ICC prosecutor seeking probe into 2008 Russia-Georgia war
The prosecutor for the world's only permanent war crimes court Thursday called for an inquiry to be opened into alleged abuses during a swift but brutal 2008 conflict between Georgia and Russia.
If the request from prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is accepted, it would be the first such investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) outside of Africa.
"On the basis of the information available, prosecutor Bensouda has concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court have been committed in Georgia in the context of the armed conflict of August 2008," the ICC said in a statement.
The brief five-day war erupted when the two neighbours clashed over the Russian-backed breakaway territory of South Ossetia.
On the night of August 7-8, 2008, Georgia's then president Mikheil Saakashvili, who was supported by the West, launched an offensive to reclaim South Ossetia only to see Russian forces sweep into Georgia.
Several hundred people are said to have died, and some 120,000 were displaced in the brief fighting, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Bensouda "will shortly submit a request to the pre-trial chamber for authorisation to open an investigation," the ICC said in a statement.
The move comes at a time of increasing tensions between the West and Russia.
Ties with Moscow have plunged since the start of the conflict in Ukraine last year, and have been further exacerbated in recent days amid Russian air strikes in Syria.
Georgian and Russian officials briefed the ICC in 2010 about the events surrounding the war after the office of the previous ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said it was examining whether there had been possible war crimes.
Georgia is a state party to the founding Rome Statute of the ICC, which therefore has jurisdiction over crimes committed on its territory. Russia is not a state party.
© 2015 AFP