In October last year, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked for authorization to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Georgia, for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in and around South Ossetia in 2008. On Dec. 4, 2015, the court received the representations by or on behalf of 6,335 victims on this matter.
“After examining the request and the supporting material, the chamber concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction have been committed in the situation in Georgia,” said the ICC in a press release.
“Such crimes include crimes against humanity, such as murder, forcible transfer of population and persecution, and war crimes, such as attacks against the civilian population, willful killing, intentionally directing attacks against peacekeepers, destruction of property and pillaging allegedly committed in the context of an international armed conflict between July 1 and Oct. 10, 2008,” it added.
The chamber that took the decision is composed of Judge Joyce Aluoch, Judge Cuno Tarfusser and Judge Peter Kovacs.
In a separate concurring opinion, Judge Kovacs said that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the Georgia situation. But he said he differs with the majority’s view on the scope and extent of the judicial control of the prosecutor’s request, on the chamber’s role in examining and eventually rectifying the prosecutor’s assessment of the alleged crimes under the court’s jurisdiction, and on the scope and the level of details required for the admissibility assessment.
South Ossetia and Abkhazia broke away from Tbilisi’s rule during a war in the 1990s that followed the collapse of the former Soviet Union. Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war in August 2008, when Georgia attacked South Ossetia to retake the renegade region that borders Russia.
In response, Moscow sent in troops to drive Georgian forces out of the region. Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states two weeks after the conflict ended.
Hundreds of people were reported dead during the conflicts. Villages, towns and the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali were largely destroyed. Tens of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes.
Georgia joined the ICC in 2003, giving the court jurisdiction over crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed on its territory or by its nationals. Russia has not joined the ICC.
Under the ICC treaty, the prosecution can seek to open an investigation on its own motion, without a request by either a country or the UN Security Council. But it first needs the authorization of an ICC pre-trial chamber.
Judges will rely on the materials submitted by the prosecution to determine whether there is a “reasonable basis” to proceed. Victims may also make their views known to the pre-trial chamber. Enditem