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Georgia To Ask Hague Court To End Russian Abuses


Internally displaced Georgians receive food in a tent camp near Gori earlier this month.

Internally displaced Georgians receive food in a tent camp near Gori earlier this month.

THE HAGUE (Reuters) -- Georgia will seek a ruling from the UN's highest court in The Hague on September 8 ordering Russia to stop what it claims are human rights violations against ethnic Georgians in the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

In an emergency three-day hearing at the International Court of Justice, which investigates disputes between nations, Georgia will also ask that Russia allow the safe return home of Georgian refugees displaced by violence.

The court is expected to give a provisional order or injunction within two to three weeks if it decides it has jurisdiction to hear the case. Rulings have recently become binding, legal experts said.

Last month Georgia filed a suit to demand that Russia withdraw troops and pay damages, alleging that Russia violated an antidiscrimination convention during three interventions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia from 1990 to August 2008.

Georgia claims more than 400,000 of its citizens, almost 10 percent of its population, have been forcibly driven from their homes since its declaration of independence in 1991 by a Russian-backed campaign of violence and intimidation.

It says about one-third of these people were forced to flee from South Ossetia and Abkhazia when Russia invaded Georgia in August after Georgia tried to recapture South Ossetia by force.

Russia drew Western condemnation by sending its forces beyond the disputed area into Georgia proper and later recognizing the breakaway regions as independent states.

Hopes For Swift Decision

Cases heard by the court sometimes take years to resolve, but Georgia's ambassador to the Netherlands said she was hoping for a swift decision.

"We know such procedures can take years and we are also very patient," ambassador Maia Panjikidze told Reuters. "I believe the court will not take as long to act as in other cases because the situation on the ground is really very difficult now and we need a decision very soon because the population is suffering."

Legal experts suggest that in its defense Russia will question the jurisdiction of the ICJ, while it may also dispute Georgia's claims that ethnic discrimination is occurring or argue the situation is beyond its control. Russia's embassy here did not respond to requests for an interview.

Georgia will use the court symbolically to try and cast a bad light on Russia, said Andre de Hoogh, senior lecturer in international law at Groningen University in the Netherlands.

"The prospects of Georgia winning the case are slim unless it can prove Russia's actions were inspired by racial discrimination," he added.

The European Union agreed on September 6 to send an "autonomous mission" to Georgia to monitor Russia's withdrawal from occupied territory, while U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney stepped up U.S. criticism of Russia, accusing Moscow of reverting to old tactics of intimidation and of using "brute force."

But Russia has accused the U.S. of provoking Moscow by using warships to deliver relief aid to its ally Georgia, claiming that U.S. warships are rearming Tbilisi's defeated army. Washington dismissed the charge as "ridiculous."

While the OSCE security body has said Russia is allowing its observers to circulate freely throughout Georgia, French President Nicolas Sarkozy will travel to Moscow on September 8 for talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to assess Russian compliance with a French-brokered peace plan.
Crisis In Georgia
For RFE/RL's full coverage of the conflict that began in Georgia's breakway region of South Ossetia, click here.

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