Georgia has asked the International Court of Justice to take emergency measures against Russia, in a push to end what it says is "a campaign of harassment and persecution" by Russian military forces in Georgian territory.
The World Court case opens a new front in the battle between Moscow and Tbilisi for control of the Georgian breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Lawyers for the Tbilisi government told the 15-judge court in The Hague Monday that ethnic Georgians in both territories have been targeted for murder. They say tens of thousands of others have been forced from their homes, and that intimidation and ethnic cleansing are continuing despite a cease-fire.
Russia's lawyers challenged the court's jurisdiction in the case. They have also said Russia had no choice but to respond to a Georgian attack on Russian peacekeepers and civilians in South Ossetia.
The court is first expected to rule on whether it has jurisdiction in the case, before deciding whether to impose any immediate measures to protect civilians. It remains unclear whether Moscow will accept a ruling from the court, which has no way of enforcing its decisions.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.