Russia, Georgia ordered to protect ethnic groups

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The UN’s highest court ordered Russia and Georgia on Wednesday to ensure the security of all ethnic groups in the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and adjacent areas of Georgia.

In a provisional ruling on a lawsuit filed by Georgia that alleged human rights violations by Russia in the region, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) said Georgia and Russia must refrain from sponsoring any act of racial discrimination.

It also ordered both parties to do all in their power to ensure the security of persons, freedom of movement and the protection of refugees’ property.

The court ruled it had jurisdiction to order the provisional measures and ordered both parties to inform it of their compliance.

Court rulings, including provisional orders, are binding but the court has no police force to enforce its decisions. A judgment on the merits of the case proper could take at least another year.

Georgia and Russia fought a five-day war in August after Georgia tried to retake pro-Moscow South Ossetia by force. Russian troops ousted Georgian forces from South Ossetia and pushed deep into Georgia proper in an operation it said was needed to prevent further attacks on civilians.

In its filing to the ICJ, Tbilisi alleged Moscow breached an anti-discrimination convention and called on the court to order Moscow to take immediate action.

Moscow disputes the court’s jurisdiction, denies the claims and has called on the court to dismiss the case.

Moscow recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states in the wake of the conflict, a move condemned by the West. Talks on the issue in Geneva broke down on Wednesday and were suspended until next month, an EU envoy said.

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