Today, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court ("ICC" or the "Court"), Fatou Bensouda, requested authorisation from the Court's Judges to initiate an investigation into the alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in relation to the August 2008 armed conflict in Georgia. For this purpose, the Prosecutor requested to proceed with an investigation into the Situation in Georgia for the period from 1 July to 10 October 2008.
The Situation in Georgia has been under preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor since August 2008, when armed clashes between the breakaway region of South Ossetia and Georgia degenerated into an armed conflict, which also involved the Russian Federation.
The Prosecutor finds a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed in the context of the armed conflict. This includes alleged crimes committed as part of a campaign to expel ethnic Georgians from South Ossetia as well as attacks on peacekeepers by Georgian forces, on the one hand, and South Ossetian forces, on the other.
The information available to the Office of the Prosecutor indicates that between 51 and 113 ethnic Georgian civilians were killed as part of a forcible displacement campaign conducted by South Ossetia's de facto authorities, with the possible participation of members of the Russian armed forces. Between 13,400 and 18,500 ethnic Georgians were forcibly displaced and more than 5,000 dwellings belonging to ethnic Georgians were reportedly destroyed as part of this campaign. The Office of the Prosecutor alleges, based on the information in its possession, that these offences, together with attendant crimes of looting and destruction of civilian property, were committed on a large scale as part of a plan and in furtherance of a policy to expel ethnic Georgians from the territory in South Ossetia. As a result, the Prosecutor estimates that the ethnic Georgian population living in the conflict zone was reduced by at least 75 per cent.
The Prosecutor also finds a reasonable basis to believe that both South Ossetian and Georgian armed forces committed the war crime of attacking personnel or objects involved in a peacekeeping mission. Georgian peacekeepers were reportedly heavily shelled from South Ossetian positions, killing two Georgian peacekeepers and injuring five more. In a separate incident, ten Russian peacekeepers were reportedly killed and 30 wounded as a result of the attack against their facility by Georgian forces. The Russian peacekeeping force's base was reportedly destroyed, including a medical facility.
Until recently, the competent national authorities of both Russia and Georgia were engaged in conducting investigations against those who appeared to be most responsible for crimes which are the subject of this application. More recently, however, national proceedings in Georgia have stalled. With no foreseeable resumption apparent, and no other investigations in relation to such conduct underway in other States, the Prosecutor has assessed that the potential case relating to the forcible transfer of ethnic Georgians would be admissible due to State inaction. The potential case relating to the intentional directing of attacks against peacekeepers and peacekeeping facilities would be partially admissible at this stage, in consideration of on-going proceedings in the Russian Federation.
Furthermore, there are no substantial reasons to believe that the opening of an investigation would not serve the interests of justice, taking into account the gravity of the crimes and the interests of victims. Indeed, victims continue to call for justice in relation to these events.
The Prosecutor filed her request today. As required by Court's Regulations, the Prosecutor has also, today provided notice to victims or their legal representatives of her intention to request authorisation and informed them that they have 30 days to make representations to the Court's judges.
Should ICC Judges grant the Prosecutor authorisation to proceed, she will open an investigation into alleged crimes committed in the Situation in Georgia. As with all the activities of the Office of the Prosecutor, that investigation will be conducted with full independence and impartiality.
Based on the evidence collected by the Office during the course of the investigation, the Prosecutor may request ICC Judges to issue either summons to appear or arrest warrants against those believed to be most responsible, no matter who the perpetrator, for alleged atrocity crimes committed in Georgia.
The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecutions of the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Office of the Prosecutor has opened investigations in nine situations: Uganda; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur (Sudan); Central African Republic (on two occasions); Kenya; Libya; Côte d'Ivoire and Mali. The Office is also conducting preliminary examinations relating to the situations in Afghanistan, Colombia, Guinea, Honduras, Iraq/UK, Nigeria, Palestine and Ukraine.
Prosecution's Request for authorisation of an investigation pursuant to article 15 (full version)
Summary of the Prosecution's Request for authorisation of an investigation pursuant to article 15
Public Notice of the ICC Prosecutor to the victims of violence committed in the context of the August 2008 armed conflict in Georgia