Redress for victims of the 2008 war depends on efficient ICC investigations and genuine national proceedings

Press release
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(Paris-Tbilisi) From 23 to 27 April 2016, FIDH and Human Rights Center (HRIDC) conducted a joint evaluation mission in Georgia in the context of the opening of the investigation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) into international crimes committed in Georgia during the 2008 war. The delegation met with war-affected communities and representatives of national authorities, Georgian civil society organisations and victims’ lawyers. Following the recently opened ICC investigation, our organisations recall the importance of national authorities’ full cooperation with the Court and of effective national proceedings to ensure long-awaited truth, justice and reparation for victims.

"There is a great need to reach out to victims and conflict affected communities to explain the mandate and possibilities of the ICC. The awareness of Georgian general public about the ICC should be raised and the capacity of Georgian authorities and civil society strengthened, which is essential for a meaningful impact of ICC proceedings at national level"

Nino Tlashadze, HRIDC Deputy Executive Director.

During the delegation’s visit to the area adjacent to the administrative borderline with South Ossetia, including to Ergneti village, our organisations were able to confirm victims’ strive for justice and reparation that is reinforced by the economic, social and psychological consequences of the armed conflict that, eight years after, still affect them and have not been adequately addressed. Villagers also expressed their support to reconciliation efforts between war-affected communities, which is unfortunately undermined by the persisting climate of insecurity for the inhabitants of the borderline areas. Indeed, hostage takings of civilians still occur and the construction of barbed-wire frontiers and fences, which actually moved the Russia controlled administration borderline further into Georgia controlled territories, causing new property and land losses for the local population, only reinforce this climate.

"The importance of ICC investigation cannot be overestimated in the region. It sends the signal that disputed entities, like South Ossetia, cannot be zones of impunity and that those most responsible for these crimes must be held accountable"

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

Our organisations also reiterate the need for national authorities to fully cooperate with the ICC, which will essentially target those who bear the greatest responsibility for the crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the 2008 war. At the same time, it is essential that Georgian authorities ensure effective national investigations and prosecutions of all those responsible, thus ensuring victims’ genuine access to justice. Yet only a minority of victims are said to have been granted victims status in national judicial proceedings and victims’ lawyers, whom FIDH met, reported not having access to the case files, preventing them from assessing and acting upon the effectiveness of national proceedings.


Clashes between the Georgian army and South Ossetian paramilitary groups escalated in the early days of August 2008, leading to an intervention by the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the side of South Ossetia on 10 August 2008. By 12 August 2008 a ceasefire had been negotiated, though crimes continued to be committed. Russia agreed to withdraw its forces by 10 October 2008.

According to the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia (IIFFMCM), approximately 850 civilians were killed in the conflict while upwards of 100,000 people were forced to flee their homes. 

In 2008, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor opened a preliminary examination related to the conflict in Georgia as it was still ongoing. The conflict notably led to the forcible displacement of tens of thousands of ethnic Georgians. Investigation and prosecution of such massive displacement would be an important first for the ICC. 

After examining the ICC Prosecutor’s request of 13 October 2015 to open an investigation, supported by submissions made on behalf of 6,335 victims, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber concluded that "there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction have been committed" in and around South Ossetia and that an investigation should be opened. Such crimes include crimes against humanity, such as murder, forcible transfer of population and persecution, and war crimes, such as attacks against the civilian population, wilful killing, intentionally directing attacks against peacekeepers, destruction of property and pillaging allegedly committed in the context of an international armed conflict between 1 July and 10 October 2008.
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