#GlobalJustice Weekly / South Ossetia war victims appeal to ICC

Residents of Tskhinvali pass destroyed homes in the city center. August 21, 2008. © 2008 Marcus Bleasdale/VII
Editors

Victims of 2008 Georgia armed conflict appeal for ICC assistance

Georgian civil society is calling for increased engagement from the ICC with victims of the 2008 armed conflict in Georgia. Ten years after the conflict involving Georgia and Russia and South Ossetian separatists, no prosecutions have been brought at the ICC or in national courts for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

Speaking to Justice Hub during a mission to The Hague in April 2018, Georgian Coalition for the ICC (GCICC) Chair Nino Tsagareishvili said that civil society is “very eager to try our best to bring the voices of the victims to the ICC. It is frustrating that it takes such a long time.”

"To be honest, so many years have passed since the war that they don't really have much hope. Of course, there are some people who never lose hope and are still very optimistic despite the serious problems. In general I would say victims don't really trust that this process can bring any tangible results. That's the picture that I get. But there are some people who have hope," said Tsagareishvili .

A new report by FIDH and the Human Rights Centre detailed the continued impact of the war on the region and the lack of access to justice for victims.

During a lecture at Leiden University, the NGO delegation "called upon the ICC to dedicate the necessary resources and adopt prosecutorial and outreach strategies for the Georgia investigation, that would bring the ICC to take concrete steps towards the issuance of arrest warrants and to effectively reach out to victims and affected communities."

The Georgian Young Lawyers Association also recently met with IDPs in the region, and has announced that they will be releasing a report on the situation this year.

The push for a greater prioritization of the Georgia situtation at the ICC has been constant since the opening of the investigation and comes as part of the project Participation of Civil Society in the Investigation of the Situation of Georgia by the International Criminal Court. The project is implemented by 5 NGOs members of the Georgian National CICC - Human Rights Center, Article 42 of the ConstitutionGeorgian Young Lawyers Association (GCRT), Georgian Center for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (GCRT), the Human Rights Centre (HRIDC) and Justice International

In January 2016, the ICC opened an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by all parties to the August 2008 South Ossetia conflict, including Georgia, Russia and South Ossetian separatist rebels. A preliminary examination had been open since 2008. In January 2018, the ICC opened a field office in Tiblisi. 

ICC GEORGIA

Liberian war crimes suspect sentenced to 30 years in US court

A Liberian national known as “Jungle Jabbah” has been sentenced in the US to 30 years in prison for immigration fraud. Jungle Jabbah lied to US officials when he claimed he had never belonged to an armed group.

Civitas-Maxima, a network of international lawyers which assisted prosecutors in the Jabbateh case, also welcomed the result. “There is such impunity in Liberia for perpetrators of very serious crimes that this was very empowering,” said director Alain Werner.

Amnesty International welcomed the conviction, saying although the conviction was not related to his alleged crimes in Liberia, it was the first element of justice for victims of the country's civil war. Amnesty International’s West Africa Researcher Sabrina Mahtani called for further justice for victims in Liberia, urging authorities to “establish a criminal court to try crimes under international law and ensure those responsible are held to account.”

Twenty-four witnesses, including 17 Liberian victims who were flown over to the US, gave evidence in the trial. Massa Washington, a former commissioner on Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recalls the importance of justice for victims in Liberia, where people still live in fear of reprisals for speaking out. “Because of the viciousness of the war. People think if I point out this guy here my mother is back home, my brother is back home, my child is back home”.

Amnesty has previously appealed to Liberian president George Weah to ensure accountability for crimes and justice for victims.

 

ICC investigations

Libya: The International Work Group for Libya has accused the UAE and Egypt of undermining the national reconciliation efforts by bribing UNSMIL employees to favour one political party over another. The group also claimed Egypt has been attempting to disperse the efforts to unite the Libyan military institution.

Afghanistan: The UN has expressed its outrage and revulsion at an attack in Kabul on Sunday, where a suicide bomber at an election facility left at least 30 people dead. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said this attack must not deter Afghan citizens from "from carrying out their constitutional right to take part in forthcoming elections”.

DRC: Human Rights Watch has expressed its concern over IDPs who have been told to return home to the Djugu territory by the Congolese authorities, despite allegations from civilians who claim the region is still dangerous.

 

Preliminary examinations

Colombia: Jean Arnault, UN Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of Verification Mission in Colombia, addressed the UN this week on the first elections that were held in the country since the 2016 peace deal between the FARC-EP and the Colombian Government. The elections were held in mid-March and the Arnault stated that there is “a confirmed the trend towards a reduction of electoral violence” in the country.

 

Campaign for global justice

Brussels II Conference: The conference hosted by the EU and the UN this week brought together world leaders and civil society to discuss a political solution to the Syria crisis. The first day of the Conference was devoted to a discussion with representatives from 164 NGOs, including 15 from Syria and 72 from the three main refugee-hosting countries.

Karadzic Appeal: The MICT in the Hague has heard the oral arguments in an appeal against the conviction of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who was sentenced in 2016 on nine counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

ICC Rohingya jurisdiction request: The Women’s Initiative for Gender Justice has called for sexual and gender based violence to be included in the ICC OTP’s possible investigation into forcible deportation of Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh. SGBV could be seen as a coersvie factor for the purposes of establishing the crime of deportation.

Bemba Appeal: Bemba is seeking access to all confidential records related to his assets and financial status that are in possession of the ICC Registry.  Bemba’s representative in his trial over witness tampering claims these records are needed in preparing sentencing submissions.

Tanzania:  The Tanzanian government has said it has no plans to withdraw from the ICC. It has stated that any reforms sought should be worked for within the Court system.

Around the world

Peacebuilding: A High Level Meeting on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace was held this week at UN Headquarters in New York, where world leaders discussed methods of diplomacy, dialogue and mediation as ways to stop conflicts before they break out.

Iraq: Human Rights Watch has condemned the collective punishment being carried out by security forces in Iraq, who are denying immediate relatives of suspected ISIS members clearance to reclaim homes being occupied or to seek compensation. HRW say the act is based solely on family relationships and not individual security determinations.