Stalled domestic proceedings prompt ICC investigation in Georgia
In January 2016, ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I authorized the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to open an investigation into alleged grave crimes committed in and around South Ossetia between 1 July and 10 October 2008. The Chamber had received the representations by or on behalf of 6,335 victims of the conflict on 4 December 2015.
In its October 2015 request to judges, the OTP concluded that there was a reasonable basis to believe that crimes under ICC jurisdiction were committed in South Ossetia, and in areas in a “buffer zone,” from at least 7 August to 10 October 2008. These may include alleged war crimes committed in the context of forcible displacement of ethnic Georgians from South Ossetia, as well as attacks against peacekeepers and several counts of crimes against humanity.
The ICC prosecutor is investigating alleged crimes committed on the territory of Georgia by all individuals, regardless of their citizenship.
The OTP had been examining the situation in Georgia since 14 August 2008 in order to determine whether an investigation was warranted.
The final phase of the OTP primary assessment examined whether effective national investigations were taking place into the alleged crimes in Georgia and Russia. The OTP’s request to judges concluded that obstacles and delays hampered investigations in both countries and that an ICC investigation was necessary as national proceedings in Georgia have recently stalled.
Although Georgian authorities reportedly carried out some investigations into alleged crimes committed during the 2008 war, ICC judges decided that South Ossetia could not conduct legitimate proceedings as an unrecognized state.
Georgia ratified the Rome Statute in 2003, giving the Court jurisdiction over ICC crimes committed on Georgian territory after December 2003, regardless of the perpetrators’ citizenship. Georgia has fully aligned its legislation with the Statute to be able to investigate and prosecute Rome Statute crimes at the national level and to cooperate with the Court.
Civil society activities
Since 2008, members of the Georgian Coalition for the ICC and other Coalition members have monitored national investigative efforts and have repeatedly called on the OTP to open an investigation into the situation in Georgia due to the lack of effective national proceedings. Given the broadness of the authorized investigation, active Coalition members in Georgia have urged the ICC prosecutor to equally consider sexual and gender-based crimes, torture, and crimes that occurred in Abkhazia – another Georgian breakaway region.
Coalition members in Georgia hold workshops and conduct awareness-raising activities to enhance the local population’s and media’s understanding of the Court and its mandate, and encourage states, as well as regional and international bodies, to ensure full cooperation with the Court.