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Rights court orders Moscow to pay $142M for 2008 war in Georgia 

The judgment follows up on a ruling two years ago about human rights violations that occurred during Russia's brief war with the former Soviet republic. 

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CN) — Russia must pay 130 million euros ($143 million) to Georgia for killing civilians, torture and looting during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, Europe’s top rights court ruled Friday. 

The money judgment for Tbilisi, which lost hundreds of lives and saw hundreds of thousands displaced during the five-day conflict, follows a 2021 determination from the Strasbourg-based court that Russia had allowed torture, illegal detention and pillaging by militia groups operating in the area 

When Russia invaded its neighbor, in what marked the first European war of the 21st century, it offered as a pretext that Georgia was committing genocide against Russian-speaking people living in border regions.

In one incident, a group of 160 Georgians, mostly elderly, were rounded up after a ceasefire was signed and held for two weeks in the basement of a government building, where they were subjected to beatings and mock executions. 

A 17-judge panel ruled unanimously that Georgia was entitled to just satisfaction, as it is called in court parlance. Tbilisi had requested between 444 million and 1.2 billion euros ($488 and $1.3 billion, respectively,) but the judges were divided on several requests, with a majority voting to exclude a number of claims not covered by the 2021 decision. 

Russia was expelled from the Council of Europe, which oversees the court, in 2022 following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. But, says Clare Ovey, head of the Department of the Execution of Judgements, “under the Convention system, they are still responsible for violations.” Overy was speaking to a group of journalists at the presentation of the court’s annual report earlier this month. 

The European Court of Human Rights was established in 1959 by the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects the political and civil rights of Europeans. 

Georgia, a former Soviet Union state that became independent in 1991, filed three complaints against Russia at the ECHR over the conflict, and individual applicants have brought hundreds more. 

The first case focused on Russia’s expulsion of 1,500 Georgia nationals from the region, and Russia was ordered to pay Georgia 10 million euros ($12 million) to be distributed to the victims. Negotiations over that payment stalled following the escalation in Ukraine. Overy called it “very hard to see how we obtain that money now.” 

Another case was dropped in 2010 after the five Georgian minors at issue in the case were released from detention. 

The ECHR isn’t the only international court looking into the conflict. In 2016 the International Criminal Court opened an investigation into alleged war crimes during the war. Last year, The Hague-based court issued three arrest warrants for high-ranking officials in the Russian-backed South Ossetian government. All three remain at large. 

In 2018, Georgia filed a fourth complaint against Moscow at the court. Tbilisi claims that Russia-backed border guards have committed a wide range of crimes, including killings, while policing the boundaries of the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The court ruled last week to move forward with hearings in the case. 

The ruling gives Moscow three months to pay. 

Follow @mollyquell
Categories / Civil Rights, Government, International

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