03 March 2021,   19:19
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Historical decision - ECHR publishes judgment in Georgia v. Russia case on August War 2008

The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) delivered its judgment on Thursday in the inter-State case of Georgia v. Russia (II) concerning the August War 2008.

“The case concerned allegations by the Georgian Government of administrative practices on the part of the Russian Federation entailing various breaches of the Convention, in connection with the armed conflict between Georgia and the Russian Federation in August 2008. The Court found that a distinction needed to be made between the military operations carried out during the active phase of hostilities (from 8 to 12 August 2008) and the other events occurring after the cessation of the active phase of hostilities – that is, following the ceasefire agreement of 12 August 2008. The Court had regard to the observations and numerous other documents submitted by the parties, and also to reports by international governmental and non-governmental organisations. In addition, it heard evidence from a total of 33 witnesses. The Court concluded, following its examination of the case, that the events occurring during the active phase of hostilities (8 to 12 August 2008) had not fallen within the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation for the purposes of Article 1 of the Convention and declared this part of the application inadmissible. However, it held that the Russian Federation had exercised “effective control” over South Ossetia, Abkhazia and the “buffer zone” during the period from 12 August to 10 October 2008, the date of the official withdrawal of the Russian troops. After that period, the strong Russian presence and the South Ossetian and Abkhazian authorities’ dependency on the Russian Federation indicated that there had been continued “effective control” over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The Court therefore concluded that the events occurring after the cessation of hostilities – that is, following the ceasefire agreement of 12 August 2008 – had fallen within the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation for the purposes of Article 1 of the Convention (obligation to respect human rights).

Principal facts

The application was lodged in the context of the armed conflict that occurred between Georgia and the Russian Federation in August 2008 following an extended period of ever-mounting tensions, provocations and incidents between the two countries. In the night of 7 to 8 August 2008, the Georgian forces launched an artillery attack on the city of Tskhinvali, the administrative capital of South Ossetia. From 8 August 2008 Russian ground forces penetrated into Georgia by crossing through Abkhazia and South Ossetia before entering the neighbouring regions in undisputed Georgian territory. A ceasefire agreement was concluded on 12 August 2008 between the Russian Federation and Georgia under the auspices of the European Union, specifying that the parties would refrain from the use of force, end hostilities and provide access for humanitarian aid, and that Georgian military forces would withdraw to their usual bases and Russian military forces to the lines prior to the outbreak of hostilities. Owing to the delay by the Russian Federation in applying that agreement, a new agreement implementing the ceasefire agreement (the Sarkozy-Medvedev agreement) was signed on 8 September 2008. On 10 October 2008 Russia completed the withdrawal of itstroopsstationed in the bufferzone, except for the village of Perevi (Sachkhere district), situated in undisputed Georgian territory, from which the Russian troops withdrew on 18 October 2010. 3 The Court found it appropriate to examine the military operations carried out during the active phase of hostilities separately from the other events occurring after the cessation of the active phase of hostilities”, - reads the decision of the court.

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