By Davit Kachkachishvili
TBILISI, Georgia (AA) – The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Thursday found Russia and South Ossetian forces responsible for the use of “disproportionate force” during the 2008 South Ossetian War and "torture against ethnic Georgian prisoners of war" in a case filed by Georgia against Russia in 2009.
According to a statement from the ECHR, Russia was accused of violating several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights during the war.
The court said various crimes were committed by South Ossetian forces, including the torture of Georgian prisoners of war, and Russian forces did not prevent it.
"Russia bore responsibility but took no discernable measures on behalf of protected individuals, including prisoners of war, at least several of whom were executed or tortured, ill-treated, or subjected to degrading treatment by South Ossetian forces, at times with the participation of Russian forces," the statement said.
Russia was also accused of violating international principles on the rights of ethnic Georgians in South Ossetia on security, protection of private and family life, protection of property, education rights and freedom of movement.
In the early 1990s, Moscow responded to Georgia’s move to independence with alleged open military and economic support to separatist forces in the country’s regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The situation escalated into armed hostilities, resulting reportedly in a large number of deaths and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Georgians and other ethnicities from those regions.
In early August 2008, in proportion to Georgia’s growing European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations (revealed after the NATO Bucharest Summit), Russia had been intensifying its “aggressive policy” which culminated in massive large-scale military action against Georgia.
On Aug. 26, 2008, Russia recognized the “so-called” independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to “legitimize its illegal military presence” on the ground. A military build-up was followed by the building of civil infrastructures connecting both regions with Russia (highways and tunnels in South Ossetia; railways and naval routes in Abkhazia).
Notably, in 2011, then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made a statement that Russia’s military action was intended to counter Georgia’s NATO ambitions and thus Georgia’s sovereign choice to integrate into the Euro-Atlantic community.
On Aug. 12, on behalf of the EU, French President Nicolas Sarkozy successfully mediated a cease-fire between Georgia and Russia. With that agreement, Russia committed itself to withdrawing its troops to positions prior to the war.
*Writing and contribution by Erdogan Cagatay Zontur