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Russia accused of racial discrimination by Georgia at ICJ hearing

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, September 20
The public hearings on the case of Georgia v. Russian Federation were concluded by the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) on September 17. The sides have summarized the argumentations for Georgia’s claims that Russia violated its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination at the court. “The Hague court will make a particular judgment around the issue after the thorough investigation of the case the date of which will be announced in due course,” Tinatin Burjaliani, the First Deputy Minister of Justice told the media.

The Georgian suit, based on the United Nation’s Agreement on Human Rights, claims that Russia has been encouraging the Abkhazians and South Ossetians in terms of ethnic cleansing from the 1990s until 2008. Providing the sides with Russian arms and soldiers, the military intervention ended in terrible crimes against the Georgian peaceful population. Stressing that the judicial side of the case had been fully covered during the five days at the Court, Burjaliani said the Russian side had been trying hard to somehow prevent the ICJ from discussing the issue in future. “The first round of discussions has been a step forward for Georgia which means much for our country. It may take several months or years to fully study the case; there have been no particular deadlines defined as the court has to start studying the thousands of pages of arguments and objections provided by as before that,” she added.

The claims against the Russian Federation have been brought by Georgia. The Georgians insist that on August 12, 2008, Russia violated the International Convention by opening fire in the Georgian territories. But Russia claims that the ICJ has no jurisdiction to hear the case and requested the court to uphold Russia’s objections and to pronounce Georgia’s case against Russia as inadmissible. On a question to the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about the chances of Russia and Georgia in the Court in The Hague, the Minister suggested that the Court has yet to decide whether or not this issue is under its jurisdiction.

“This whole thing is political, not an attempt to achieve a judicial result. We hold that Georgia has somewhat artificially raised the issue, not least because it accuses Russia of violating since the early 90s the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. But until recently, Georgia had not filed such a lawsuit with any courts. On the night of August 7 to 8, 2008, Georgia also did not make accusations against us regarding any violation of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It applied to the Court only after Mr. Saakashvili’s gamble had failed,” Lavrov said, hoping that if the lawyers in the International Court of Justice are impartial, they will come to an unequivocal conclusion.

The sides presented their oral arguments before the court during the two rounds of public hearings held between September 13 and September 17. If the court decides in favor of Georgia and rules that it has jurisdiction, the ICJ will hold separate hearings later on the merits of the complaint.

Commenting on the issue, the analyst Zurab Abashidze found it difficult to give particular forecasts about the final judgment of the ICJ. “The specialists working on the case have the detailed information about the case. It will be quite difficult even for an analyst to forecast the process. However, the war is definitely a violation of all the international norms and rights and the Russian side knows that quite well. So it is by all means under the ICJ’s jurisdiction to make a precise judgment,” Abashidze stated.