WP: Investigation of 2008 War Getting Out of Africa for ICC?

The Washington Post has published an article yesterday analysing the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) approval of the opening of an official investigation into the 2008 war in Georgia.

“Prosecutors will focus on the ethnic cleansing of Georgians from the breakaway region of South Ossetia, as well as an attack by Georgian forces on a Russian peacekeeping base. The ICC’s intervention into the conflict between Georgia, Russia and Moscow-backed belligerents in South Ossetia represents the court’s first investigation into a situation outside the African continent,” the publication reads.

The article raises a number of questions: Why did the court decide to open an investigation outside Africa? Who will be targeted for prosecution? And what could be the fallout for all the states involved in the 2008 war?

According to Mark Kersten, the writer of the article, the decision to intervene in Georgia is likely due to a confluence of factors. “First, the court had the 2008 war under preliminary examination for nearly half a decade. Had Georgia demonstrated that it was willing to investigate, and potentially prosecute, the crimes itself, it could have foreclosed any ICC intervention. However, when Tbilisi ended its investigations into the alleged crimes perpetrated in 2008, it became untenable for the ICC to simply keep those crimes under examination indefinitely. Second, for an institution that seeks to command relevancy in international politics, it certainly does not hurt that there is a broader narrative vilifying Moscow and its role in the region. Whether or not the court targets Russian officials, investigating Russian conduct captures that broader, if not always helpful, international narrative condemning Russian aggression.”

The publication emphasizes that the ICC’s investigation in Georgia will also be telling for a host of other reasons, in particular, how will the institution treat the territory of South Ossetia: as a self-professed independent republic or as part of Georgia?  “How will Tbilisi’s Western allies, especially the United States, react to the court’s investigation? Will Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president and staunch ally of the United States, be implicated? Could Saakashvili — now a governor in Eastern Ukraine facing corruption and abuse of power charges in Georgia — become a scapegoat for his adversaries in Tbilisi? Only time will tell. But the drama, for all of the actors involved, has only just begun.”

On January 27th 2016, the office of the Prosecutor of the ICC was authorized by Judges in the Pre-Trial Chamber I to commence an investigation into the alleged ICC crimes occurring on the territory of Georgia between 1 July 2008 and 10 October 2008.

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06 February 2016 14:41