Russia and Georgia showed off their British lawyers

Russia and Georgia showed off their British lawyers

The European court considered the case of the “five day war”.


The Grand chamber of the European court of human rights (ECHR) on may 23 held a public hearing on the case “Georgia vs Russia” on the “five day war” in August 2008 and its consequences. Georgia accused the Russian authorities and troops of violating eight articles of the European Convention and presented as a pair in Gori fallen fragments of the rocket “Iskander”. Russia insists on a “deliberate distortion” of the circumstances of the Georgia conflict and the signs of falsification of evidence. The meeting actually turned into a “duel” between representing both sides of the Royal British lawyers. Contracts of the Ministry of justice for lawyers in this case amounted to about 380 million rubles.

The case of the “five day war” of 2008 between Georgia and Russia, ECtHR 23 may for the first time publicly considered on the merits. Recognizing the results of the first hearings 2011 the complaint of Georgia is acceptable, the chamber of seven judges has ceded its jurisdiction to the Grand chamber, which on may 23 consisted of 17 judges led by the President of the ECHR, Guido Raimondi, including judges from Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, and the UK. The government of Georgia and the Russian Federation was represented by the Deputy Ministers of justice, officials and hired lawyers, including from both sides — the British Royal lawyers. Georgia was represented by Ben Emmerson, a former judge of the International criminal tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia and the UN special Rapporteur on human rights (in particular, defended the interests of the family of ex-FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko in case of his death in London). Russia, as in the Yukos case, was represented by counsel, Brick Court Chambers Michael Swanston. According to the Unified informational public procurement contracts for services in this case the Ministry of justice concluded in December 2016 with the British Brick Court Chambers at 277 million rubles, and the Moscow Bureau of “Ivanyan and partners” at 100,55 million rubles.

The ECHR decision on admissibility of the complaint (against what initially objected to Russia), it was observed that conflict occurred “after a long period of tensions, provocations and incidents”. Georgia asks the court to recognize the violation by Russia of the eight articles of the Convention, including the right to life and prohibition of torture.

The main argument of the Georgian side was shelling the Central square of Gori missile “Iskander” with a cluster warhead on the last day of the five-day war August 12, 2008, killing more than ten civilians, including a Dutch cameraman Stan Storimans. Georgia collected about 800 kg of fragments of the rocket and its submunitions cluster warhead. After examination with the participation of the Dutch experts, confirming the Russian origin of the rocket, about 50 kg of debris presented in the ECHR as evidence.

The representative of Georgia Ben Emmerson his hour-long speech began with the words that the entire twentieth century Moscow was trying to “suppress the democratic spirit of Georgia”. In 2008, the campaign began with “the mobilization of separatist forces, trained and armed by the Russian side”, and “the Russian air force has conducted more than 70 bombing Georgian villages,” said the lawyer, citing “plenty of evidence”. He noted that the Russian officers, acting as witnesses to the ECHR, rather than to explain why they fired on Georgian villages, rejected the very fact of the attacks. Mr Emmerson made clear that Russia is involved in ethnic cleansing.

The Ombudsman of the Russian Federation at the ECHR, the Deputy head of the Ministry of justice Mikhail Galperin recalled that “South Ossetia was part of Georgia in 1922, Joseph Stalin, and nobody asked Ossetians if they want to be Georgians”.

He denied all “insinuations” about the involvement of Russian troops in any crimes against civilians, citing the actions of Russian troops by the need “to protect citizens and the Russian peacekeepers legally present in the conflict zone”. According to the official, the Russian jurisdiction did not extend to the territory where the events occurred, and victims of Russia also had nothing. “The Russian military has done everything to protect the people of Georgia”, — he assured.

“Georgia launched an attack on the sleeping peaceful Tskhinvali, Russian peacekeepers and Russian citizens. When Russia retaliated, Georgia have launched a propaganda campaign, trying to depict Russia as the aggressor,” said Michael Swanston.

Evidence opponents of the use of Russian missiles “Iskander” in Russian is considered a “falsification”. As emphasized by Michael Swainston, “Iskander” can be of two types: “M”, which uses the Russian army, and “a” which is exported to other countries and has shorter range. He noted that in the technical report of the Dutch experts on missile strike “Iskander” there is no indication on the type of the rockets and evidence that it was cluster bombs. “The Georgian side says that Russia is behind the authorities of South Ossetia. But just as the United States stood behind the then authorities of Georgia, — said the British representative of the Russian Federation.— A lot has been said about the so-called Putin plan. But this “plan” was defensive — it was the fact that the South Ossetians remained in their positions before Russia was able to intervene. There was no intent on the occupation.”

Ben Emmerson called the statement of Mr. Swanston “paranoid delusions about the CIA” and “coming up with staged scenes”. The arguments of the representative of the Russian Federation, “the missile “Iskander” kidnapped CIA from some unreliable store and then dismantled and put” humiliate the court, he said. He also criticized the Russian position that this case should not be applied provisions of the European Convention, and specname International humanitarian law (IHL; the so-called law of war, which under certain conditions gives the States more room to manoeuvre in international armed conflict), including the Geneva and Hague conventions. Ben Emmerson said that between them there is no difference. Note that the Centre for human rights University of Essex presented to the ECtHR as a third-party guidelines, how to interpret the European Convention in the light of IHL.

The judges of the ECHR’s questions to the parties has arisen, the court withdrew for a decision. As noted by the expert Fund research strategy and international relations of Georgia Shota Utiashvili, who served in 2008 as head of information-analytical Department of MIA, replaced for the waiting time of the lawsuit to the ECHR, the government “has continued the same line against Russia”. Fundamental was the debate was whether the human rights violations in the conflict or isolated Russia was a “sponsor” of all violations in this global crisis, said associate Professor of the University of Liverpool Konstantin Degtyarev.

After the judgment on the interstate case the court will begin to consider individual complaints of citizens, told “Kommersant” lawyer of the Georgian non-governmental organization “42nd article of Constitution” Nikoloz Legashvili.

According to the ECtHR, in 2011 there were received in connection with the same conflict 1712 individual complaints against Georgia and 209 complaints from 900 applicants against Russia. A further 20 complaints were lodged against Georgia and against Russia.

Lawyer Grigor Avetisyan, representing a number of applicants from South Ossetia in the same case, notes that the inter-state complaint has effectively blocked the consideration of individual complaints to the ECHR and because the ECHR decision in any case will be political, it may further hamper the implementation of decisions of citizens ‘ complaints in connection with the same conflict.

Anna Pushkarskaya, St. Petersburg; Georgi Dvali, Tbilisi; Galina Dudin, Evgeny Tail, Nikolai Zubov