UN Court Orders Russia, Georgia to Protect Ethnic Groups

Rusiko Amirejibi-Mullen r.amirejibi-mullen at qmul.ac.uk
Thu Oct 16 15:46:45 UTC 2008


Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 15 Oct.'08 / 21:04

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered both Russia and  
Georgia to protect civilians in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as  
in adjacent areas.

In its application filed on August 12, Georgia claims Russia violated  
its obligations under the 1965 International Convention on the  
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) ?during three  
distinct phases of its interventions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia? in  
the period from 1990 to August 2008.

As such an application can take considerable time, Georgia in a  
separate request also asked the court to impose provisional measures  
on Russia ?as a matter of urgency? to stop, what it called, ethnic  
cleansing of the Georgian population in areas occupied by Russian  
forces in August. The October 15 ruling by the ICJ was made in  
response to this.

According to the ruling, the court decided by eight votes to seven  
that both Russia and Georgia should refrain from any act of racial  
discrimination against persons, groups of persons or institutions? and  
from ?sponsoring, defending or supporting? such acts.

In its provisional measures the court also indicated that both sides  
should ?do all in their power, whenever and wherever possible? to  
ensure security of persons; the right of persons to freedom of  
movement and residence; the protection of the property of displaced  
persons and of refugees.

It also said that both Russia and Georgia should facilitate and  
refrain from ?placing any impediment to humanitarian assistance in  
support of the rights? of the local population.

The ICJ ruling has also ordered both Russia and Georgia to inform the  
court about ?compliance with the above provisional measures.?

It also pointed out that the provisional measures which the court  
ordered ?have binding effect? and ?thus create international legal  
obligations which both Parties are required to comply with?.

The court has yet to decide whether it has jurisdiction to hear the  
original request by Georgia involving claims of a Russian violation of  
the 1965 convention on racial discrimination.

The court said that its decision on provisional measures in no way  
prejudges the question of the jurisdiction of the court to deal with  
the merits of the case or any questions relating to the admissibility  
of Georgia?s application against Russia.

Nika Gvaramia, the Georgian justice minister, convened a press  
conference a few hours after the UN court ruling and described it as a  
?huge victory? for Georgia in its legal battle with Russia.

?With today?s ruling the court has fully satisfied Georgia?s request,?  
Gvaramia said at the news conference. ?In particular, provisional  
measures were imposed on Russia, instructing it to refrain from any  
ethnic discrimination against Georgians, to refrain from sponsoring,  
protecting and supporting those separatist regimes, which are involved  
in ethnic discrimination.?

?I want to congratulate you on this great victory,? Gvaramia  
continued. ?It was one of the most important battles in a legal war  
and it ended in favor of Georgia. This is not only a legal victory;  
this is an important political victory as well.?

The government said in a statement released late on October 15: ?The  
Government of Georgia warmly welcomes the Court?s judgment, and will  
do everything in its power to ensure the measures enjoined by the  
Court are enforced throughout its territory.?

Kirill Gevorgian, Russia?s ambassador to The Netherlands, however,  
downplayed the ruling and said the provisional measures affected both  
sides and simply restated the commitments both Russia and Georgia have  
under the convention.

?It?s self-evident that we have and will fulfill our obligations,?  
FT.com reported, quoting Gevorgian as saying.

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