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Georgia Blames Russia Federation for Ecocide during Russian-Georgian War

Nona Suvarian, Tbilisi

Last month's short term conflict over South Ossetia was a defining moment in relations between Russia, Georgia and the West. However, many are unaware of just how the Georgia-Russian war seriously damaged Georgia’s environment. On September 10 Irakli Ghvaladze, Georgian Minister of Environment and Natural Resources made a report at the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee for Environment and Natural Resources. He discussed the level of damage inflicted upon Georgia’s environment and natural resources.

“The fire that was intentionally set by Russian occupants can be declared as being one of the biggest ever in Georgian history. Before the fires could be extinguished 1, 100 hectares of forest went up in flames in the Borjomi valley, Khaishi, Ateni valley and in the surrounding regions of the Gori district.

In addition, approximately 50 tones of oil were spilled into the Black Sea; 720 tones of oil products were spilled in the village of Skra in the Gori district. Most of it was burned but some 100 tones still remains in the soil. The continued threat of erosion requires additional consideration and the Bio-diversity of the land should also be evaluated. However, it is impossible to assess the full extent of the damage in this sphere.

According to the Ministry, the Russian occupation financially damaged Georgia and loses totaled more than one billion GEL. Much of Borjomi Valley has been destroyed.  However, this figure is not based on the latest data and it is expected to be increased in the final determination.

The minister assessed the action of Russian troops as being on the level of ecocide – international killing of the environment. “Ecocide is an international legal term. Genocide means mass devastation of people; ecocide means the assassination of nature. Based on official definition, it means the poisoning of atmosphere, land, water resources, devastation of flora and fauna, and/or some other activities that can bring about an ecological catastrophe.”

Giorgi Gachechiladze, leader of the Green’s Party, also speaks about the ecocide and pointed out that ecocide committed by Russian occupants can cause human casualties as well.

“Forests in Georgia, particularly in Borjomi Valley, are located on steep slopes and those forests have are designated for ecological protection. If the forest is destroyed, terrible ecological processes might result, such as landslide, erosion and flooding.”

Giorgi Gachechiladze discussed the damage that impacts animals after forests are destroyed by fire.

“Borjomi Valley is a unique place both for flora and fauna. The Borjom-Kharagauli Forest-Park was established for that particular reason. The valley is outstanding region for its bio-variety. Many rare and endangered animals lived in the forest as bear, lynx, etc. Many such animals are in the Red Book of Endangered Species. The animal habitat has its own rules, seasons of migration through which they seek food and mating and reproductive cycles. After fire everything was destroyed. Thus, the animals that lived in that area have to rotate to other territories, maybe even to other countries. Such a combination of problems situation makes the problem even that much graver.”

At the conference the leader of the Green Party spoke about legal grounds that must be implemented in Georgia.

“There is article 358 in the Russian Criminal Code and its title is ecocide. A person or group of people who commits an ecocide shall be sentenced to prison.  Georgian legislation also has similar article. Article 409 of the Georgian Criminal Code deals with the ecocide and envisages the same liability as does acting Russian legislation. However, there is one more paragraph in Georgian law and it states that the ecocide committed during the armed conflict is charged by the imprisonment from 14 to 20 years and unto a term of life-imprisonment. I think Georgian authority and particularly the Ministry of Environment should appeal initially to Georgian court and launch an investigation on the ecocide committed.

Regarding the case the court should pass verdict and it must be an official document.”
Members of the Green Party speak about the 1977 Geneva Convention that directly envisages the crimes committed by Russia. Convention Prohibiting Use of Any Sources against Nature during Military Actions or Some Other Hostilities” was ratified by 75 states; 17 states have signed it and are waiting for ratification. The Convention was early ratified by the Soviet Union whose legal descendent is now the Russia Federation. All parties of the convention assume responsibility not to use any sources against the nature of another state that might cause long-term damage and serious consequences.

“Russia breached the convention as a member-state, and as stipulated in that convention, a petition Georgia in this particular case, can now officially appeal to UN and the UN is obligated to establish a committee of international experts within a year, which will estimate the degree of damage, collect case materials and start an investigation. Moreover, Article 5 of the convention states that the petitioner can appeal to the UN Security Council as well. This option is very important for Georgia. The next session of the UN Security Council is earmarked for October 15 where current situation of Georgia will be discussed. Provided that Georgia will have all corresponding documents by that time, this meeting will be very useful opportunity for us.”

However, there is one problem: Georgia is not a signing to this convention. Thus, the Green Party categorically demands the Georgian Foreign Ministry introduce that Convention to the Georgian parliament for ratification through all necessary procedures as allowed under acting legislation. In this case, Georgia will become a member state and it will then be able to appeal to the UN Security Council for relief.”

The interim report of the invited experts and Georgian state commission on the ecological damage to Georgia resulted by Russian aggression will be published in the middle of October.

Before the conclusion is made, Georgia will appeal to the International Court against Russia and accuse the latter of having carried out ecocide. The Ministry accepted the suggestion of the Green Party and intends to appeal to the UN Security Council as well.

“Besides taking the matter to the international court, we also intend to appeal to the UN Security Council over the ecocide committed against Georgia. We will work on that issue in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry and we are going to join the 1977 Geneva Convention in nearest future. Russia has been its member-state since 1977. Each member-state of this convention assumes the responsibility of not damaging the environment, which is even during military operations. Several days ago, Green Party recommended joining the convention. I appreciate the activity of the Green Party and other NGOs who work towards protecting the environment. I think that the connections of these organizations with foreign organizations are most important for our country. The ministry of environment together with foreign ministry has started working on this direction and will consider several other conventions as well.  Soon we will join 1977 Geneva Convention that will enable us to bring suit to the UN Security Council against the Russian Federation and this country will be charged with ecocide,” concluded Irakli Ghvaladze, the Georgian Minister of Environment and Natural Resources.

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Name: Boss
2011-10-06 18:59
Posts like this brighten up my day. Thanks for tkiang the time.
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