Caucasus Theater

ICC issues warrants for crimes in Russo-Georgian War

The International Criminal Court's Pre-Trial Chamber I on June 30 issued arrest warrants for three individuals for alleged war crimes committed during the Russia-Georgia war in 2008. Russian nationals Mikhail Mayramovich Mindzaev and Gamlet Guchmazov, along with Georgian national David Georgiyevich Sanakoev are charged with various war crimes, including illegal detention, torture and inhumane treatment, hostage-taking, and illegal transfer of civilians. The ICC says the crimes were committed in August 2008, when the three were fighting for the Russian-backed South Ossetian separatist forces.

South Ossetia suspends referendum to join Russia

The de facto president of South Ossetia, Alan Gagloev, on May 30 suspended a planned referendum to determine whether the breakaway region of Georgia should join the Russian Federation. The referendum, scheduled for July, had been ordered by decree of Gagloev's predecessor Anatoly Bibilov, and was widely seen as a play to cement his grip on power. However, Bibilov lost his bid for reelection earlier in May, bringing his rival Gagloev to the presidency. In calling off the vote, Gagloev said that the Kremlin must be consulted on "issues related to the further integration of South Ossetia and the Russian Federation." Georgian officials had denounced any moves by South Ossetia to join Russia as "unacceptable."

Chechen rebels take up arms for Ukraine

The long-simmering conflict in the Russian Federation's Chechen Republic appears to now be playing itself out in the war in Ukraine. As Vladimir Putin launched his invasion, the "official" (Moscow-installed) Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov declared: "We will support any decision of the Commander-in-Chief [Putin]. We won't let you down. We will follow any order." The next day, Kadyrov announced on Telegram that elements of the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardiya) from Chechnya are taking part in the war. Reports shortly broke that Magomed Tushayev, head of the 141 Motorized Regiment of the Chechen Rosgvardiya, was killed in fighting with Ukraine's elite Alpha Group outside Kyiv. Tushayev was named as a key architect of the campaign of terror against the LGBTQ community in Chechnya.

Armenia brings World Court case against Azerbaijan

The Republic of Armenia on Sept. 16 instituted proceedings against the Republic of Azerbaijan at the International Court of Justice, the United Nations' top judicial organ, over alleged violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) by Azerbaijani authorities. In its application, Armenia contended that "for decades, Azerbaijan has subjected Armenians to racial discrimination," including mass killings, torture and other abuses. Armenia also contended that these violations were directed at individuals of Armenian ethnicity regardless of their actual nationality.

Tbilisi Pride cancelled after right-wing attacks

LGBT activists in Georgia cancelled a Pride march in the capital Tbilisi after violent attacks from right-wing groups July 5. Activists began five days of Pride celebrations last week which were to culminate in a "March for Dignity" in central Tbilisi, despite opposition from the Orthodox Church and conservatives who said the event had no place in Georgia. But as marchers were gathering, they were set upon by counter-protesters, who ransacked the office of the organizers. "The situation is really bad," Tbilisi Pride director Giorgi Tabagari told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone, saying he is still being stalked and threatened by mobs, and that some members of his team have gone into hiding in fear for their lives. (EuroNews, Openly)

Armenia-Azerbaijan border stand-off —over water

Armenia's Security Council held an emergency meeting May 12 in response to a reported border incursion by Azerbaijan. Local authorities in southern Syunik province issued urgent reports that Azerbaijan's forces had crossed the border and completely surrounded Lake Sev. The glacial lake, which provides water for irrigation in the area, is bisected by the frontier between the two countries, with its northern third lying within Azerbaijan. But the territory on the Azerbaijan side had been held by Armenia between the 1991-4 war and last November's ceasefire, under which it was ceded back. The two sides remain at odds on the precise demarcation of the line, which had not been formalized in Soviet times.

Azerbaijan arrests four soldiers for war crimes

The Azerbaijan Prosecutor General's Office announced Dec. 14 that it has detained four soldiers accused of war crimes against Armenians in the recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The office denounced the alleged actions of the soldiers, calling them "unacceptable" and contradictory to "the mentality of the Azerbaijani people." The Prosecutor General's report was careful to exonerate Azerbaijani officials, including President Ilham Aliyev. The report claims that the alleged war crimes were due to a "regrettable" misunderstanding "of the methods and techniques" condoned by Aliyev in "the struggle against the enemy by some servicemen under the influence of the severe psychological state caused by the war."

Azerbaijan to investigate possible war crimes

The prosecutor-general of Azerbaijan announced Nov. 25 that his office is looking into allegations of war crimes during the recent conflict between his nation and Armenia over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. United Nations Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet has already raised the alarm about possible war crimes, issuing a statement on Nov. 2 decrying indiscriminate artillery shelling of populated areas, use of cluster munitions by both sides, and videos on social media that appear to show summary executions of captured Armenian soldiers by Azerbaijani troops. The two nations agreed to a Russian-brokered peace agreement on Nov. 10, under which several districts that Armenia had seized from Azerbaijan after the fall of the Soviet Union would be returned by December.

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