian armed forces.
RJI carried out interviews with 18 victims, some of whom also spoke on behalf of their relatives who had disappeared or been killed.
In the submission to the ICC, RJI also requested the Prosecutor to lengthen the timeframe of the proposed investigation until 16 October 2008, given that some of the alleged crimes described in the representations occurred after 10 October (the date when Russian forces withdrew behind the South Ossetian border) but were nevertheless directly connected to the conflict. For example, three South Ossetian men were detained on 13 October 2008 and subsequently disappeared. Witnesses said that they had been arrested by Georgian servicemen, but their fate remains unknown.
RJI anticipates that its joint submission to the ICC may positively influence the Prosecutor’s decision to open an investigation into the circumstances of the South Ossetian conflict, which would help victims and their relatives achieve justice.
Should the Court sanction the investigation into the 2008 Georgian conflict, it will be the first investigation carried out by the Court outside of Africa.
Read the full submission (without confidential annexes) here.