The Hague: Georgian accusations that Russia committed human rights violations against ethnic Georgians in the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia went before an international court on Monday.
Georgia is seeking a provisional order or injunction from the International Court of Justice, which investigates disputes between nations, ordering Russia to halt the alleged violations, “including attacks against civilians ... murder, forced displacement, denial of humanitarian assistance”.
Russia is expected to question the jurisdiction of the ICJ during three days of emergency hearings, and may also dispute Georgia’s claims that ethnic discrimination is occurring or argue the situation is beyond its control.
In a lawsuit filed last month shortly after Russia invaded its neighbouring country after Georgia tried to recapture South Ossetia by force, Georgia alleges that Russia violated an anti-discrimination convention during three interventions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia from 1990 to August 2008.
Georgia is also claiming that 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.
Russia drew Western condemnation by sending its forces beyond the disputed area into Georgia proper and later recognising the breakaway regions as independent states.
The court hearings began as French President Nicolas Sarkozy travels to Moscow for talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to assess Russian compliance with a French-brokered peace plan.
If the court decides it has jurisdiction to hear the case, a provisional order or injunction could be issued within two to three weeks.
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.
Georgia is also asking that Russia allow the safe return home of Georgian refugees displaced by violence.
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.