The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for three men on suspicion of various war crimes during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.
The suspects — Lieutenant-General Mikhail Mindzaev, Gamlet Guchmazov and David Sanakoev — all served in the governments of the Russian-backed self-declared republic of South Ossetia.
The Hague-based court said on Thursday that there are “reasonable grounds to believe that each of these three suspects bears responsibility for war crimes.”
The ICC launched an investigation into the Georgian conflict in 2016.
Russia had invaded Georgia after violence broke out between separatist groups and Georgian forces, leaving hundreds dead and thousands displaced.
Last year, the European Court of Human Rights concluded that “grave human rights abuses” had occurred on Russian-held territory.
"There are reasonable grounds to believe that civilians (perceived to be ethnically Georgian) were arrested in the South Ossetian part of Georgia, and subsequently detained, mistreated, and kept in harsh detention conditions in a detention centre in Tskhinvali," judges said in a statement on 24 June.
"[Civilians were] used as a bargaining tool by Russia and the South Ossetian de facto authorities, and used for an exchange of prisoners and detainees."
"As a result of the exchange, the detainees were forced to leave South Ossetia," the court added.
Mindzaev and Guchmazov held the top positions at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of South Ossetia, while Sanakoev served as the Presidential Representative for Human Rights of the breakaway region.
The court said it would send a request to the "competent authorities" to arrest the three suspects.
ICC prosecutors are currently investigating alleged crimes in several countries, including in the ongoing war in Ukraine.