The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has concluded that Russia committed rights violations — including torture and preventing people from returning to their homes — after a five-day war with Georgia in 2008, a ruling the Caucasus nation immediately hailed as a victory.
In its verdict made on January 21, the ECHR said that about 160 Georgian civilians captured by Russian troops faced “humiliating acts which had caused them suffering and had to be regarded as inhuman and degrading treatment”, adding that Georgian prisoners had been subjected to “arbitrary detention.”
The conflict erupted in August 2008 and ended after less than a week with Russian soldiers remaining in Georgia’s regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Moscow then declared were independent states.
Georgia filed a lawsuit against Russia saying it violated the European Convention on Human Rights during the war and after it.
Russia has said it had to intervene to protect its citizens and peacekeepers from extermination by launching an operation against Georgia to bring about peace.
According to the ruling, “there had been an administrative practice…as regards the acts of torture of which the Georgian prisoners of war had been victims.”
The court also ruled that Russia was responsible for many Georgian nationals being prevented from returning to South Ossetia or Abkhazia after the war, and ordered Russia “to carry out an adequate and effective investigation” into such cases.
The ECHR stated that the events during the active phase of hostilities in the war had not fallen within Russia’s jurisdiction and declared this part of Georgia’s application inadmissible, as no side enjoyed effective control over the war-affected territories.
Despite part of the ruling going against Georgia, President Salome Zurabishvili hailed the court decision as a “victory for the whole of Georgia.”
“The (Georgian) state is recognized as a victim of this war and it is a great achievement for our country, our society, our history and for the future,” she said.
“It is the basis on which we must build our future and unity,” she added.
Just a small handful of other countries have followed Russia’s lead in recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s independence, while Tbilisi and other countries consider the two breakaway regions to be Georgian.
With reporting by AFP
This post was originally published on Radio Free.