The South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders

Five Georgian NGOs Appealed to the Justices of the International Criminal Court
With coordination by the Open Society Georgia Foundation, five Georgian non-governmental organizations, among them are three members of the HRHT, addressed their written statement to the justices of the International Criminal Court concerning the commencement of investigation into the war crimes and crimes against humanity possibly committed during the August 2008 war. 

The statement has been signed off by the Article 42 of the Constitution, the Human Rights Center, the Center for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims and the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA).
“On 13 October 2015, Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, addressed the Court with a request for authorizing investigation into the situation in Georgia before and after the 2008 war. Namely, the investigation shall cover the period from July 1 to October 10, 2008.

During her visit to Georgia in October this year, Fatou Bensouda informed the victims and their representatives that they could submit their views about issues/needs related to the commencement of investigation before November 12, 2015.  By submitting this Appeal, the above-listed Georgian non-governmental organizations acting on behalf of the victims of the 2008 war, support the Prosecutor’s request for authorizing the commencement of investigation and request that the scope of investigation be expanded. The NGOs believe, the International Criminal Court should uphold the Prosecutor’s request for authorizing investigation and the investigation has to cover possible acts of torture committed against Georgian prisoners of war as well as unlawful detention and inhuman treatment of civilians; eviction of Georgians from the Kodori Gorge and destruction of their property should also be investigated. The motion submitted by Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on 13 October 2015, which concerns investigation into allegations of forcible displacement of Georgians, attacks on peacekeepers, persecution on account of ethnic belonging, destruction of enemy property and pillaging, contemplates only the South Ossetian territory as a place of commission of these alleged crimes,” the NGOs stated in the Appeal.

The victims of the war are of the view that it is necessary that the International Court conduct investigation, since they have been unable to have their breached rights restored so far. The victims’ expectation is that the independent investigation will lead to punishment of all those responsible.

Executive director of Human Rights Center Aleksandre Tsktishvili: “On October 13, 2015 the Prosecutor of the ICC appealed to the justices of the Court to commence investigation into the alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during 2008 August war in the territory of South Ossetia, Georgia. At the same time, the victims were allowed to submit applications with their stories to the ICC within 1 month’s time, before November 13, 2015. The NGOs, including Human Rights Center and our partner organizations, who had worked with the victims soon after the 2008 August war, actively participated in this process. We had submitted up to 130 applications to the European Court of Human Rights, where we defend interests of the people victimized during the war. This time, we prepared applications for The Hague Court. We also prepared and submitted applications of new applicants to the Court. Our lawyers assisted applicants both in the office and in the villages. They made field visits to Ergneti and Nikozi villages, where applications of new applicants were filled in and then prepared for submission. At the moment, Tamar Avaliani, lawyer of Human Rights Center, who worked on the applications to the ICC, is in The Hague participating in the meetings with the ICC representatives and international organizations to plan further activities.

Another significant issue: the Notice of Fatou Bensouda did not mention Kodori Gorge, where, like in South Ossetia, war crimes and crimes against humanity were allegedly committed too.  We underlined this fact in our Appeal and request the justices of the ICC to investigate alleged crimes not only in the territory of South Ossetia but in Kodori Gorge too. Apart to the investigation of the eviction of ethnic Georgians from the Gorge and destruction of their properties, they should also investigate alleged facts of torture of Georgian military prisoners and illegal restriction of freedom, as well as inhuman treatment of Georgian civilians. All these crimes are under jurisdiction of the ICC.”

Nino Elbakidze, executive director of the Article 42 of the Constitution: “It was notice of Ms. Fatou Bensouda to the International Criminal Court in October, 2015 to request commencement of the investigation into the alleged crimes committed in the territory of Georgia during the August 2008 armed conflict. It covers period from June 1 to October 10, 2008 and crimes committed in Shida Kartli region (Tskhinvali, Gori districts). Applications prepared by the Article 42 referred to three crimes: first - murders, shooting people, robbery and looting, bombing that damaged civilians; second – civilian prisoners of war, who were placed in Tskhinvali prison and third – crimes committed in Kodori Gorge. The Gorge was not mentioned in the prosecutor’s notice and in order to widen the scope of the investigation as well as authority of Ms. Fatou Bensouda, we sent applications about the cases from Kodori Gorge too. Our organization has more than 300 beneficiaries.”

Giorgi Janelidze

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