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Russian-Georgian war will be under Hague International Court jurisdiction, ICC Prosecutor says

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, October 19
“Crimes that were allegedly committed on the territory of Georgia will be under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), no matter whether any side involved in the conflict is a member of the Rome Statute or not,” the top Prosecutor of the ICC in Hague, Netherlands Fatou Bensouda, told Georgian media on Friday.

She also said that she was satisfied with her meetings with Georgian officials and emphasized that the people who had been affected by Russian-Georgian war of 2008 wanted justice over the issue.

“My meeting with the victims of the war really brought their plight home to me,” Bensouda said.

She stressed that she does not intend to weaken or modify the role of any side involved in the conflict.

The Prosecutor, who arrived in Georgia late Thursday, met with Georgia’s Minister of Justice Thea Tsulukiani, Georgia’s Chief Prosecutor Giorgi Badashvili and victims of the Russian-Georgian war, discussing the details which she intended to investigate in the future.

In her own statement, Bensouda commented that unlike Georgia, Russia was not among the 123 member states of the international treaty known as the Rome Statute, the treaty which established the ICC at the end of 1990s.

However, she emphasised that the Court could investigate possible crimes committed on the territory of a country that was a signatory of the treaty focused on four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.

Bensouda stated that if, after her request, the judges of the ICC gave her permission to start an investigation into the war, “some ways would be found to carry out the investigation on the territory of Georgia’s de-facto region of Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) as well.”

During her assessments of the meeting, Tsulukiani said that one of the major directions of the investigation would be the alleged ethnic cleansing of Georgians in Tskhinvali, the torture of Georgian captives and the inhuman treatment of Georgian soldiers.

“In her earlier statement, Bensouda said that 75% less Georgians lived in Tskhinvali after the war. Thus, she said that the topic will be subject to a detailed study,” Tsulukiani said.

“We also stated that the investigation would not be comprehensive if the Prosecutor did not investigate the torture of Georgian soldiers: Giorgi Antsukhelidze, Kakha Khubuluri, Ushangi Sopromadze and 23 others,” Tsulukiani added.

Tsulukiani also appealed to the individuals affected by the war to address the ICC in the 30 day period and ask to be questioned and support the Prosecutor’s motion to investigate the war.

“We will shortly upload the information as to how they can do it on the webpage of the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry of Justice of Georgia has no right to get involved in the affairs of the affected people and the Prosecutor through other methods,” Tsulukiani said.

Two days ago, the Georgian Minister emphasised that the Georgian side was ready to provide all the documents to the ICC Prosecutor of the most large-scaled investigation ever in Georgia’s prosecution.

Tsulukiani stressed that six thousand witnesses have been questioned since August 2008 and a thousand of them have been interviewed again in recent months.

On October 14, Bensouda filed a request with the ICC Judges to investigate alleged instances of war crimes and crimes against humanity that took place during the short but violent clash seven years ago in Georgia.

In her request, Bensouda stressed there was "reasonable evidence” that crimes had been committed during the armed conflict.

Russia’s relevant bodies have already stated that only Georgia was to blame for starting the war and said they were sceptical of the planned investigation.