Moscow Considers Suit Against Tbilisi

The Foreign Ministry said Monday that it might file suit against Georgia in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, in answer to a Georgian case against Russia over its incursion into Georgia.

A ministry official said Moscow was deciding what legal course to take.

"It is quite possible that we will file a case with the ICJ also, and we are about to submit a case to the International Criminal Court," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Igor Lyakin-Frolov.

Lyakin-Frolov provided no information on when a Russian suit might be filed, but the International Court of Justice, responsible for hearing legal disputes between states, has confirmed that Georgia has already submitted its application.

Georgia's suit accuses Russia of violating an international anti-discrimination convention during three incursions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia from 1990 to August 2008. In the filing released by the ICJ, Tbilisi called on the court to order Russia to comply with the convention, cease all military activities in Georgia, including in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and withdraw its troops.

In the filing, Georgia cited the right to invoke a genocide convention as an additional basis for the court to take jurisdiction.

Russia has also leveled claims of genocide against Georgia in South Ossetia, and Russian officials have said they also may file legal complaints.

"The Hague, Strasbourg and institutions in other cities might probe Georgian violence in South Ossetia," said Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Karasin, RIA-Novosti reported.

He said, for instance, that the killing of Russian peacekeepers by their Georgian counterparts could be considered a war crime.

Russian prosecutors are currently collecting evidence for charges of genocide against Georgia in South Ossetia and are prepared to assist the Foreign Ministry in filing suits in the international courts, said a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor General's Office who refused to give her name.

While the International Court of Justice only hears disputes between countries, the International Criminal Court, also in The Hague, is responsible for trying individuals on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The Foreign Ministry has called for Saakashvili to face war crimes charges in The Hague.

"The crimes of Mikheil Saakashvili can not be left unpunished," Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said in an interview with Vremya Novostei newspaper.

To appeal to the ICC, however, the state must be a party to the Rome Statute, allowing a court prosecutor to investigate unilaterally alleged abuses committed on its territory. Georgia has signed the document, while Russia has not.

Nevertheless, Lyakin-Frolov said, individual Russian citizens have the right to appeal.

"We have a number of appeals by people we are helping to file against Saakashvili in the ICC, and this will be done soon," he said.