Friday, June 25, 2010

Prosecuting International Crimes Committed in South Ossetia (Republic of Georgia)

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court stressed today that there must be no impunity for any serious crimes committed during the 2008 conflict in South Ossetia, Georgia, after they wrapped up an official visit to the Caucasus country.  A delegation from the ICC prosecutor’s office spent three days in Georgia this week as part of their preliminary examination to determine whether a formal investigation should be opened into the conflict, which pitted Georgian forces against South Ossetian and Russian forces.  The fighting in August 2008 killed hundreds of soldiers and civilians and displaced an estimated 160,000 people from their homes.

Georgia is a State Party to the Rome Statute that created the ICC, and as such the Court potentially has jurisdiction over crimes committed on Georgian territory, including the forced displacement of civilians, the killing of peacekeepers and attacks targeting civilians.

In a statement issued today from The Hague, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo stressed that the Rome Statute “ensures the end of impunity.” He added that States maintain the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute serious war crimes, with the ICC only stepping in if there are no genuine proceedings in the domestic court system. 

The prosecution delegation received briefings while in Georgia on the progress of national investigations into the conflict. They met the country’s chief prosecutor, the head of the Supreme Court, senior Government ministers and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  This was the second visit to Georgia by ICC prosecutors, who have also travelled previously to Russia to obtain information on national investigations in that country.

A preliminary examination serves as the first phase in the ICC process and is conducted to assess whether a formal investigation should be opened. The ICC currently has investigations open in five situations: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), northern Uganda, Sudan’s Darfur region, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Kenya.

(from a UN press release)

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