01 July 2016, Friday

On July 1, 2016, Russian Justice Initiative sent to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, an application on behalf of the relatives of three South Ossetian victims of the 2008 Georgia-South Ossetia armed conflict. In the application, Russian Justice Initiative asked for the investigation framework to be expanded to, at a minimum, October 13, 2008. This would bring under the ICC investigation the disappearance of three young men in the conflict ‘buffer zone’ on October 13, 2008.

On October 13, 2008, three South Ossetian young people, one of whom was younger than 16, were arrested in the conflict ‘buffer zone’ by people wearing Georgian uniforms and speaking Georgian. The young men were later seen in Georgian prisons, prison hospitals, and even in court. A video emerged on the internet, in which uniformed people, speaking Georgian, shouted at and humiliated the young men.

The Georgian law enforcement authorities, however, did not study these facts in detail during their investigation. The parents and close relatives of the disappeared young people applied to the law enforcement authorities in Georgia and in South Ossetia, and to representatives of the Russian peacekeeping battalion, in an attempt to conduct an independent investigation. The young men’s parents and relatives questioned eyewitnesses of the young men’s arrest and contacted Georgian officials. The results were handed over to the Georgian authorities, but the young men’s fate remains unknown to this day.   

The events surrounding this disappearance are directly connected to the military conflict and aspects of the case involve circumstances that under international criminal law can be qualified as crimes such as premeditated murder, unlawful deprivation of freedom, deliberate deprivation of a person in custody of the right to fair court process, and inhuman treatment.

The three young men’s disappearance has been raised at the international level. Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thoma Hammarberg presented a report on the case, setting out detailed evidence of the lack of an objective investigation into the disappearance. The young people’s relatives applied to the European Court of Human Rights, and they or their representatives have contacted the International Red Cross, OSCE, and the European Union Monitoring Mission.

The application’s text can be downloaded here.  

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