Pleadings on the South Ossetia Conflict Take Place at Villa Moynier

The one-week long conflict over South Ossetia in August 2008 left lives, homes, and communities devastated and gave rise to numerous allegations of violations of international humanitarian law (IHL). In January 2016, the International Criminal Court authorized the opening of a formal investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor into the situation. On 21 January 2021, the European Court of Human Rights rendered a controversial judgment on human rights violations committed by Russia in this conflict.

In the framework of our LLM in IHL and Human Rights and the course on IHL given by Professor Marco Sassòli, students pleaded on 15 May for Russia and Georgia arguing that the side they represent has respected IHL while the adverse side has violated IHL.

In front of a jury composed of Professor Marco Sassòli and Lizaveta Tarasevich, an alumna of the Geneva Academy and Teaching Assistant at the University of Geneva, teams of two students (whose roles were attributed by the lot) pleaded on:

  • The classification of the conflict and applicable law
  • Classification of persons and territory
  • Killing and destruction of property of ethnic Georgians and allegations of ethnic cleansing
  • The use of weapons and precautionary measures during ground and air offensives
  • The targeting of persons
  • The treatment of detainees
  • A fictious appeal against the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on the case Georgia v. Russia.

Twenty-two students pleaded in English, four others in French.

From Ethiopia to Geneva

All students – with the exception of one who pleaded online from Ethiopia – could plead at Villa Moynier in front of the jury. When they did not plead, they could follow their comrades’ pleadings online in order to respect the sanitary measures enacted by the Swiss authorities.

LLM students who participated in the pleading on the 2014 Gaza conflict four weeks ago could also follow this session on South Ossetia online.

Professor Sassòli reports: ‘The students pleaded on a conflict, which is less well-known than that in Gaza, on which their comrades pleaded in April. They had nevertheless an admirable knowledge of the facts and delivered pleadings, which were powerful and engaged on the substance, but in a polite and not overly confrontational manner. Several groups obtained the best possible grades, including when they performed less successfully in past written evaluations. The fact that one student pleaded very successfully while her family home is under intense bombardment in Gaza deserves a special mention’.

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