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International Court Starts Criminal Condemnation Hearings Against Tsar Vladimir Putin For Invasion Into Sovereign Georgia

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PARIS — In a New York Times article, Marlise Simons describes how Georgia and Russia have carried their dispute over the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to the International Court of Justice. Three days of hearings began Monday over Georgia’s request for an injunction ordering Russia to stop “terrorizing” ethnic Georgians and to allow refugees to return to their homes.

Conflict in Georgia

Georgia Read complete coverage of the military conflict between Russia and Georgia in the September 8, 2008 New York Times.

In a related story, Russia today agreed to limited Russian troop pull-outs.

Georgia’s first deputy minister of justice, Tina Bujaliani, said her country was urgently turning to the court — the United Nations’ highest — “at a time of great distress in its history, a time when hundreds of thousands of its nationals are persecuted and displaced from their homes only because they are Georgians.”

Russia offered only feeble defensive arguments: the former Societs turned aggressors challenged the court’s jurisdiction and asked it to dismiss the Georgian application.

Roman Kolodkin, the legal department director at Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the judges that Georgia had provoked the current crisis last month when it began an attack to recover control of South Ossetia. He said that Russia had no choice but to become involved to prevent further deaths, and that now that the two regions were independent, Russia could not be held responsible.

That argument is about as effective as a bully who had badly beaten a smaller child saying, he spit on me so when I wouldn’t leave his back yard so I put him in the hospital.

Georgia, offering sworn witness statements and satellite images taken during the conflict, argued that ethnic Georgians still living in the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia continued to be driven from their villages by a “systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing” organized by Russia.

If Vlad Putin is reading, he should be shaking in his boots. For it is he that is being censored by world opinion as we write. It is he who should resign his job as Prime Minister, not President Mikhail Saakashveli of Georgia.

Tsar Putin’s actions in inciting comrade Medvedev into taking over a sovereign country are serious. They are not tantamount to criminal negligence because it was intentional–it resulted in thousands of deaths, homes intentionally burned, people displaced, terrorized, and made to leave their homes and provinces for fear of their lives–all for which their is no excuse. Putin was Hitleresque. Maybe Putin believes he is the reincarnation of Adolph Hitler. Both were bullies.

Payam Akhavan, a lawyer representing Georgia, said a distinction should be drawn between destruction resulting from the fighting and a systematic campaign against ethnic Georgian civilians. “The satellite images showed hundreds of houses burning, houses with missing roofs,” he said in a telephone interview. “This is damage from deliberate torching, quite different from war damage.”

The commercial satellite images were analyzed by a Geneva-based United Nations agency, Unosat. Human Rights Watch, which has also looked at the images, said that destruction of five ethnic Georgian villages near the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali “was caused by intentional burning and not armed conflict.”

Mr. Akhavan said that the conflict had already displaced some 160,000 ethnic Georgians.

“The pattern is continuing, but it is done more quietly without the burning and killing but through pressuring people,” he said, citing reports that residents near Akhalgori, a Georgian town south of South Ossetia, were being told they could only stay “if they have a Russian passport.”

Georgia filed an earlier case against Russia before the same court, on Aug. 12, shortly after the conflict began, charging Moscow with racial discrimination.

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