An eight-member group has been established by the Georgian prosecutor’s office to probe into alleged crimes committed during and after the August 2008 war.
The prosecutor’s office said that the group includes investigators from the interior ministry; defense ministry’s military police and prosecutor’s office.
Chief prosecutor, Archil Kbilashvili, said that the group would look into allegations of war crimes. Referring to the International Criminal Court and to the Rome Statute, he said that such investigation was part of Georgia’s international commitment.
Such investigation was opened by the previous government and is currently under preliminary examination from Office of the Prosecutor of The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC).
ICC was established by the Rome Statute to prosecute people for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
ICC, however, will not act if a case is investigated or prosecuted by respective national authorities, unless the proceedings are mere formality aimed at shielding a person from criminal responsibility.
Unlike Russia, Georgia is a state party to the Rome Statute.
Just few days after August, 2008 war, the Prosecutor’s Office of ICC announced about “preliminary examination” of the situation.
“Preliminary examination” is the phase during which ICC’s Prosecutor’s Office assesses if its own investigation should be opened; at this phase it also assesses whether crimes falling under the ICC jurisdiction may have been committed in a given situation and whether genuine investigations and prosecutions are being carried out by the authorities of respective states.
In respect of the August war, ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor still remains on this stage of preliminary examination, keeping communication with the Georgian and Russian authorities to follow their respective investigations into alleged crimes committed during the war; Office of the Prosecutor also maintains contacts with non-governmental organizations present in the region, some of which are also assessing relevant national proceedings.
Allegations in connection to the August war involve forcible displacement of Georgian population; attack against Russian peacekeepers by the Georgian troops; attacks directed against the civilian population and civilian objects by both Georgian and Russian armed forces; destruction of property; pillage in ethnic Georgian villages in the aftermath of the active hostilities; torture and other forms of ill-treatment.
In its November, 2012 report ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor said “there is a reasonable basis to believe” that torture; destruction of property; pillaging; deportation or forcible transfer of population had been committed.
It, however, also said: “Further evaluation of other alleged conduct by parties to the conflict, including the alleged intentional directing of attacks against Russian peacekeepers, has to date proved inconclusive”; it also noted that this initial assessment may be revisited if new facts or evidence emerge.
“At this stage, both Georgia and Russia appear to be conducting relevant national investigations into the crimes allegedly committed during the armed conflict. Four years after the events, however, neither investigation has yielded any results,” reads the November, 2012 report by ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor.
In December, 2011 the Georgian government reiterated to ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor that it was “mindful of its international obligation to investigate and prosecute grave crimes that concern the international community as a whole and resorts to its best efforts to comply with those commitments.”
In its November, 2012 report Office of the Prosecutor said that the failure by both Georgia and Russia to yield result in their respective probes was raising questions that no genuine investigations were ongoing.
Georgia was citing two main obstacles to the investigation of the acts allegedly committed by the Georgian military: the lack of access to the alleged crime scene and the lack of cooperation from Russia and de factor authorities in Tskhinvali. Russia was also citing lack of cooperation from Georgia as one of the reasons behind its failure to investigate alleged crimes.