Representatives from Russia and Georgia appeared before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] on Monday for the beginning of a hearing to determine whether the court has jurisdiction to hear allegations that Russia committed human rights abuses following the secession of two sections of Georgia [JURIST news archive] in the 1990s. The hearing was necessitated after Russia challenged the court's jurisdiction to hear the controversy in late 2009, arguing that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination [materials] is inapplicable as Georgia and Russia were not engaged in a dispute over ethnic discrimination prior to the filing of the allegations. Russia has taken the stance that, while it supports the convention, the ICJ should not be used as a political tool [ITAR-TASS report] by Georgia as it attempts to have the Russian military removed [RIA Novosti report] from the two regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgian representatives are expected to argue that a long-standing dispute has existed [AP report] between their country and Russia, granting the ICJ jurisdiction over the matter.
The dispute between Russian and Georgia is not limited to the proceedings before the ICJ. In March, representatives from Russia met with prosecutors [JURIST report] from the International Criminal Court to discuss claims of war crimes allegedly committed by Georgian soldiers during the conflict in South Ossetia in August 2008. That conflict occurred when Russia sent its military into Georgia in response to a Georgian bid to strike South Ossetia, an area heavily populated by Russians. The US has taken the position that both nations committed violations of human rights [JURIST report] during that conflict. Georgia initially instituted the case [JURIST report] currently before the ICJ in August 2008, shortly after Russia sent troops into Georgia .