AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The U.N.'s highest court on Friday ruled it had no jurisdiction to hear Georgia's complaints of alleged human rights abuses by Russia on Georgian territory because the two sides had not held negotiations.
Georgia accused Russia of "serious violations" of a 1965 anti-discrimination treaty during three interventions in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from 1990 to August 2008 and a "systematic policy" of ethnic discrimination.
Russia asked for the case, lodged by Georgia at the International Court of Justice in 2008, to be dismissed. It said Georgia never properly raised the dispute or tried to negotiate, as the treaty requires before the ICJ court can be approached.
The ICJ on Friday said the claims and counter-claims made by Georgia and Russia concerning ethnic cleansing showed there was a dispute, but, "it has no jurisdiction to entertain the application filed by Georgia" because there was no evidence the two parties had held negotiations to try to resolve it.
"Georgia and the Russian Federation did not engage in negotiations with respect to the latter's compliance with its substantive obligations" under the treaty -- known as the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination -- the court said.
Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze told a news conference at the United Nations he was "tremendously disappointed" by the ruling and accused the court of trying "to find some kind of excuse not to consider the case."
"Russia and Georgia have been engaged in bilateral, in multilateral talks since 1991 when Russia started undeclared war against my country. And to cite this reason -- absence of bilateral talks ... is absolutely, totally ridiculous," he said.
But Tina Burjaliani, Georgia's deputy minister of justice, told Reuters the case could still proceed.
"The court has simply ruled that, due to a procedural technicality, the proceedings will not immediately lead to further consideration of the merits of the case against Russia. However, the court has left open the possibility that the case can proceed once the formal conditions for the exercise of jurisdiction by the court, as required by the 1965 convention, have been met," she said in a statement.
During the war in 2008, Moscow drew Western condemnation by sending its forces beyond the disputed area into Georgia proper.
It accused Georgia of starting the conflict and later recognized the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. Only Venezuela, Nicaragua and the tiny Pacific island of Nauru followed suit.
The ICJ, or world court, is called upon to hear disputes between states.
(Reporting by Aaron Gray-Block and Sara Webb in Amsterdam and Patrick Worsnip at the United Nations; Editing by Eric Walsh)