UN court declines ethnic cleansing case against Russia

1st April 2011, Comments 0 comments

A UN Court on Friday declined to hear 'ethnic cleansing' charges brought by Georgia against Russia, saying it had no jurisdiction in the case concerning South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"The court, by 10 votes to six, finds that it has no jurisdiction to entertain the application," International Court of Justice president Hisashi Owada told the hearing.

The UN's highest court said that attempts to resolve the issue between the two countries through bilateral negotiations should have taken place before Georgia sought intervention by the court.

Georgia applied to the court in August 2008 under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, accusing Russia of ethnic violence against thousands of ethnic Georgians in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The case was brought after a brief war over the two Moscow-backed regions that broke away from Tbilisi's control in the early 1990s.

Moscow has since recognised the regions as independent states, while Tbilisi and most of the international community insist they are part of Georgian territory.

Russia told the court on Monday that Georgia's claim should be dismissed as Tbilisi had sparked the five-day 2008 war with an "unlawful" assault on South Ossetia, and therefore had no legal standing.

The ICJ, which hears disputes between states, ordered both countries in October 2008 to "refrain from any acts of racial discrimination" against ethnic groups in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"We are disappointed that the court has decided to stop the examination of the dispute due to a procedural technicality," said Georgian Deputy Justice Minister Tina Burjaliani. "This is not the finish of this case. All options remain open."

Kirill Gevorgian, the head of the legal department at the Russian foreign ministry, said Moscow welcomed the outcome of the case.

"We have won and it is positive," he told AFP.

© 2011 AFP

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