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VerdictFactCheck concludes that Davit Bakradze’s statement is TRUE.

Resume: On 12 August 2008, Georgia instituted proceedings at the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague against the Russian Federation relating to its actions on and around the territory of Georgia in breach of CERD (the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination). On 1 December 2009, the Russian Federation filed preliminary objections at the ICJ. In the objection’s official documentation, one chapter directly touches upon the disputed matter where the events unfolding since 2004 and the case of Georgia’s using military force in August 2008 are described. In the same part, Russia uses quotes from Salome Zurabishvili’s book, The Georgian Tragedy 2003-2008 (La tragédie géorgienne 2003-2008),

published in 2008, to corroborate its positions.

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili gives the following account of the 2004 events in Samachablo:  “Following the … provocations, tensions rise. Meetings of the National Security Council come one after another. The Defence Minister explains how to protect our population. We need to take Tskhinvali. The strategy is clear:  three hours are needed to occupy the heights and the one who controls the heights controls Tskhinvali… Whatever its excuses and justifications, [Georgia] spoke with the language of arms, lost men and positions and, in the political field, a part of the credit that it had enjoyed. After these incidents, the administrative boundary consolidated and the relations between the parties were aggravated.” In addition, the Russian Federation uses another of Ms Zurabishvili’s quotes where she speaks about the sharp increase in the defence budget and expenditures. As she stated, this contained the intention of military vengeance and the forceful reintegration of lost territories.

Analysis

European Georgia Movement for Freedom presidential candidate, Davit Bakradze, stated: “Russia uses quotes from Salome Zurabishvili’s book against Georgia in The Hague.”

FactCheck

took interest in the accuracy of the statement.

On 12 August 2008, Georgia instituted proceedings at the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague against the Russian Federation relating to its actions on and around the territory of Georgia in breach of CERD (the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination). Georgia claimed that the Russian Federation, represented by its state institutions, agents, officials or bodies, as well as separatist forces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, were responsible for the violation of the CERD convention. In accordance with the Georgian position, the Russian Federation had violated the aforementioned convention in three phases since 1990 to 2008 during its interventions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgia called upon the ICJ to force the Russian Federation to make all necessary measures to be in compliance with the CERD.

In accordance with the ICJ’s ruling on 2 December 2008, time limits were fixed for the parties to file memorial and counter-memorial. The deadline was 2 September 2009 for Georgia and 2 July 2010 for Russia. On 1 December 2009, the Russian Federation submitted a preliminary objection to the ICJ. One of the chapters in the document submitted by the Russian Federation refers directly to the matter of the dispute and gives a detailed description of the history of Georgia’s conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, their legal status, the role of Russia as a facilitator, the events of 2004[1] and Georgia’s use of force in August 2008. It is in this exact chapter (pages 31-32 and 34) where Russia uses quotes from Salome Zurabishvili’s book, The Georgian Tragedy 2003-2008 (La tragédie géorgienne 2003-2008),

in order to corroborate its position.

As claimed by the Russian Federation, Georgia launched a military operation against Tskhinvali in June 2004 with the aims of the operation later described by the former Minister of Foreign Affairs in her book:  “Following the … provocations, tensions rise. Meetings of the National Security Council come one after another. The Defence Minister explains how to protect our population. We need to take Tskhinvali. The strategy is clear:  three hours are needed to occupy the heights, and the one who controls the heights controls Tskhinvali. … It is Misha [Saakashvili] who takes the decision and he would give a green light to the lightning offensive. It would fail very soon …Whatever its excuses and justifications, [Georgia] spoke with the language of arms, lost men and positions and, in the political field, a part of the credit that it had enjoyed. After these incidents, the administrative boundary consolidated and the relations between the entities were aggravated. And this tension would never come to an end.”

In order to corroborate its own positions in the objection documents filed at the ICJ, the Russian Federation used another quote from Salome Zurabishvili’s book. In particular, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs claimed that in the second half of 2007 and in the first half of 2008, Georgia pursued a military build-up strategy:  “Starting from 2007, the arrival of a new Defence Minister, with double Georgian and Israeli nationality, coincides with a leap in the acquisition of armaments:  more and more sophisticated, more and more expensive, more and more numerous. Thus, the defence budget surpassed a quarter of the overall budget expenses in 2007. … The rhetoric of war [was seen], not hiding its aims towards the lost territories. Thus, behind the appearance of a defence policy aimed at protecting the territory from incursions threatening territorial sovereignty, a policy of armament and of equipment was being put in place, rather corresponding to the intentions of a military revanche and of a forcible reintegration of the lost lands.”

After the ICJ started to proceed on and consider Georgia’s case, it concluded that the Court had no jurisdiction to Georgia’s claim because it had not tried to settle the problem through direct negotiations.

Salome Zurabishvili’s voicing of such types of statements would be especially alarming in the case of her presidency. A president’s media statements might prompt legal obligations for a state. This was a decision made by the ICJ in the 1974 case of Australia v. France and this is a precedent which still holds.

[1] In 2004, Georgian authorities intended to use a strategy in the Tskhinvali region which was similar to the one that was successful in the Ajara crisis. The Georgian approach to regain control over the region and the Russian support for the challenged regime of the de facto President of South Ossetia, Eduard Kokoity, led to a confrontation that escalated into armed clashes in the mosaic of Georgian and Ossetian villages surrounding Tskhinvali. On 10 July 2004, the Georgian president called on his military to be ready to mount “protracted, full-scale operations” to defend the country’s territory. All available resources would be used for defence. On the other side, volunteers from the Russian North Caucasus and the separatist Transnistria region in Moldova reportedly came to South Ossetia to help the Ossetians counter a “Georgian aggression.” In August 2004, the crisis reached its high point with night-time shelling of Tskhinvali and nearby villages and escalating armed clashes. The situation was de-escalated in August and an open war in South Ossetia, with the involvement of Russian military bases, was averted. Georgia’s military forces halted their offensive in the conflict zone.