Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, who has been authorized by ICC judges to investigate alleged crimes committed in the lead up to, during, and after the August, 2008 war in Georgia, said the probe “will take as long as needed to gather the required evidence.”
“Today’s decision by the judges marks the start of the investigative process,” she said. “Identifying eventual suspects will only come at a later stage and will be strictly informed by the evidence we collect.”
The decision of three-judge pre-trial chamber of The Hague-based ICC on January 27 came over three months after the ICC prosecutor filed a 160-page request asking judges to authorize opening of the investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the Georgia-Russia war in 2008.
The request, which the Prosecutor filed on October 13, was detailing alleged crimes attributed to the Georgian, Russian and South Ossetian sides, and was also accompanied by confidential annex, including a list of “persons or groups that appear to be the most responsible for the most serious crimes, with an indication of their specific role.”
“My Office’s own investigators will collect evidence, from a variety of sources,” Prosecutor Bensouda said in a statement.
“Only if and when the evidence my Office collects during the investigation provides reasonable grounds to believe that a person has committed ICC crimes, do we proceed to the next phase,” she said.
“When that time comes, I may request the judges to issue an arrest warrant or summons to appear for those individuals who our evidence shows to be criminally responsible.”
She said that the investigation, “as in all cases and with all our work, will be independent and impartial.”
“We do not provide any details of any aspect of our investigative activities while they are ongoing; they are completely confidential,” the ICC Prosecutor said.
“The Office counts on the full support and cooperation of all the parties throughout the investigation,” she added.
Georgia, as a state party to the Rome Statute, will be obligated to fully cooperate with ICC – something that will not apply to Russia, because it is not an ICC member.
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.