Georgia: 11 Years since the August War: Current Challenges

09/08/2019
Press release

(Tbilisi, Paris, The Hague, Oslo) Eleven years have passed since the 2008 August War between Russia and Georgia, a devastating conflict with long-lasting consequences. However, over a decade later, justice has yet to be served – the perpetrators enjoy impunity, while the victims are still waiting for the restoration of their rights.

Hundreds of people were killed during the 2008 August War, numerous civilians were victimized and their fundamental rights violated. Serious crimes were committed on mass scale, including ethnic cleansing of the Georgian population living in the conflict region, murder, disappearance, destruction of property, forced displacement, illegal detention and captivity, torture and inhumane treatment.

These acts, which constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, are currently being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The investigation, opened in January 2016, faces significant challenges, including the lack of an active outreach and information campaign for victims’ communities and the wider public, the long period of time passed since the war and Russia’s refusal to cooperate. These challenges, which affect victims’ access to effective justice, are examined in detail in the recent report of the member organisations of the Georgian Coalition for the International Criminal Court – 10 Years after the August War – Victims of the Situation in Georgia.

The services offered by the state are insufficient to assist victims with the numerous problems they face. Socioeconomic problems are especially grave in the settlements for internally displaced people (IDPs), and include inadequate living conditions, lack of employment opportunities and medical services, no access to agricultural work, lack of sources of income and access to education.

Since the August War, the situation has deteriorated in the villages located along the dividing lines of Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The local population lives in fear as a result of the illegal detentions and kidnapping from the side of the Russian and so-called South Ossetian and Abkhazian border guards. Illegal detentions along the occupation line have taken place on a mass scale in recent years. Killing of ethnic Georgians in the occupied territories and along the occupation line are especially alarming. This ongoing impact on victims living near the Administrative Boundary Line is examined in detail in the FIDH-HRIDC 2018 report “Living on the edge: victims’ quest for accountability – The ongoing impact of the 2008 Russia-Georgia war”.

Considering the above, the bodies of the Georgian government must:
- Conduct effective investigations into the international crimes committed during the Russia-Georgia conflict of 2008 at the national level and inform the public regarding the progress of the investigations. Considering the gravity and scale of the crimes committed during the August War, all necessary measures must be taken so that the acts committed, including by Russian and South Ossetian perpetrators, do not stay unexamined and unpunished;
- Take relevant measures for the improvement of the socio-economic situation of IDPs, taking into consideration the individual needs of each IDP settlement.

At the same time, the Trust Fund for Victims must implement assistance programmes in order to support the victims.

As for the International Criminal Court, it must:
- Intensify awareness-raising campaigns and outreach activities in order to better inform the victims’ communities and wider society regarding the work of the Court and the ongoing investigation;
- Develop a strategy in order to tackle the challenges related to the ongoing investigation and ensure the effective implementation of its mandate for the restoration of justice for the victims.

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