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The Hagueian trouble in Georgia

By Marita Sparrer-Dolidze
Thursday, November 7
There is a close connection between Russo-Georgian war investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and today’s violations of Georgian citizens’ rights by Russian occupiers. It is the ICC’s aim of holding those accountable for their crimes and helping in prevention of such crimes happening again, that was supposed to balance the current situation in de-facto border areas in South Ossetia.

The Court, trying to end impunity, does not seem to notice what’s been happening to Georgian citizens for a long time now. Here are some facts from 2017-2019: July 2017 – Russian occupiers kidnapped 2 Georgian citizens, Tengiz Kajilov and Vasil Bolotaev from Tsitelubani village; April 2018 – Eldar Gundiashvili and Teimuraz Kaziev were arrested in Adzvi village; July 2018 – Vasil Salamashvili, living in Sakorintlo village, was unlawfully arrested; August 2019 – Ioseb Dvalishvili was kidnapped from Mejvriskhevi village.

The nervousness over whether the Hague will eventually fail Georgia requires appropriate treatment. What are the odds that inaction in the Hague will give the Russian occupiers cold feet when it comes to abducting Georgian citizens? Delivering information to the target audience regarding civil rights and freedoms, that are recognized by both international and domestic jurisdictions, seems to be a part of the solution. However, the means of educating citizens on their rights and freedoms require vigorous involvement of local and international agents specialising in this field. Existence of such institutions is vital to Georgian citizens living close to, or directly at, the de-facto border, considering the national context of the country.

By depositing an instrument of ratification to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Georgia accepted the ICC jurisdiction over crimes committed within our internationally recognized territories (‘or by its nationals’) since December 2003 – that’s when the Statute entered into force for Georgia. Yet, we look embarrassingly weak in the Court concerning the 2008 investigation of Russo-Georgia war crimes committed between 1 July and 10 October 2008. Truth be told, that is not entirely our fault. Nika Jeiranashvili, Executive Director of Justice International, in his International Justice Monitor commentary claims that ICC keeps ignoring the local developments in Georgia and, consequently, “risks becoming an irrelevant and untrustworthy institution for Georgian public.” No wonder, assuring the safety and enforcement of internationally recognized rights of Georgian citizens in conflict regions doesn’t come quite so easily to the Georgian state.

In terms of violating the rights of citizens during the 2008 war, the Georgian side is less complicated to defend - detached from subjective opinions, Georgia followed the United Nations directive on the principle of use of force. Instead of enabling preemptive self-defense and using armed forces against the known immediate threat, which is generally allowed by the United Nations Charter, we did use force when responding to an “armed attack,” clearly laid out in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

The rights of Georgian citizens living in the South Ossetian de-facto border villages are not only unobserved but also cruelly violated daily. Therefore, merely establishing a strong foundation for civil education cannot do enough until palpable results from the ICC arrive. Bearing in mind the trends in the Hague, the justice firework show will not launch anytime soon.