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ICC prosecutors meet with Russia officials over South Ossetia conflict

[JURIST] A group of delegates from the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official websites] concluded a meeting [press release] in Moscow Wednesday over Russian claims of war crimes committed by Georgia during the South Ossetia conflict [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in August 2008. The meeting, which was not attended by chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile], was held at the invitation of the Russian Federation and was based on Moreno-Ocampo's announcement [JURIST report] of a preliminary investigation at the time of the conflict. Officials from the OTP meet with members of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, the Office of the Prosecutor General, and Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation [official websites, in Russian], where the OTP was presented with the progress of Russia's national judicial proceedings related to the alleged war crimes. Moreno-Ocampo expressed his full support for honest proceedings on the allegations, and said his office has "offered to support in every possible way efforts by the Russian judiciary to do justice for all victims of these crimes." A similar visit to Georgia is to take place later this year.

The South Ossetia conflict lasted for five days in August 2008 when Georgia tried to take control of its breakaway region, and Russian troops defended the region, entering Georgia. According to a report [materials; JURIST report] released by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia (IIFFMCG) [official website] in October, Georgia violated international law when it shelled the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali in August 2008. The IIFFMCG also found that military action against Russian forces was not justified because the commission could not substantiate Georgian claims of a large-scale Russian military presence in the region prior to the Georgian offensive. In August, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website, in Russian] proposed a bill in response to the conflict that would allow the Russian army to intervene beyond its borders [JURIST report] to protect Russian citizens abroad. In February 2008, the US State Department released its annual country reports on human rights [JURIST report], accusing both Russia and Georgia [text] of violations during the conflict. Georgia and Russia [JURIST reports] are currently exchanging allegations of war crimes in the ICC and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website].

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