Russia asks UN court to dismiss 'unlawful' Georgia complaint

13th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russia urged a UN court Monday to reject Georgia's claim of "ethnic cleansing" against it, saying Tbilisi had sparked a 2008 war with an "unlawful" assault on a rebel area and had no legal standing.

"The applicant state (Georgia), quite unlawfully, sought to impose through the use of brutal military force its own solution to regional problems," Kirill Gevorgian, director of the Russian foreign ministry's legal department, told the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

"In doing so, Georgia attacked internationally recognised peacekeeping units, acting in gross violation of international humanitarian law," he said of the five-day war fought over rebel regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"Russia is convinced that in such circumstances the applicant state must not be allowed to benefit from the privilege" of having its complaint considered by the court.

Gevorgian was responding to the complaint lodged by Georgia in 2008 following a brief war over two Moscow-backed regions that broke away from Tbilisi's control in the early 1990s.

Georgia has accused Russia of a protracted campaign of "ethnic cleansing", saying its citizens in areas under Moscow's control were terrorised and subjected to violence, causing some 150,000 to be displaced.

No date has been set for a hearing of Georgia's complaint.

This week's hearing, which concerns only the issue of jurisdiction, started with Russian arguments on Monday to be followed by Georgia on Tuesday.

Each party will then get another turn on Wednesday and Friday respectively.

Gevorgian told the court that Georgia had unleashed "a massive armed attack against the population of South Ossetia and Russian peacekeeping units in breach of Georgia's obligations under international law.

"The Russian Federation had no other choice but to exercise its inherent right to act in self-defence and protect its peacekeepers."

He also accused Georgia of seeking "to portray itself as a victim of the conflict that it itself had started."

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.

"Our evidence is strong and it proves that the Russian Federation is responsible for ethnic cleansing in Georgia, namely in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, for preventing internally displaced persons from returning to their homes and for ethnic discrimination, specifically against the ethnic Georgian population in (Abkhazia's) Gali district and (South Ossetia's) Akhalgori district," Georgian deputy justice minister Tina Burjaliani told Georgia's Rustavi-2 television by telephone from The Hague.

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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