The International Criminal Court (ICC) said on Thursday that its prosecutor is seeking authorization to open investigation into alleged crimes committed during the August, 2008 war in Georgia.
it will be up to three-judge panel of pre-trial chamber of The Hague-based Court to decide whether or not to authorize the Prosecutor to open the investigation.
ICC was established in 2002 by the Rome Statute to prosecute people for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Unlike Russia, Georgia is a state party to the Rome Statute.
ICC prosecutor’s move to seek authorization for investigation comes after more than seven years of “preliminary examination” of the case.
“Preliminary examination” is the phase during which ICC 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.
“On the basis of the information available, Prosecutor [Fatou] Bensouda has concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court have been committed in Georgia in the context of the armed conflict of August 2008,” The Hague-based ICC said in a statement on October 8.
During the “preliminary examination”, the ICC prosecutor’s office was keeping communication with the Georgian and Russian authorities and following their respective investigations into alleged crimes committed during the war.
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 the December, 2014 report on preliminary examination activities, ICC prosecutor’s office said that there was “a reasonable basis to believe that South Ossetian forces carried out a widespread and systematic attack against the ethnic Georgian civilian population… in the period from August 2008 through October 2008 that amounted to the crime against humanity.” It also said that the information available on the alleged attack on the Russian peacekeeping forces in Tskhinvali “remains inconclusive.” The report, however, also suggests that these initial assessments may be revisited if new facts or evidence emerge.
ICC prosecutor’s office also said in its December, 2014 report that while the national investigations were ongoing in both Georgia and Russia, “both sets of investigations have suffered from significant delays.”
“Progress in these investigations appears limited, and more than six years after the end of the armed conflict, no alleged perpetrator has been prosecuted, nor has there been any decision not to prosecute the persons concerned as a result of these investigations,” reads the report.
It says that the Georgian investigation was hampered by number of obstacles, including the lack of access to South Ossetia and lack of “mutual legal assistance” with Russia. According to the report the investigation was halted by three successive changes in the leadership of the Georgian Chief Prosecutor’s Office in late 2013.
Georgian Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani met President of the International Criminal Court, Judge Silvia Alejandra Fernández de Gurmendi, in The Hague on September 28.
Justice Minister Tsulukiani said on October 8, that Georgia is interested “ethnic cleansing” of the Georgian population in August, 2008 to be “completely investigated”.
She said the Georgian Chief Prosecutor’s Office has been actively cooperating with ICC prosecutor.
“But the only thing that we could not do is that we have no access to the occupied territories and the involvement in the process of Prosecutor Bensouda in the process, I hope, will help to address this issue,” she said.