Georgia: The ICC must address the ongoing impact on victims of the 2008 conflict crimes

Press release
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(Tbilisi, Paris) After a mission conducted by FIDH and its member organisation Human Rights Center (HRIDC) from 26 June to 4 July 2017 in Georgia, our organisations express deep concern at the on-going impact of international crimes committed in 2008 on victims and affected communities in Georgia. Mission delegates met with 45 persons in 10 villages close to the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) between Georgia and South Ossetia and one IDP settlement, where victims of crimes committed during the 2008 war continue to live in vulnerable economic and social conditions and in a highly volatile security situation and expressed strong request for genuine justice and reparations for the harm that they had suffered.

"One and a half years ago, the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened an investigation into the international crimes committed during the 2008 war. The ICC should take the ongoing impact of these crimes on victims and affected communities into account in the selection of its future cases in the Georgia situation. Even if a lot of victims have lost some hope, they are still expressing strong demands for accountability, justice and adequate measures of reparation. Victims need to be acknowledged and reached out to.”

Artak Kirakosyan, FIDH Vice-President

“I want peace and that perpetrators of the crimes be punished. (...) After nine years, I do not expect anything from national authorities. (…) Our hopes rely on Fatou Bensouda”, explained G. K., living in Dvani village, to FIDH-HRIDC delegates.

It is estimated that hundreds of civilians were killed during the 2008 conflict between Georgia and Russia, and up to 21,300 people were forcibly displaced from their homes [1]. Furthermore, victims also suffered from other war crimes and crimes against humanity, such as the destruction of property and pillage. To date, these victims continue to experience the psycho-social and economic consequences of the harm they suffered. Very few have received any form of psycho-social assistance from the State. Many of those spoken with relayed how they lost their land as a result of the imposition of the ABL and now have greatly reduced incomes. Others stated that they continue to live in fear, given that the ABL shifts every so often, encroaching further and further into Georgian territory. An occurrence that greatly restricts their freedom and makes them fearful of abductions by the South Ossetian de facto authorities.

“Most of the victims of the 2008 war who were forcibly displaced still suffer from the impossibility to return to their home and access their agricultural land now located on de facto Russia-controlled South Ossetia territory as a consequence of the war and the moving Administrative Boundary Line. This is an ongoing problem as only last week the South Ossetian de facto authorities claimed and occupied 10 additional hectares of land near Bershueti village, increasing the uncertain situation of communities living near the ABL.”

Nino Tlashadze, HRIDC Deputy Director

“If I was allowed to, I would be ready to go back, start from scratch and would even live in the cemetery where my deceased son is buried” explained G. G., living in Berbuki IDP settlement since December 2008, to FIDH-HRIDC delegates.

The ever-changing ABL renders the situation for conflict affected populations particularly insecure, given the important number of ’kidnappings’ by Russian and South Ossetian security forces of ethnic Georgians, alleged to have “illegally crossed the borderline”. The majority of these cases concern ethnic Georgians pasturing or harvesting their land close to the ABL, which is not always clearly marked or fenced. The State Security of Georgia registered 327 illegal detentions in 2016 and 504 in 2015. However, it is important to bear in mind that these cases are probably under-reported given the lack of means to adequately document them [2]. The majority of detained persons spend at least one week in detention in South Ossetia, and are only released after the payment of a ‘fine’ by family members. FIDH and HRIDC strongly condemn the restrictions on the freedom of movement of Georgians who have been living near the ABL for generations and also call upon the de facto South Ossetian authorities to respect the due process rights of detained persons.

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