Ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili’s “reckless” policies made it impossible to prevent August, 2008 war with Russia, PM Irakli Garibashvili said after a wreath laying ceremony commemorating sixth anniversary of the war.
“What happened in August, 2008 was a tragedy for our country, our nation. We are still reaping the consequences of this war; regrettably wounds are not yet healed,” he told journalists at Mukhatgverdi military cemetery in Tbilisi outskirts on August 8.
“I bow my head before each and every hero, fallen solder. The state will do utmost to stand by their families – this is our obligation and duty,” he said.
“I do not want to speak today about causes of the war and about how we could have avoided this war, but this is a fact that we failed to avoid this war because of reckless policy of Saakashvili’s government and received this result – lost territories, lost Kodori [gorge in breakaway Abkhazia], dozens of lost villages in the Shida Kartli [region, which formally also includes breakaway South Ossetia] and tens of thousands of displaced persons, who are still living in difficult conditions; that is the grave consequence that we have received and our country has not yet got back on its feet after this war; economy suffered a heavy blow; it was a heavy psychological trauma for our army. I do not want to speak on other things, what we have seen was a catastrophe in our country’s history,” Garibashvili said.
In a written statement on government’s website, the Prime Minister says: “Russia's military aggression against Georgia has claimed the lives of hundreds of our fellow citizens, our territories are occupied, and a lot of people become refugees in their own homeland.”
“The Government is doing its best to ensure that nothing will threaten the peace in our country. There is no alternative to peace. We are standing firmly on the path of European integration, which is irreversible. We are building a European state, which should become a worthy member of the European family, and, at the same time, we take successive steps to normalize relations with Russia. That is the right way to lead our country to de-occupation and reunification,” reads PM’s statement. “I am sure that the democratic and economically strong state of Georgia will become attractive to our Abkhaz and Ossetian brothers. We sincerely believe that they will be able to return our brotherhood, achieve consensus and peaceful coexistence.”
In a statement released on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the August war, the Georgian Foreign Ministry focuses on Russia’s “unfulfilled” commitments, including of those undertaken under the August 12, 2008 ceasefire agreement, and also reiterates Tbilisi’s readiness to continue its “constructive engagement” in the Geneva talks.
Probe into August War
Speaking with journalists after the wreath laying ceremony, PM Garibashvili also said that investigation of alleged crimes committed during and after the August, 2008 war is still ongoing.
“The investigation is not yet over,” Garibashvili said and added that it “is the obligation” of Georgia under the Rome Statute “to investigate all the details and nuances of this war”.
Referring to The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), Garibashvili said: “This is a direct demand from The Hague this to be investigated by our state it is our state that should investigate; otherwise, The Hague will itself investigate all the details and nuances of this war.”
In May, 2013 the Georgian Prosecutor’s Office announced about setting up an eight-member group to handle investigation of alleged crimes committed during the August war, which was first opened by the previous authorities.
Currently the process remains under preliminary examination from Office of the Prosecutor of The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC).
ICC was established by the Rome Statute to prosecute people for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Unlike Russia, Georgia is a state party to the Rome Statute.
ICC, however, will not act if a case is investigated by respective national authorities, unless the proceedings are mere formality aimed at shielding a person from criminal responsibility.
Just few days after August, 2008 war, the Prosecutor’s Office of ICC announced about “preliminary examination” of the situation. “Preliminary examination” is the phase during which ICC’s Prosecutor’s Office assesses if its own investigation should be opened; at this phase it also assesses whether crimes falling under the ICC jurisdiction may have been committed in a given situation and whether genuine investigations and prosecutions are being carried out by the authorities of respective states.
According to ICC’s Prosecutor’s Office, there is a “reasonable basis to believe” that the South Ossetian forces committed following crimes falling under the ICC’s jurisdiction: torture, destruction of property, pillaging, deportation or forcible transfer of population.
“Further evaluation of other alleged conduct by parties to the conflict, including the intentional directing of attacks against Russian peacekeepers, remains inconclusive. This assessment may be revisited in the light of new facts or evidence,” ICC said in its November, 2013 report wording of which in this regard is the same as in its previous report from year early.
It also says that ICC’s Prosecutor’s Office “will follow up closely on the Georgian authorities’ renewed commitment to investigate and prosecute alleged crimes committed by all parties during the August 208 conflict” and adds that it will also follow the investigation conducted by the Russian authorities.