ECHR orders Russia to pay €130 million to Georgia for crimes during 2008 war

ECHR orders Russia to pay €130 million to Georgia for crimes during 2008 war
Russia now has effective control over 20% of Georgia's internationally recognised territory, including Abkazia in the north west and South Ossetia in the north. / Wikipedia Commons
By Tornike Mandaria in Tbilisi May 1, 2023

The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Russia to pay Georgia €130mn as compensation for crimes committed during the war between them 15 years ago. The court ruled that Russia violated six articles of the European Convention on Human Rights against Georgian citizens, including the right to life, torture, burning, and destruction of private property.

Moscow fought a brief war with Tbilisi over the breakaway region of South Ossetia in 2008, citing the protection of the Ossetian ethnic minority from Georgia as a pretext. The result of the conflict was Russia's effective control over 20% of Georgia's internationally recognised territory. It recognised the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent countries, though only a handful of other countries following suit.

The crimes committed during the war included the killing of civilians by separatist forces, arson, and looting of homes, torture of prisoners of war, and preventing displaced persons from returning to their homes. Russia failed to fulfill its procedural obligation to conduct an adequate and effective investigation of crimes committed during the active conflict or after a ceasefire.

The compensation was distributed among several categories of victims. 

Russia was ordered to pay €3,250,000 for the administrative practice of killing citizens in villages and the "buffer zone" of the occupied South Ossetia/Tskhinvali region, and the failure to fulfill the procedural obligation to adequately and effectively investigate the murders of 50 people. 

Russia was also ordered to pay €2,697,500 for non-pecuniary damage inflicted on at least 166 victims, including inhuman and degrading treatment and illegal arrests.

Additionally, Russia was ordered to pay €640,000  for at least 16 victims of the administrative practice of torturing Georgian prisoners of war by separatist forces in Tskhinvali.

Furthermore, Russia was ordered to pay €115,000,000 for preventing at least 23,000 victims from returning to their homes in the occupied Tskhinvali region and Abkhazia.

The ECHR ruling follows the 2021 decision by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where judges found that Russia was responsible for committing "inhumane" acts against Georgian citizens after the conflict.

In 2022, the ICC concluded its investigation into the crimes committed during the 2008 war, focusing on crimes against humanity and war crimes. The court issued warrants for the arrest of three former South Ossetian officials who were identified as responsible for unlawful deprivation of liberty, torture, inhuman treatment, humiliation of human dignity, hostage-taking, and illegal displacement of civilians, all in the context of crimes against humanity and war crimes.