Georgia urges UN court to hear 'ethnic cleansing' case

14th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Years of persecution by Russia have left a tenth of Georgians internally displaced, Tbilisi argued on Tuesday as it urged a UN court to hear its "ethnic cleansing" case against Moscow.

"We had to act to stop the continued ethnic violence, persecution and displacement of thousands of ethnic Georgians," the country's First Deputy Minister of Justice, Tina Burjaliani, told the International Court of Justice in The Hague about the reasons for the complaint.

"Almost 10 percent of the Georgian population is now living in exile in their own country."

She said "Some 40,000 ethnic Georgians in the Gali district of Abkhazia have survived two waves of ethnic cleansing," and were now subjected to Russian "discriminatory measures" to force them to abandon their Georgian citizenship or leave the rebel region.

"This is why we have brought this case: to bring to an end years of ethnic discrimination with all its continuing effects."

Burjaliani was arguing on the second day of public hearings into a Russian objection to the court's jurisdiction in an application brought by Georgia in August 2008.

The case was brought following a brief war over two Moscow-backed regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, that had broken away from Tbilisi's control in the early 1990s.

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

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

But Burjaliani told the judges that "Russia has pursued a policy of ethnic discrimination for over two decades".

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.

© 2010 AFP

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