Georgia’s Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani said that Tbilisi will continue to “cooperate actively” with The Hague-based International Criminal Court, which has authorized its prosecutor to open investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the lead up to, during, and after the August, 2008 war in Georgia.
“We welcome the fact that as a result of authorization [to open the investigation] the entire case will now completely fall under the legal framework and it will be a legal process during which we will continue to actively cooperate with [the ICC] Prosecutor,” the Georgian Justice Minister said on January 28.
“Based on this decision, which creates a good basis for us to actively cooperate [with ICC] in frames of this investigation, we will provide additional information to the ICC Prosecutor within one month – the timeframe given to us, as well as to Russia – in order for her [the ICC Prosecutor] to conduct impartial, independent and effective investigation,” she said.
“We have studied this decision and believe that formulations in the decision are right from the legal point of view and are also in line with Georgia’s national interests,” the Justice Minister said.
She pointed to those parts of the decision in which the ICC pre-trial chamber agrees with Prosecutor that South Ossetia is not recognized state and it should “be considered as part of Georgia” – as a result investigative proceedings undertaken by the de facto authorities in South Ossetia are not capable of meeting the Rome Statute requirement that the case has to be investigated by “a State which has jurisdiction over it.”
The Justice Minister also pointed out those parts of the decision which speak about attacks on ethnic Georgians in South Ossetian “reportedly committed with a view to forcibly expelling ethnic Georgians from the territory of South Ossetia in furtherance of the overall objective to change the ethnic composition of the territory, sever any remaining links with Georgia and secure independence.”
Tsulukiani also welcomed that the investigation will cover a period from July 1, 2008 – over one month prior to the war’s start – to October 10, 2008, when Russia withdrew troops from the areas it was occupying in Georgia beyond breakaway South Ossetia.
The Georgian Justice Minister also said that in parallel to ICC investigation Georgia should continue its reconciliation and “confidence-building efforts with our Ossetian brothers and sisters.”
“This investigation should not hinder building of united country where such conflicts, ethnic cleansings will never reoccur,” she said.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested to open the investigation in October, 2015 and identified the following crimes, which she “reasonably believes” fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC:
- “Killings, forcible displacements and persecution of ethnic Georgian civilians, and destruction and pillaging of their property, by South Ossetian forces (with possible participation by Russian forces)”;
- “Intentionally directing attacks against Georgian peacekeepers by South Ossetian forces; and against Russian peacekeepers by Georgian forces.”
Georgia, as a state party to the Rome Statute through which the ICC was established, is obligated to fully cooperate with ICC – something that does not apply to Russia, because it is not an ICC member.