The prosecutor of The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan today filed an application for warrants of arrest of three South Ossetian officials with reasonable grounds to believe that they bear criminal responsibility for the war crimes committed in and around S. Ossetia, during August 8-27, 2008.
These officials are Lt.-Gen. Mikhail Mindzaev, de facto interior minister in 2005-2008; Hamlet Guchmazov, Head of the Preliminary Detention facility of the de facto interior ministry at the time of events; and David Sanakoev, de facto presidential representative for human rights in S. Ossetia.
According to the ICC prosecutor, the three men bear criminal responsibility over unlawful confinement, torture, inhuman treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, hostage taking, and unlawful transfer.
“My application for these warrants of arrest focuses specifically on unlawful confinement, ill-treatment, hostage taking and subsequent unlawful transfer of ethnic Georgian civilians in the context of an occupation by the Russian Federation.”
Karim Khan also said the investigation further uncovered the alleged role of Vyacheslav Borisov, then Major General in the Russian Armed Forces and Deputy Commander of the Airborne Forces, “who is believed to have intentionally contributed to the execution of some of these crimes, and is now deceased.”
According to ICC, almost immediately after the Georgian forces were driven out of S. Ossetia, Russian forces and – primarily – S. Ossetian forces began capturing Georgian civilians, mostly the elderly and sick who were unable or unwilling to abandon their homes and flee the fighting.
“They were not given a valid reason for their capture and detention, nor were they afforded any kind of procedural right. The evidence shows that many of these people were unlawfully confined in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, insulted, beaten, tortured and humiliated.”
“My Office has made findings of similar patterns of conduct during its preliminary examination of the Situation in Ukraine. I remain profoundly concerned about ongoing allegations of international crimes occurring amidst active hostilities in Ukraine today,” the ICC prosecutor continued.
“Should the Pre-Trial Chamber approve my application for these warrants of arrest, I will be working closely with the Registrar in all efforts to apprehend these three individuals. Going forward, I count on the support by all States, especially States Parties to the Rome Statute, to ensure they are brought to trial before the International Criminal Court,” Karim Khan concluded.
Background on ICC Investigation
The Hague-based International Criminal Court 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.
ICC Prosecutor requested opening of 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 welcomed the ICC’s decision to open the investigation; Russia criticized it. Georgia, as a state party to the Rome Statute through which the ICC was established, was obligated to fully cooperate with ICC – something that does not apply to Russia, because it is not an ICC member.