ICC Prosecutor, Karim A.A. Khan QC, announces application for arrest warrants in the Situation in South Ossetia, Georgia
ICC ‘s Prosecutor declared the following: “Today, I have filed an application for warrants of arrest in relation to the following three individuals in the Situation in Georgia:
- Lt.-Gen. Mikhail Mayramovich Mindzaev (alternatively spelled as “Mindzayev“), appointed in 2005 as the Minister of Internal Affairs of the de facto South Ossetian administration until at least 31 October 2008;
- Gamlet Guchmazov (alternatively spelled “Hamlet” and “Kuchmazov”), Head of the Preliminary Detention facility of the de facto Ministry of Internal Affairs of South Ossetia at the time of events; and
- David Georgiyevich Sanakoev, de facto Presidential Representative for Human Rights of South Ossetia, also known as “Ombudsman” at the time of events.
Since the Pre-Trial Chamber authorised the opening of an investigation in the Situation in Georgia on 27 January 2016, my Office has examined evidence related to alleged crimes committed by all parties to the armed conflict between 1 July and 10 October 2008. In keeping with the Prosecution’s standards, the investigation was at all times carried out in an independent, impartial and objective manner, and solely informed and guided by its evidentiary findings and its obligations under the Rome Statute.
On the basis of evidence collected and examined by my Office, I have reasonable grounds to believe that these three individuals bear criminal responsibility for the following war crimes committed in and around the territory of South Ossetia, Georgia, between 8 and 27 August 2008: Unlawful confinement – article 8(2)(a)(vii)-2; Torture – article 8(2)(a)(ii)-1; Inhuman treatment – article 8(2)(a)(ii)-2; Outrages upon personal dignity- article 8(2)(b)(xxi); Hostage taking – article 8(2)(a)(viii); and Unlawful transfer – article 8(2)(a)(vii)-1.
My application for these warrants of arrest focuses specifically on unlawful confinement, ill-treatment, hostage taking and subsequent unlawful transfer of ethnic Georgian civilians in the context of an occupation by the Russian Federation. The investigation also uncovered the alleged role of Vyacheslav Borisov, Major General in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and Deputy Commander of the Airborne Forces at the time of events, who is believed to have intentionally contributed to the execution of some of these crimes, and is now deceased.
At the time of the events, the majority of the Georgian civilian population living in South Ossetia fled to Undisputed Georgian Territory. Almost immediately after the Georgian armed forces were driven out of South Ossetia, Russian forces and – primarily – South Ossetian forces began capturing Georgian civilians, mostly the elderly and sick who were unable or unwilling to abandon their homes and flee the fighting. They were not given a valid reason for their capture and detention, nor were they afforded any kind of procedural right. The evidence shows that many of these people were unlawfully confined in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, insulted, beaten, tortured and humiliated.
My Office has made findings of similar patterns of conduct during its preliminary examination of the Situation in Ukraine. I remain profoundly concerned about ongoing allegations of international crimes occurring amidst active hostilities in Ukraine today.
I wish to underline my call to all parties to such conflicts that adherence to international humanitarian law is not optional. Those who carry weapons, those who participate in armed conflict, hold a heavy burden of responsibility to ensure their conduct complies with international law. If they fail to do so, my Office is empowered to hold them to account in accordance with the rule of law.
Should the Pre-Trial Chamber approve my application for these warrants of arrest, I will be working closely with the Registrar in all efforts to apprehend these three individuals. Going forward, I count on the support by all States, especially States Parties to the Rome Statute, to ensure they are brought to trial before the International Criminal Court.