Enemies through the gates: Russian violations of international law in the Georgia/Abkhazia conflict

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Author: Noelle M. Shanahan Cutts
Date: Winter-Spring 2008
From: Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law(Vol. 40, Issue 1-2)
Publisher: Case Western Reserve University School of Law
Document Type: Article
Length: 11,957 words

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A good neighbor is a fellow who smiles at you over the back fence, but doesn't climb over it. (1)

(2)

I. INTRODUCTION II. HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF GEORGIA'S RELATIONSHIP WITH RUSSIA III. OVERVIEW OF THE GEORGIA/ABKHAZIA CONFLICT IV. RUSSIA'S VIOLATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL LAW A. Peacekeepers Unauthorized to Provide Weapons or to Take Military Action B. Civilians are Unlawful Targets C. Russia Violated Georgia s Sovereignty D. Provision of Russian Passports E. Withdrawal of Consent V. QUESTIONING THE EFFICACY OF U.N. JOINT PEACEKEEPING MISSIONS VI. GEORGIA'S POSSIBLE RECOURSE VII. CONCLUSIONS

I. INTRODUCTION

Soviet successor states are ripe for conflict, especially ethnic conflict, as their citizens "struggle over the redistribution of power." (3) The 1991 disintegration of the Soviet Union into the Russian Federation and the Soviet successor states resulted in numerous wars and ethnic conflicts, including those in Nagorno-Karabakh, Trans-Dniester, Tajikistan, Chechnya, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. (4)

After declaring independence from the Soviet Union, the Georgian government sent troops to the ethnically non-Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia "rather than consider[ing] their demand for federalization." (5) War broke out in both regions. In 1992, South Ossetia declared itself independent from Georgia, intending to join North Ossetia to the Russian Republic. (6) Ethnic Ossetians in South Ossetia established an "alternative government" and an alternative presidency in an attempt to break away from Georgia. (7)

The war in Abkhazia, where the ethnic Abkhaz were a minority of the total population, was a result of Russia's military interference on the side of the Abkhaz, which substantially improved Abkhazia's bargaining position. (8) Accordingly, Abkhazia was able to declare de facto (9) independence and set up its own government complete with a President, Parliament, and cabinet. (10) While South Ossetia and Abkhazia are de facto independent, no other nation formally recognizes them, (11) and the ethnic and political conflicts in those regions still endure after sixteen years. (12) Grudgingly, both remain de jure parts of Georgia.

Georgia blames Russia for the continuing Abkhazian conflict. Russia's political, economic, and military support of the separatist government in Abkhazia prompted the Georgian Parliament's July 17, 2006 resolution, "calling on the [Georgian] government to 'start procedures ... immediately to suspend [Russia's] so-called peacekeeping operations in Abkhazia' ..., claiming that they 'represent one of the major obstacles on the way to solve these conflicts peacefully.'" (13) Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, a U.S.-educated lawyer, went even further, saying Abkhazia is "under a form of gangster occupation which hopes the international community will lose interest and reward the results of ethnic cleansing." (14) He continued: "[t]he painful, but factual truth is that these regions are being annexed to our neighbor to the north--the Russian Federation has actively supported their incorporation." (15) Georgia believes that Russia supports Abkhaz separatists as part of a larger Russian plan aimed at curtailing Georgian sovereignty. (16) Georgia insists that it is necessary to replace the U.N.-sanctioned Commonwealth of Independent States' (CIS) (17) peacekeeping force in Abkhazia, comprised almost exclusively of Russian military, with another force that will be...

Source Citation

Source Citation
Cutts, Noelle M. Shanahan. "Enemies through the gates: Russian violations of international law in the Georgia/Abkhazia conflict." Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, vol. 40, no. 1-2, 2008, p. 281+. Accessed 12 May 2021.
  

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