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ICJ dismisses case on Georgia-Russia conflict

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Friday ruled [judgment, PDF] 10-6 that it lacks jurisdiction in a case to determine whether Russia committed human rights abuses following the secession of two areas of Georgia [JURIST news archive] in the 1990s. The ICJ began hearings [JURIST report] on the case 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 (CERD) [materials] is inapplicable as Georgia and Russia were not engaged in a dispute over ethnic discrimination prior to the filing of the allegations. The ICJ dismissed Russia's objection, holding that there was a dispute between the nations, but the court found that the parties had not completed possible negotiations, a procedural requirement that must be fulfilled before parties may bring their dispute to the ICJ:

The Court concludes that the facts in the record show that, between 9 August and 12 August 2008, Georgia did not attempt to negotiate CERD-related matters with the Russian Federation, and that, consequently, Georgia and the Russian Federation did not engage in negotiations with respect to the latter's compliance with its substantive obligations under CERD.
According to a member of the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Russian government supports the ICJ decision [Civil Georgia report]. However, Georgia's Deputy Minister of Justice Tina Burjaliani emphasized that "the court has left open the possibility that the case can proceed once the formal conditions for the exercise of jurisdiction ... have been met," suggesting that Georgian officials will continue to pursue the case [press release].

The dispute between Russian and Georgia is not limited to the proceedings before the ICJ. Last year, representatives from Russia met with prosecutors [JURIST report] from the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] 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 human rights violations [JURIST report] during that conflict. Georgia initially brought the case [JURIST report] before the ICJ in August 2008, shortly after Russia sent troops into Georgia.

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