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6 Oct, 2009 14:39

Georgian opposition wants Saakashvili tried for war crimes

Members of the Georgian opposition are demanding that President Mikhail Saakashvili should face a war crimes trial at The Hague.

Georgia's Labor Party claimed on Monday that, based on a recent European Union-commissioned report on who started the 2008 South Ossetian conflict, Mikhail Saakashvili should be charged with war crimes, Interfax news agency says.

“The commission accused Saakashvili of war crimes. Namely, of unleashing active hostilities, of a massive, wide-scale military operation in [the South Ossetian capital] Tskhinval and the use of prohibited types of weapons, of shelling and destroying nonmilitary facilities, and of attacking military personnel from the peacekeeping mission that was mandated by the United Nations,” Nestan Kirtadze, international secretary of Georgia's Labor Party, told a news conference in the Georgian capital Tbilisi.

The Georgian opposition’s move follows a report commissioned by the European Union which found that Georgia started last year’s war in South Ossetia.

The EU report said that hostilities began with Georgia’s artillery attack on the capital, Tskhinval, which was not justified under international law.

Many civilians died following the Georgian onslaught and large-scale military conflict with Russia which lasted five days, until Tbilisi’s forces were driven out.

In 2003, Georgia joined the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the Hague-based International Criminal Court, and is therefore under its jurisdiction, Kirtadze said.

That is why the Labor Party plans to ask “Brussels and Washington to start an investigation immediately, to qualify the reckless conduct of the current Georgian leader, and remove Saakashvili and his regime from the political leadership of the country,” she said.

The party says that otherwise Saakashvili “will again create non-local problems and pose a threat to the entire region.”

And Democratic Movement United Georgia leader Nino Burdzhanadze has urged the opposition to unite into a democratic front against the Georgian regime at a media conference on Monday.

Georgia may find itself in international isolation while Saakashvili remains in office, she said.

“It is dangerous that Mikheil Saakashvili refuses to accept the new situation and keeps saying that he would have done the same in a situation similar to the one of last August. He does that although the world has called his decision criminal,” Burdzhanadze said.

It is practically impossible to reconcile with Ossetian and Abkhaz people and to regain their confidence under the current regime, Burdzhanadze added.