TBILISI, (Reuters) – Georgia has filed a law suit against Russia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for ethnic cleansing, the secretary of Georgia’s Security Council, Kakha Lomaia, said on Tuesday.
Separately, International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he had been contacted about the conflict in Georgia’s breakaway province of South Ossetia and may launch a preliminary investigation.
The ICJ rules on nation versus nation disputes while the ICC was set up to try individuals for serious crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Both courts are based in The Hague in the Netherlands.
“Today, the Georgian ambassador to the Netherlands filed a law suit to the International Court of Justice called ‘The state of Georgia against the state of Russia’ because of ethnic cleansing conducted in Georgia by Russia in 1993 to 2008,” Lomaia told Reuters.
Fighting began last Thursday when Georgia sent its forces to retake control of South Ossetia, a pro-Russian province that rejected Georgian rule in the 1990s.
Moscow responded by sending in heavily armed troops, who quickly overwhelmed the Georgian soldiers.
Russia says 1,600 South Ossetian civilians have been killed, while Georgia has reported close to 200 killed and hundreds of wounded. Neither set of figures has been independently verified. The United Nations said on Tuesday that nearly 100,000 people had been driven from their homes. “We have started to receive communications on this,” the ICC’s Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters by telephone from The Hague.
Asked if he would be launching a preliminary investigation, he said: “It is a possibility.” He gave no further details.
The ICC was set up to try genocide and other war crimes where national judicial authorities had failed to investigate such crimes properly.
Moreno-Ocampo caused a diplomatic dispute last month when he asked the court’s judges to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide and war crimes in that country’s Darfur region.
A number of countries have said the move is counterproductive and risks derailing an already shaky joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur.