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Military occupation of Georgia by Russia

Conflict type: Military occupation

Russia is occupying the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia. Separatist movements are active in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia is the occupying power in areas of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which are internationally recognised as forming part of Georgia. Russia maintains military presence in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the basis of agreements concluded with these entities without the consent of Georgia. While Russia and few other States recognize these entities as independent States, an overwhelming majority of States considers them as part of an internationally recognized territory of Georgia. Russia also exercises its authority over these regions by its overall control over the separatist armed groups. For further information on the use of proxy forces, see 'contemporary challenges for classification – control over proxy forces’ in our classification section.

Overview

Georgia declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, it has experienced tension and conflict with secessionist wars fought in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. These conflicts have left thousands of individuals dead, displaced thousands, and created a politically unstable situation, with both territories subject to the de facto authority of separatist governments. For further information, see N. Kalandarishvili-Mueller, ‘On the Occasion of the Five-year Anniversary of the Russian-Georgian War: Is Georgia Occupied?', EJIL: Talk Blog, 1 October 2013; International Crisis Group, ‘South Ossetia: The Burden of Recognition’, Report No 205, 7 June 2010, p 2; Agreement on Principles of Settlement of the Georgian Ossetian Conflict (Sochi Agreement), 24 June 1992; A. Bellal (ed), The War Report. Armed Conflict in 2014, Oxford University Press, 2015, pp 83ff. For an in-depth review, see Independent International Fact Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia, Report, Volume II, 2009, pp 61 ff. South Ossetia, which has a population of approximately 35,500, formally declared independence from Georgia during the armed conflict between Georgian forces and South Ossetian separatist forces in 1991-1992. The conflict ended in summer 1992 when the warring parties agreed on the deployment of joint peacekeeping forces that included Russian troops. For further information, see Global Security, South Ossetia; ‘South Ossetia Profile’, BBC, 21 April 2006. Similar to South Ossetia, Abkhazia fought a separatist conflict with Georgia in 1992-1994. Abkhazia, which has a population of approximately 250,000, declared itself independent through the promulgation of its constitution in 1994 and then formally in 1999. For further information, see ‘Chronology for Abkhazians in Georgia’, 2004; ‘Abkhazia Profile’, BBC, 10 August 2017. The Georgian-Abkhazian conflict ended upon the signature of the so-called Moscow Agreement in 1994, which also foresaw the deployment of the peacekeeping force of the Commonwealth of Independent States. See Agreement on a Cease-Fire and Separation of Forces (Moscow Agreement), 14 May 1994. Between 1993 and 2008, a large number of resolutions of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) referred to “Abkhazia, Republic of Georgia” and affirmed Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. See for example, UNSC, S/Res/849 (1993), 9 July 1993, preamble §2; UNSC, S/Res/876 (1993), 19 October 1993, §1; UNSC, S/Res/1808 (2008), §1. While formally part of Georgia, both Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been under the control of separatist governments since then.

After a period of heavy fighting between the Georgian and South Ossetian forces, Russian troops entered South Ossetia on 8 August 2008. The fighting soon involved Russian, Georgian, South Ossetian and Abkhaz forces. During the intervention, Russian troops moved beyond the traditional boundaries of South Ossetia and launched strikes near the Georgian capital. The Russian forces succeeded in defeating the main Georgian forces, forcing a retreat. By August 10, the Russians had consolidated their position in South Ossetia. Russia also entered Georgia through Abkhazia and drove out the Georgian forces therein, taking full control of the region. For further information, see A. Bellal (ed), The War Report. Armed Conflict in 2014, Oxford University Press, 2015, pp 83ff ; Insight on Conflict, Georgia: Conflict Profile, March 2015; Human Rights Watch, Up in Flames. Humanitarian Law Violations and Civilian Victims in the Conflict over South Ossetia, Report, 23 January 2003; Independent International Fact Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia, Report, Volume 1, 2009. In justifying the presence of its forces, Russia claimed that it protected Russian citizens in the regions. See International Crisis Group, Georgia-Russia: Still Insecure and Dangerous, Europe Policy Briefing No 53, 22 June 2009; Independent International Fact Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia, Report, Volume 1, 2009, p 21. On 12 August 2008, Georgia and Russia signed the EU-mediated ceasefire agreement. ‘Six-Point Ceasefire Plan’, 12 August 2008.

In the aftermath of the 2008 conflict, Abkhazia and South Ossetia reiterated their declaration of independence from Georgia. On 26 August 2008 Russia recognized them as independent States. Institute for War & Peace Reporting, August 2008 Russian-Georgian War: Timeline. Since 2008, only Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru, Tuvalu and Syria have recognized independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. G. Lomsadze, ‘Syria Formally Recognizes Abkhazia and South Ossetia’, Eurasianet, 29 May 2018; G. Lomsadze, ‘Abkhazia: Vanuatu Changes Its Mind Again’, Eurasianet, 18 March 2013. The European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) condemned the recognition. EU Condemns Moscow’s Recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia’, Spiegel Online, 1 September 2008; OSCE, OSCE Chairman Condemns Russia’s Recognition of South Ossetia, Abkhazia Independence, OSCE Press Release, 26 August 2008. General international law determines whether a secessionist entity possesses statehood. It remains debated whether recognition is a criterion. For further information and references on statehood and the role played by recognition, see 'international armed conflict -secessionist entities' in our classification section. Russian troops have been present in the breakaway regions ever since the war. Abkhazia and South Ossetia signed treaties with Russia allowing it to maintain military bases in the regions. Over time, Russia has increased its exercise of control in military, political and economic terms, including by signing the Treaty on Alliance and Strategic Partnership with Abkhazia in 2014 and Treaty on Alliance and Integration with South Ossetia in 2015. See N. Kalandarishvili-Mueller, 'Guest Post: The Status of the Territory Unchanged: Russia's Treaties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia', Opinio Juris, 20 April 2015.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia signed treaties with Russia allowing it to maintain military bases in the regions. Russian troops have been present ever since, and Russia has increased its exercise of control in military, political, and economic terms, including by signing the Treaty on Alliance and Strategic Partnership with Abkhazia in 2014 and Treaty on Alliance and Integration with South Ossetia in 2015. For a detailed analysis of these treaties, see N. Kalandarishvili-Mueller, 'Guest Post: The Status of the Territory Unchanged: Russia's Treaties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia', Opinio Juris, 20 April 2015.

Elements of occupation

For a territory to be considered occupied it must be 'under the authority of the hostile army.' Article 42, 1907 Hague Convention (IV) Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its Annex: Regulations Concerning the Laws and Customs on Land. For an occupation to exist hostile foreign forces must exercise effective control. Three elements must be fulfilled for effective control to exist.

  • First, the armed forces of a foreign state are physically present in the territory and the territorial state did not consent to their presence.
  • Second, the presence of the foreign forces prevents the effective local government in place at the time of invasion from exercising its powers.
  • Third, the foreign forces establish their own authority. For further information, see ‘military occupation – elements of occupation’ in our classification section.

States may use proxy forces to occupy a territory: if a state exercises overall control over de facto local authorities or other local groups that exert effective control over the territory, the state can be considered an occupying force. For further information on overall control, see ‘contemporary challenges for classification – control over proxy forces’ in our classification section. Two elements must therefore exist in such a situation:

In particular, an overall control over an organized armed group exists where a State ‘has a role in organizing, coordinating or planning the military actions of the military group, in addition to financing, training and equipping or providing operational support to that group.’ International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Prosecutor v Duško Tadić, Appeals Chamber, Judgment, IT-94-1-A, 15 July 1999, §137. For further information on overall control, see ‘contemporary challenges for classification – control over proxy forces.’

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) developed its own test of effective control over territory for the purposes of establishing State’s extra-territorial jurisdiction under Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Its significant indicators are: (i) ‘number of soldiers deployed by the State in the territory in question’; (ii) ‘the extent to which the State’s military, economic and political support for the local subordinate administration provides it with influence and control over the region’. Council of Europe/European Court of Human Rights, ‘Guide on Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights: Obligations to Respect Human Rights – Concepts of “Jurisdiction” and Imputability’, updated on 31 December 2019, p 17.

In Georgia v Russia (II), the ECtHR found that Russia exercised effective control over South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the ‘buffer zone’ from the signature of ceasefire agreement on 12 August 2008 to 10 October 2008 (the day of the withdrawal of the Russian troops from the buffer zone) and beyond (pointing to ‘the strong Russian presence and the South Ossetian and Abkhazian authorities’ dependency on the Russian Federation, on whom their survival depends’), thereby establishing Russia’s extra-territorial jurisdiction under Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights there. ECtHR, Georgia v Russia (II), Grand Chamber, Judgment, App no 38263/08, 21 January 2021, §§174-175.

In examining the case, the ECtHR also referred to the existence of Russia’s occupation of these regions after 12 August 2008. See for example ECtHR, Georgia v Russia (II), Grand Chamber, Judgment, App no 38263/08, 21 January 2021, §52 (headline), §83, §145 (headline), §173. With respect to each alleged violation, the ECtHR also assessed normative conflicts between IHL and IHRL. ECtHR, Georgia v Russia (II), Grand Chamber, Judgment, App no 38263/08, 21 January 2021, §198-199, §234-237, §266-267, §290-291, §310-311, §323-325.

The tests for the purposes of occupation or occupation by proxy differ from the effective control test developed by the ECtHR. In fact, the ECtHR held: ‘If there is “occupation” for the purposes of international humanitarian law there will also be “effective control” within the meaning of the Court’s case-law, although the term “effective control” is broader and covers situations that do not necessarily amount to a situation of “occupation” for the purposes of international humanitarian law.’ ECtHR, Georgia v Russia (II), Grand Chamber, Judgment, App no 38263/08, 21 January 2021, §196. In this context, apart from a direct reference to Russia’s occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after 12 August 2008, factual findings of the ECtHR concerning Russia’s effective control over South Ossetia and Abkhazia can be taken into account as indicators of Russia’s continued occupation there.

Abkhazia

International Crisis Group estimates that there are around 5,000 Russian personnel in Abkhazia, including ‘3,500 military and 1,500 Federal Security Service (FSB) officers and ‘border guards.’ International Crisis Group, ‘Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation’, Report No 224, 10 April 2013, p 3. Russia spent $465 million over four years to refurbish and develop military installations in the Black Sea coastal area, including Bombora – the largest military airfield in the South Caucasus, in Gudauta and a naval port in Ochamchire. International Crisis Group, ‘Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation’, Report No 224, 10 April 2013, pp. 3-4; International Crisis Group, ‘Abkhazia: Deepening Dependence’, Report No 202, 26 February 2010, pp 3-4.

On the basis of the 2010 agreement between Russia and Abkhazia (which is valid for 49 years, after which it automatically extends every fifteen years), Russia operates its 7th military base in Abkhazia in Gudauta. ‘Russia Gains Military Base in Abkhazia’, RFERL, 17 February 2010. In Georgia v Russia (II) Russia itself acknowledged the creation of this military base after the signing of the agreement with Abkhazia in 2010 and claimed it hosted ‘3,923 servicemen and 873 items of military equipment’. ECtHR, Georgia v Russia (II), Grand Chamber, Judgment, App no 38263/08, 21 January 2021, §150 and see §165. Reportedly, tanks, fighter jets, and armoured personnel carriers are located at the base. B. Piven, ‘Russia Expands Military Footprint Abroad with New Syria Base’, Aljazeera, 18 September 2015. Under another treaty signed between Russia and Abkhazia in 2009, Russia also assists in securing and patrolling the administrative border with Georgia. R. Coalson, ‘Russia Steps Up Cooperation with Breakaway Georgian Regions’, RFERL, 30 April 2009; International Crisis Group, ‘Abkhazia: Deepening Dependence’, Report No 202, 26 February 2010, p 4; ECtHR, Georgia v Russia (II), Grand Chamber, Judgment, App no 38263/08, 21 January 2021, §172.

The Treaty on Alliance and Strategic Partnership signed between Russia and Abkhazia on 24 November 2014 aims to incorporate the region into the Russian military, economic, social and legal space and also to create a common security and defence space. See, ‘Moscow, Sokhumi Sign Treaty on “Alliance and Strategic Partnership”’, Civil.Ge Daily News Online, 24 November 2014. See also A. Bellal (ed), The War Report. Armed Conflict in 2014, Oxford University Press, 2015, p 85. This treaty provides for the mutual defense pact and foresees the creation of the Joint Group of Armed Forces to repel aggression. A separate agreement to this end was signed between Russia and Abkhazia in 2015. This deal foresees the joint conduct of military exercises and stipulates that ‘the Joint Group of Armed Forces is composed of the joint Russian military base stationed on Abkhazian territory, as Russia’s component, and two motorized rifle battalions, an artillery group and an aviation group, as well as a special forces detachment as Abkhazia’s component.’ ‘Law on Ratification of Russia-Abkhazia Agreement on Joint Group of Forces’, Kremlin, 21 November 2016; ‘Russian Parliament Ratifies Agreement on Joint Russia-Abkhazia Group of Forces’, TASS, 2 November 2016.

Compared to South Ossetia, a lower number of Russian citizens occupy high military and security posts in Abkhazia, however with some notable exceptions. It is estimated that the separatist armed forces of Abkhazia are small, somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 troops. Reportedly, due to the Russian military presence, the investment in equipment of separatist forces has declined. International Crisis Group, ‘Abkhazia: Deepening Dependence’, Report No 202, 26 February 2010, p 5. More broadly, Russia also supports Abkhazia in other areas, including by provision of financial support. International Crisis Group, ‘Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation’, Report No 224, 10 April 2013, pp 6-8. Nearly the entire Abkhazia population holds Russian citizenship. M. Mackinnon, ‘Back to the USSR: Putin and the new Cold War’, The Globe and Mail, 16 March 2018, International Crisis Group, ‘Abkhazia: Deepening Dependence’, Report No 202, 26 February 2010. The ECtHR referred to various reports containing the information as to “the relationship of dependency not only in economic and financial, but also in military and political terms between the Russian Federation and ... Abkhazia.”   ECtHR, Georgia v Russia (II), Grand Chamber, Judgment, App no 38263/08, 21 January 2021, §167 and see also §§166, 168, 174.

In sum, Russia occupies Abkhazia through its direct military presence underpinned by the series of agreements with the separatist entity. According to International Crisis Group, ‘given its [Russia’s] control over Abkhazia’s ‘borders’, roads and sea, Russia need not maintain a heavy permanent presence, as it can move military equipment and troops into and out of the entity at will.’ International Crisis Group, ‘Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation’, Report No 224, 10 April 2013, p 5. The local separatist armed groups could also be seen as Russia’s proxies given the high level of coordination with the Russian Armed Forces and the military and financial support provided by Russia. This conclusion is made on the basis of publicly available data, which support the fulfilment of the requirements of an overall control test.

South Ossetia

Since 2008, Russia has established a significant military presence in South Ossetia. In Georgia v Russia (II), Russia itself acknowledged a substantial military presence in South Ossetia after hostilities had ceased, and then also from 23 August 2008 until the creation of a joint military base (‘the presence of the 693rd motor rifle regiment comprising 4,307 servicemen, 33 tanks, 220 fighting infantry vehicles, 30 artillery systems and 14 air-defense systems’). ECtHR, Georgia v Russia (II), Grand Chamber, Judgment, App no 38263/08, 21 January 2021, §165 and see §150. Currently, on the basis of an agreement with South Ossetia, Russia operates the 4th Military Base in Tskhinvali in South Ossetia, which hosts tactical missiles and anti-missile rockets, among other weapons. A small component is located in the second largest city of Java. International Crisis Group, ‘South Ossetia: The Burden of Recognition’, Report No 205, 7 June 2010, pp 7-8; B. Piven, ‘Rusia Expands Military Footprint Abroad with New Syria Base’, Aljazeera, 18 September 2015; ‘Russian Military Bases Abroad: Facts and Details’, Sputnik, 7 October 2016. In Georgia v Russia (II) Russia itself acknowledged the creation of the 4th military base after the signing of the agreement with South Ossetia in 2010 and claimed it ‘had held 3,285 servicemen and had 305 items of military equipment’. ECtHR, Georgia v Russia (II), Grand Chamber, Judgment, App no 38263/08, 21 January 2021, §150 and see §165. Russian Armed Forces also conduct large military exercises in South Ossetia. ‘Russia Concludes Drills Involving Some 4,000 Troops in South Ossetia’, Sputnik, 26 September 2016.

Similar to Abkhazia, under another treaty signed between Russia and South Ossetia in 2009, Russia assists in securing and patrolling the administrative border with Georgia. R. Coalson, ‘Russia Steps Up Cooperation with Breakaway Georgian Regions’, RFERL, 30 April 2009; International Crisis Group, ‘South Ossetia: The Burden of Recognition’, Report No 205, 7 June 2010, p 7; ECtHR, Georgia v Russia (II), Grand Chamber, Judgment, App no 38263/08, 21 January 2021, §172. It is estimated that there are 1,500 Russian FSB (a state security organisation) border guards.  S. Saari, ‘The New Alliance and Integration Treaty between Russia and South Ossetia: When Does Integration Turn Into Annexation?’, The Finnish Institute of International Affairs, March 2015. Russian troops installed wire fences on the administrative border between South Ossetia and Georgia, sometimes moving the border further into the Georgian territory. The process is known as ‘borderisation.’ A. North, ‘Georgia Accuses Russia of Violating International Law Over South Ossetia’, The Guardian, 14 July 2015; Global Security, South Ossetia.

The 2015 Alliance and Integration Treaty between Russia and South Ossetia foresees the formation of a common defense and security space and provides for a mutual defense pact. In fact, under the treaty, Russia ensures the defense and security of South Ossetia defense including its border with Georgia. ‘Russia and South Ossetia to Sign Treaty on Alliance and Integration’, TASS, 18 March 2015; M. Otarashvili, ‘Russia’s Quiet Annexation of South Ossetia’, Foreign Policy Research Institute, 11 April 2017. As established by the 2015 Alliance and Integration Treaty, an intergovernmental agreement was signed between South Ossetia and Russia in 2017 specifying the modalities of incorporation of some military units of South Ossetia into the Russian Armed Forces. However, the agreement requires that tho soldiers who decide to serve in the Russian Armed Forces first resign from the so-called South Ossetian army. L. Fuller, ‘Putin Gives Green Light For Incorporating Some South Ossetian Units Into Russian Army’, RFERL, 20 March 2017. In fact, the negotiations preceding the conclusion of the 2017 intergovernmental agreement raised the question whether the separate South Ossetian army should be maintained at all. Ultimately, some separate defense structures are preserved. J. Kucera, ‘South Ossetia Keeps Its Military, For Now’, Eurasianet, 19 January 2017. Nevertheless, the so-called South Ossetian army is rather small, amounting up to 800 troops. Moreover, a number of senior security officials in South Ossetia are in fact seconded from Russia. J. Kucera, ‘South Ossetia Keeps Its Military, For Now’, Eurasianet, 19 January 2017; S. Saari, ‘The New Alliance and Integration Treaty between Russia and South Ossetia: When Does Integration Turn Into Annexation?’, The Finnish Institute of International Affairs, March 2015; ECtHR, Georgia v Russia (II), Grand Chamber, Judgment, App no 38263/08, 21 January 2021, §169-170.

More broadly, since 2008, Russia has increased its presence in military, political and economic terms. Demonstrative of Russia’s level of control is the fact that it provides direct financial aid to South Ossetia. Since 2008 this aid comprises 99% of South Ossetia’s budget and more than half of the government staff are from Russia. International Crisis Group, ‘South Ossetia: Rise of a New Politics and Foreign Policy’, 17 February 2012; International Crisis Group, ‘South Ossetia: The Burden of Recognition’, Report No 205, 7 June 2010. The ECtHR referred to various reports containing the information as to “the relationship of dependency not only in economic and financial, but also in military and political terms between the Russian Federation and South Ossetia.” ECtHR, Georgia v Russia (II), Grand Chamber, Judgment, App no 38263/08, 21 January 2021, §167 and see also §§166, 168, and 174. Russia controls decision making in key spheres such as the border, public order and external relations. International Crisis Group, ‘South Ossetia: The Burden of Recognition’, Report No 205, 7 June 2010. For a similar assessment of the Russian influence, see N. Kalandarishvili-Mueller, ‘On the Occasion of the Five-year Anniversary of the Russian-Georgian War: Is Georgia Occupied?', EJIL: Talk Blog, 1 October 2013.

