Georgian armed forces, South Ossetia forces, and Russian armed forces were in conflict in 2008
The ICC says it has "reliable information about alleged crimes in Georgia by all three parties involved"
The International Criminal Court in The Hague has authorized an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Georgia and Russia during the conflict in the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the court said Wednesday.
“The investigation will take as long as needed to gather the required evidence,” said Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. “The victims who suffered the terrible consequences of this conflict deserve no less.”
Prosecutors requested the go-ahead to start the investigation last October, after reviewing “reliable information about alleged crimes in Georgia by all three parties involved: Georgian armed forces, South Ossetia forces, and Russian armed forces,” Bensouda said.
Wednesday’s decision marks the start of the investigative process, which will cover the period from July 1, 2008, to October 10, 2008, according to a statement by the court. The identification of possible suspects will come at a later stage after more evidence is collected.
It is the court’s first inquiry into possible war crimes committed by Russia.
Tensions escalated in August 2008, when then-Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili sent troops to regain control over the Russian-backed self-proclaimed autonomous region. Russia responded by moving tanks and soldiers through South Ossetia and advancing farther into Georgian territory.
During the five-day conflict, nearly 200 serviceman and 228 civilians from Georgia were killed, according to an EU fact-finding report. Sixty-seven Russian servicemen and 365 South Ossetian servicemen and civilians also lost their lives in the conflict.
A ceasefire agreement was brokered by France and signed a few days later by Saakashvili and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
While Moscow recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, they remain officially part of Georgia but have separate governments.