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Tbilisi Questions Credibility of Some Experts in EUís War Inquiry Mission
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 11 Feb.'09 / 15:05

Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian state minister for reintegration, said the Georgian authorities did not want “Gazprom-financed experts” for finding out the truth about the August war.

Speaking in the public TV’s program, First Topic, late on February 10, Iakobashvili said that the Georgian authorities had doubts about some experts from the EU-sponsored mission, which investigates the origins of the August war.

“There are some people in the mission, whose presence in the group will be seriously raised by the Georgian delegation before its chairmanship,” Iakobashvili said. “I do not want to specify whom I mean; but we are familiar with their ‘heroic’ deeds. I do not want to go further into details, but we do not need the Gazprom-financed experts for finding out the truth; sorry, but I can not say more on that” 

The EU-sponsored inquiry mission into the August war, which is currently visiting Tbilisi, apart of its chairperson, Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini and her two deputies consists of five military and legal experts. These are: Gen. Gilles Galet from France; Gen. Christophe Keckeis, the Chief of the Swiss Armed Forces in 2004-2007; Otto Luchterhandt from Germany, who is a professor at Hamburg University’s Institute for East European Law; Anne Peters also from Germany – she is a professor of Public International Law at the University of Basel; Col. Christopher Langton, who has served in the British Army for 32 years and has an experience of working in Georgia in the capacity of Deputy Chief of UN Observer Mission (UNOMIG).

After the August war Prof. Luchterhandt wrote about the matter in the context of international law. His conclusions were used by the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe’s (PACE) Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights last October when the PACE was preparing a resolution on the consequences of the Russia-Georgia war. The German professor wrote that Georgia violated international humanitarian law when it used disproportionate force and attacked Tskhinvali. Prof. Luchterhandt also said that although Russia had violated Georgia’s sovereignty over South Ossetia number of times in the past, Moscow could justify its response under the international law. He said that Georgia’s armed attack on the headquarters of the peacekeeping forces in Tskhinvali amounted attack on Russia itself under the international law. He also suggested that Russia could justify occupation of areas adjacent to South Ossetia on Georgia proper under the international law, as well as aerial attacks on military installations throughout Georgia; but not the occupation of western part of Georgia, which, he said, was definitely a violation of the international law. He also said that Russia violated international law by failing to prevent marauding and reported ethnic cleansing of the Georgian population by the South Ossetian militias.

In August, 2008 another member of the mission, Col. Langton wrote an article on the Georgia-Russia war under the headline “Georgia’s dream is shattered, but it only has itself to blame” in which he said: “None of the actors in this drama can claim to be right. Georgia acted disproportionately and unnecessarily and is now worse off than it was before... Russia invaded the territory of a sovereign state and used disproportionate and sometimes indiscriminate force – particularly air power.”

Iakobashvili made his comments when he was asked about the opinion expressed by Col. Langton in his article. However, Iakobashvili made it clear that he was not making any reference to any particular member of the commission and reiterated for several times that he was not specifying anyone in particular.

While commenting about the mission’s work in general, Iakobashvili said: “Our expectation is that the [inquiry mission’s] conclusion will be fair.”

“We have nothing to hide,” he continued. “I do not expect that conclusion, even if it is tough and critical in respect of the Georgian authorities, will somehow damage the Georgian authorities, because the Georgian government has reported [about the war conduct] - – apart of the international organizations – to the Georgian Parliament… and first and foremost we are responsible before the Georgian population.”

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