In light of the foregoing, it emerges that Russia occupies South Ossetia through the presence of its regular troops underpinned by series of agreements with the separatist territory. In addition, the local separatist armed groups could also be seen as Russia’s proxies given their rather modest size, high level of coordination with the Russian Armed Forces, command structures staffed by the Russian citizens and the military and financial support provided by Russia.

Views of the parties to the conflict and the international community

The subjective views of the parties may be an indicator, but are not determinative for the classification of a situation. For further information, see ‘overview- classification based on legal criteria and facts’ in our classification section.

Georgia considers that Russia is occupying South Ossetia and Abkhazia. See International Court of Justice (ICJ), Case Concerning Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Georgia v Russian Federation), Decision on Request for the Indication of Provisional Measures, 15 October 2008, §44; ECtHR, Georgia v Russia (II), Admissibility Decision, App no 38263/08, 13 December 2011, §§24-25. In contrast, Russia denies being an occupying power. See International Court of Justice (ICJ), Case Concerning Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Georgia v Russian Federation), Request for the Indication of Provisional Measures, 15 October 2008, §74; ECtHR, Georgia v Russia (II), Admissibility Decision, App no 38263/08, 13 December 2011, §44; International Crisis Group, Abkhazia and South Ossetia: Time to Talk Trade, 24 May 2018.

After the 2008 war, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe denounced the Russian use of force as ‘a violation  of Council of Europe principles’ and pointed out that it ‘led to the occupation of a significant part of the territory of Georgia’. See Resolution 1633 (2008), Parliamentary Assembly, 2 October 2008. See also Resolution 1683 (2009), Parliamentary Assembly, 29 September 2009, §10 where the General Assembly points out that ‘under international law, Russia bears responsibility for violations of human rights and humanitarian law in those areas that fall under its de facto control.’ While not expressly calling Russia an occupying power, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe stated in May 2017 that ‘Georgia, as the only sovereign State under international law over its regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, is still prevented from exercising legitimate jurisdiction over these regions due to the illegal actions of the Russian Federation, including its continuing military presence therein.’ Council of Europe, Committee of Ministers, The Council of Europe and the Conflict in Georgia, Decision, Doc CM/DEL/DEC(2017)1285/2.1, 1285th Meeting, 3 May 2017.

In 2018, the High Representative of the European Union has declared that ‘Russian military presence in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia continues in violation of international law,’ in response to the 10 years anniversary of the conflict. General Secretariat of the Council, Press office, ‘Declaration of the High Representative on behalf of the EU on the 10 years anniversary of the conflict between Russia and Georgia’, 7 August 2018. The United States have repeatedly described Abkhazia and South Ossetia as being occupied by Russia. See for example Ambassador Daniel B. Baer, Violations of the Rights of Residents of Georgia’s Occupied Regions: Statement at the PC, Statement to OSCE Permanent Council, 3 March 2016. The 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act 2017, which was signed and became law in May 2017, included a provision referencing the ‘Russian occupied Georgian territories of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia’. See Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, Sec 7070 (C)(1). See also ‘Donald Trump signs legislative act, which recognizes Abkhazia and Tskhinvali as regions occupied by Russia’, Georgia Today, 8 May 2017; A. Wigglesworth, ‘Trump Welcomes Georgia’s Prime Minister’, Los Angeles Times, 8 May 2017.

The law of military occupation is set out in the 1907 Hague Convention (IV) Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its Annex: Regulations Concerning the Laws and Customs on Land, the 1949 Geneva Conventions (IV) Relative to the Protection of Civilians Persons in Time of War and the 1977 Additional Protocol I applicable to International Armed Conflict. Both Georgia and Russia are parties to the four 1949 Geneva Conventions and 1977 Additional Protocol I.

Customary international humanitarian law is also applicable during occupation, it complements the protection granted by treaties and binds all parties to the conflict. Customary international law consist of unwritten rules that come from a general practice accepted as law. Based on an extensive study, the International Committee of the Red Cross maintains a database on customary international humanitarian law.

In addition to international humanitarian law, international human rights law continues to apply during times of occupation. Both Russia and Georgia are parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights. Russia remains bound by its international human rights law obligations in the territory it occupies.

Last updated: Monday 22nd February 2021