International Court of Justice Grants Georgia's Request to Order Russia to Stop Ethnic Cleansing

Saturday, October 18, 2008 General News
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Tribunal's ruling requires Russia to end campaign of ethnic discrimination in disputed Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia; Law firm Foley Hoag represents Government of Georgia in ICJ case

THE HAGUE, Netherlands and WASHINGTON, Oct. 17

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In an unqualified legal victory for the Republic of Georgia over Russia, the International Court of Justice has ordered Russia to "refrain from any act of racial discrimination" against ethnic Georgians, including "sponsoring, defending or supporting" discriminatory acts in areas occupied by Russian military forces since they invaded Georgia in August.

The ruling on October 15 follows an emergency hearing in September by the 15-judge ICJ to hear arguments in a lawsuit brought by Georgia, which had accused Russia of engaging in a violent campaign of ethnic cleansing aimed at forcibly expelling ethnic Georgians from the disputed Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

By a closely-divided vote of 8-7, the international tribunal further called on both Russian and Georgian security forces to ensure "freedom of movement and residence," as well as "the protection of property of displaced persons and refugees" throughout the occupied territories.

"This is a complete victory for Georgia, representing everything the government asked for in seeking emergency relief against Russia's ethnic cleansing campaign," said attorney Paul Reichler, an international disputes partner with law firm Foley Hoag LLP in Washington, DC, who represented Georgia before the ICJ at The Hague.

"While the judges took great care to remind both sides they are bound by the standards of the International Convention against All Forms of Racial Discrimination," Mr. Reichler added, "the Court's order grants Georgia all the protection that it requested against the ethnic violence and forcible expulsions that Russia and its allies have been inflicting on ethnic Georgians continuously since the invasion and occupation of Georgian territory that began in August of this year."

He noted that the Court also sent a clear signal to Russia not to hinder international relief organizations on the ground trying to help Georgians who were injured or displaced by Russia's military actions -- assurances that Mr. Reichler and his co-counsel had explicitly requested at the emergency hearing last month in the wake of reports that Russia was prohibiting the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian assistance to Georgians located behind Russian lines.

Russia had argued that the International Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations, had no jurisdiction over Russian actions in Georgia and that the case should have been stricken from the Court's docket. Further, attorneys for Russia argued that there were no grounds for provisional measures because Russia was not engaging in prohibited discrimination.

"Russia lost on all counts," Mr. Reichler said. "The Court found that it had jurisdiction to order the provisional measures requested by Georgia, and that the requested measures were justified by the evidence of Russian responsibility for the bombing and burning of Georgian homes and villages, the physical violence carried out against Georgian civilians, and the forcible expulsion of Georgian people from the disputed territories occupied by Russian armed forces."

"It is especially gratifying that Russia, to its credit, accepted the terms of the ICJ's ruling and said it would comply with the Court's order," he added.

"This is a tribute to the legal and moral force of the ICJ. In fact, the record of compliance with the Court's orders is very good. States do not usually find it convenient to defy its rulings, and thereby brand themselves as international outlaws."

In addition to Mr. Reichler, Georgia was represented at the recent hearings by its Deputy Minister of Justice, Dr. Tina Burjaliani, and by Dr. Payam Akhavan, a professor of international law at McGill University, in Montreal, and Dr. James Crawford, a professor of public international law at Cambridge University in England.

Here is a link to the full ICJ ruling, with extensive background on the claims brought by the Georgian government:

About Foley Hoag

Foley Hoag LLP is a leading law firm in international law, litigation, and arbitration of disputes between sovereign States, and between sovereign states and foreign investors. Foley Hoag also represents foreign governments in litigation before the federal and state courts of the United States. The firm's 250 lawyers are located in Washington, DC, and Boston. For more information visit

From: Allan Ripp/212-262-7477 James Bourne 212-262-7470 Meghan Gross 617-832-7112


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