Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Georgia Seeks International Condemnation of Ethnic Cleansing on Its Territory

By David Iberi

On September 15-20, Chairman of Georgian Parliament David Bakradze had important meetings in Washington, DC with high-ranking officials in U.S. Congress and the Obama Administration. As reported in the media, Bakradze discussed various aspects of Georgian-American relations, ranging from his country’s security concerns to making English a second language in the rapidly modernizing Caucasus nation. But the head of the Georgian Parliament focused particularly on discussing with influential American lawmakers Congress’s plan to adopt a resolution on Georgia in the near future. In Bakradze’s own words, the new resolution “will lay the foundation for the start of Russian withdrawal from the occupied Georgian territories.”

Georgia has many good friends in both branches of U.S. Congress and, even better than that, it enjoys bipartisan support, which makes Tbilisi less dependable on party politics in the United States. The upcoming resolution on “de-occupation of Georgia,” as it has been already dubbed in the press, could trigger a series of similar resolutions by other countries and international organizations. NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly is believed to be next, as it is set to meet in early November and legislatures of several European countries have been reported as contemplating Georgia resolutions in one form or another.

Resolutions on the unacceptability of the Russian occupation of Georgia’s sovereign territories in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia are important for Tbilisi for both political and practical reasons, but, arguably, even more vital would be the condemnation of the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Georgians committed by Russia and its proxies in those territories.

During the Russian invasion two years ago on August 12, 2008, Georgia filed an interstate complaint against the Russian Federation before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – the United Nations’ primary judicial body – accusing Moscow of committing ethnic cleansing in different phases over the course of past 15 years in violation of the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). On September 17, ICJ completed public hearings and said that it would render judgment on Russia’s preliminary objections to the case at a public session, “the date of which will be announced in due course.” If the court decides that it has jurisdiction over the case presented by Georgia, this will already be a big victory for Tbilisi, notwithstanding the fact that the extensive deliberations might continue for a long period of time.

Georgia hopes that its case before ICJ would only be strengthened if individual states and powerful international organizations start adopting resolutions condemning the ethnic cleansing in the Russian-occupied Georgian territories, as has already been done by the Lithuanian Parliament and by several organizations in the past. This would provide Georgia with much needed moral support, and time, by thwarting Russia’s attempts to isolate the Georgian government and make it more vulnerable to any new military attack.

Furthermore, to minimize the threat of renewed Russian aggression, Georgia soon plans to “officially formalize” the fact that it has no intention “to use military force against the Russian occupation.” In Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s words, Georgia’s unilateral decision would “pacify and disarm” those in Russia who are thinking of solving the “Georgian question” by military means.

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