Hague tribunal issues arrest warrants in the August 2008 war case
August 2008 war case
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has issued arrest warrants for three people in connection with the August war:
- Lieutenant-General Mikheil Mindzaev who served as Minister of the Interior from 2005-2008;
- Hamlet Guchmazov, head of the pre-trial detention facility of the de facto South Ossetian Ministry of Internal Affairs;
- David Sanakoev, presidential representative for Human Rights of the so-called Tskhinvali region.
The list also includes Major-General Vyacheslav Borisov, the fourth accused in the case, who was then deputy commander of the Russian Air Force, but Borisov is dead.
According to Prosecutor Karim Khan, the arrest warrants documented by him relate in particular to the illegal detention, ill-treatment, hostage-taking and illegal transfer of ethnic Georgian civilians during the occupation by the Russian Federation. The investigation also revealed the alleged role of Major General Vyacheslav Borisov, Air Force of the Russian Federation, in a specific crime.
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According to the Office of the Prosecutor of the Hague Tribunal, as soon as the Georgian Armed Forces were expelled from the territory of South Ossetia, Russian forces – mainly South Ossetian forces – began to occupy the Georgian civilian population. Most of them were elderly or ill and did not have the ability to leave their homes. Also, the evidence showed that many of them were illegally detained and held in unsanitary and dangerous conditions, they were abused, beaten, tortured and humiliated.
According to the prosecutor, his office revealed facts of similar treatment during the preliminary investigation of the “situation in Ukraine”:
“I want to reiterate my call to all parties to such conflicts that the protection of international humanitarian law is not a matter of free choice. Those who have guns, those who are involved in armed conflict, carry the heavy burden of responsibility to act in accordance with international law. If they violate it, my office has the right to hold them accountable in accordance with the rule of law”, said Karim Khan.
On January 21, 2021, the European Court of Human Rights announced the final decision in the case “Georgia v Russia”.
Strasbourg found Russia responsible for violating six articles of the European Convention on Human Rights against Georgian citizens – including violations of the right to life, torture, burning and destruction of private property.
In the August war, Georgia accused Russia of violating Article 8 of the European Convention. In particular, Georgia considers that Russia violated the right to life during the war and in the post-war period, resorted to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment of Georgian citizens, violated the right to liberty and security, protection of private and family life, protection of property, and violated the right to education and freedom of movement.
The Strasbourg court clearly distinguished between the active hostilities that took place from 8 to 12 August and the events that took place as early as 12 August, from the signing of the ceasefire agreement.
The Strasbourg court almost fully upheld Georgia’s lawsuit in the part concerning Russia’s actions after August 12.
The European Court of Justice has ruled that Russia has exercised “effective control” over the conflict zone since 12 August, and that Russia is responsible for violating six articles of the Convention on Human Rights, including the right to life, torture and inhuman treatment.
The court did not satisfy the claim of Georgia, which is related to the events that took place during the active phase of the hostilities (from 8 to 12 August 2008), because it could not determine whether Russia excercised the so-called “effective control” in this particular period.
“The confrontation and fighting between the military forces was aimed at gaining control of the area, given the chaos, no one had established control there”, the court said.