A Georgian national was elected for the first time as a judge at the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) – an important designation for a country awaiting investigation of alleged war crimes committed during a short war with Russia in 2008.
Georgia’s Gocha Lordkipanidze was elected on Saturday (19 December) as ICC judge for a nine-year term, a fact saluted by the country’s President Salome Zourabichvili.
— Salome Zourabichvili (@Zourabichvili_S) December 18, 2020
Lordkipanidze, a lawyer by formation and a diplomat by profession, became in 2018 the first Georgian who was unanimously elected to represent Eastern Europe in the Trust Fund for Victims of the ICC.
The International Criminal Court is an intergovernmental organisation and international tribunal outside the UN framework.
The ICC is the first and only permanent international court with jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.
It is intended to complement existing national judicial systems and it may therefore exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals.
All EU countries are signatories of ICC, while Russia and the USA have the statute of signatory states that later withdrew their signature.
To date, the ICC prosecutor has opened thirteen investigations: Afghanistan; Burundi; two in the Central African Republic; Côte d’Ivoire; Darfur, Sudan; the Democratic Republic of Congo; Georgia; Kenya; Libya; Mali; Uganda; and Bangladesh/Myanmar.
Georgia fought a brief war with Russia in 2008 as a result of which it lost its territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In 2016, the ICC prosecutor authorised the opening of an investigation “for alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the context of an international armed conflict between 1 July and 10 October 2008”.
In granting the prosecutor’s request to open an investigation, the Chamber noted that the representations by or on behalf of 6,335 victims on this matter, which it received on 4 December 2015, “overwhelmingly speak in favour of the opening of an investigation”.
The ICC work has been hampered by the so-called “principle of complementarity”, according to which ICC is only prosecuting an individual if states are unwilling or unable to prosecute. Russia is conducting relevant proceedings.
Some advocates have suggested that the ICC should go “beyond complementarity” and systematically supplement national prosecutions.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]