Documentation of warcrimes handed over to the ICC Prosecutor in The Hague
(20/11-2008) The Georgian Human Right Centre has handed over documentation detailing allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity during and after the armed conflict between Georgia and Russia to a representative of the Prosecutors Office of the International Criminal Court, Mr. Matthew Brubacher.
The meeting took place in The Hague, The Netherlands, on 19th of November. The Human Rights Centre has documented war crimes and crimes against humanity in the conflict zones throughout the fall of 2008 in cooperation with the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the Austrian Helsinki Association and Caucasia Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Studies. Regular visits have been carried out to the Gori, Tskhinvali, Kareli, Khashuri and Zugididi regions with the purpose of identifying victims and witnesses to crimes, and documenting such acts by conducting interviews and collecting photographic evidence from the places that suffered most because of the conflict.
Documented facts relate to alleged crimes committed by the armed forces of the Russian Federation or by paramilitary groups that acted and still continue to act in the Georgian territory that is effectively controlled by the Russian Federation. Research results from the town of Tskhinvali, describing violations of humanitarian law by the armed forces of Georgia is also included in the material.
The ICC was established by the 1998 Rome Statute of the ICC, which entered into force in 2002. It has jurisdiction over three categories of crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Georgia ratified the Rome Statute on 5 September 2003, accepting the jurisdiction of the Court with respect to crimes committed on its territory. Based on the fact finding carried out by the Georgian Human Rights Centre, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the Austrian Helsinki Association and Caucasia Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Studies there is evidence to suggest that two of the three categories of crimes that fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC took place during and after the August 2008 conflict. These are crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The persecution of individuals of Georgian ethnicity taking place from August until today, due to its grave, widespread and systematic character may constitute crimes against humanity. Use of indiscriminate and excessive force against civilians as well as civilian objectives combined with use of prohibited weapons, instances of extra-judicial killings, torture, rape and hostage taking constitute evident examples of war crimes. The material handed over to the ICC Prosecutor indicates that these acts took place both during and after the August 2008 conflict.
According to the Rome Statute 'complementarity principle' (Article 17), the ICC have to examine whether states are willing and able to conduct genuine investigation themselves of the alleged crimes. Only if the ICC establishes that the State(s) are unwilling or unable to carry out such investigations, the ICC Prosecutor has a right to use his proprio muto power and initiate the investigation on his own motion (Article 15).
The co-operating organisations continue their fact finding in the conflict region and will share all relevant documentation with the ICC Prosecutor’s Office.
Moreover, the organisations call on:
The Russian Federation to:
* Ensure that there is adequate security for the population of South Ossetia, including the Georgian population, and immediately stop the on-going persecution of civilians.
* Facilitate the unimpeded, voluntary return of the internally displaced people from Georgia to their native villages in South Ossetia.
* Investigate the numerous allegations that grave violations of humanitarian law and human rights have occurred during and after the armed conflict, irrespective of which side was responsible for the violations.
To the Georgian government:
* Set up security measures (e.g. police presence) for the civilian population in the de-facto border areas, while at the same time avoiding exacerbating tensions in the conflict zone.
* Investigate the numerous allegations of grave violations of humanitarian law and human rights that have occurred during and after the armed conflict, irrespective of which side was responsible for the violations.
* To enter the villages as soon as possible to assist in de-mining activities and locate unexploded ordinances, including cluster bombs.