The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) said Thursday that its prosecutor has called for an inquiry into allegations of war crimes committed during the Russia-Georgia conflict in 2008.
A three-member pre-trial chamber of the court is expected to review the notification from Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of her intention “to submit a request to a Pre-Trial Chamber for authorization to open an investigation into the situation in Georgia,” the ICC said in a statement.
“There is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court have been committed in Georgia in the context of the armed conflict of August 2008,” the ICC statement said.
If the chamber approves the move, it would be the first such investigation conducted by the court outside of Africa. The court is also considering whether to open an investigation into crimes committed in Moscow-backed secessionist eastern Ukraine,
This is the second time that an ICC prosecutor has attempted to examine the possibility of war crimes committed during the brief, five-day conflict between Russia and Georgia. In 2010 a former ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, had looked into the allegations of war crimes in Georgia. Both Georgian and Russian officials had briefed the ICC about the events surrounding the war.
Georgia's then-president Mikheil Saakashvili, who was supported by the West, ordered an offensive to reclaim South Ossetia on August 7, 2008. Russian forces quickly reacted, entering Georgia’s territory. Ever since, South Ossetia has been a frozen conflict.
According to the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees, several hundred people are believed to have died, and over 138,000 were temporarily displaced.
Georgia is a state party to the founding Rome Statute of the ICC, and as such it has jurisdiction over crimes committed on its territory. Russia is not a state party to the ICC.