A report has been filed on behalf of RTL reporter Jeroen Akkermans and Marjolein Storimans against six Russian (former) soldiers for committing war crimes, namely killing Dutch journalist Stan Storimans and wounding Jeroen Akkermans. The charges were filed with the International Crimes Team of the Public Prosecutor's Office, National Prosecutor's Office. Marjolein Storimans is the widow of Stan Storimans.

Background of the facts
Stan was killed on 12 August 2008 while reporting on the Russian-Georgian war. Stan was working with Rtl reporter Jeroen Akkermans on Stalin Square in the Georgian city of Gori when the square was hit by a so-called Iskander missile loaded with cluster munitions. Cluster bombs are bombs which consist of several sub-munitions that each explode. This detonation discharges a rain of countless bullets, metal fragments, splinters or shrapnel. These bullets shoot in random directions. Cluster bombs are notorious for the large number of civilian casualties they cause due to the random direction in which the small bullets are fired. Besides Storimans, 11 Georgian civilians were killed in the attack. More than 20 others were (seriously) injured, including Akkermans and Israeli journalist Zadok Yechezkeli.

Gori could not be seen as a military target at the time of the attack. It is true that heavy fighting had taken place between Russian and Georgian forces in the days before the attack. Gori had been heavily bombed taking out military targets such as the military barracks. Because of these attacks, all military personnel had retreated to Tblisi and the barracks in Gori were empty. Only civilians who could not leave and some shop owners who wanted to protect their shops had stayed behind.

Akkermans and Storimans wanted to make a story about those left behind in Gori. A local taxi driver took them there. They were accompanied on their journey by Israeli journalist Zadok Yechezkeli.

Arriving in Gori, the journalists first visited a number of buildings that were destroyed as a result of the Russian bombings. They also visited a hospital. Around 10:25 am, they stopped at the northeast corner of the central square (Stalin Square) in Gori. Storimans entered the square to take some shots of the square and the large statue of Stalin that stood there. When he turned to take some shots of local civilians that were standing alongside the square, the cluster munitions exploded.

Search for those responsible
Immediately after the attack that took the lives of so many innocent people, the question arose as to who should be held responsible. That search starts with the Iskander missile, which most likely carried the cluster munitions and remains of which were found in and immediately around Stalin Square. A fact-finding mission set up by the Dutch government shortly after Storimans' death to determine the cause and circumstances of Storimans' death also concluded that an Iskander missile carried the cluster bomb. The Iskander missile was almost certainly fired by the Russian military. Developed by the Russian military, the missile was at the time considered one of their most important and newest weapons that also had great potential for export. At the time of the attack on 12 August 2008, only the Russians has access to that weapon and, as far as we know, it had never been deployed. Georgia has never possessed an Iskander missile, even the Russians acknowledge this.

Jeroen Akkermans spent the past few years conducting in-depth research into who should be held responsible for Stan's death. He also made a documentary about the attack. Through reports, publications and open source investigation (OSINT), he eventually arrived at six possible suspects who were most likely directly involved in the deployment of the Iskander missile and thus Stan's death. All were serving in the Russian military at the time and some still are. The charges are directed against those individuals.

War crime
The International Crimes Act prohibits deliberate attacks on civilian targets or individual civilians when it is clear that such an attack will cause excessive loss of life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects. Such an attack then constitutes a war crime. Incidentally, such an attack is also punishable under the Dutch Penal Code as murder, manslaughter or attempted murder. In that sense, this case is similar to the MH-17 case in which prosecutions were also brought under the Dutch Penal Code for so-called 'common offences' (such as murder).

Reaction RTL
"The death of Stan Storimans is to this day a black page in the history of RTL News. We have always supported our correspondent Jeroen Akkermans in his investigation and quest for justice and will continue to do so. We hope this report will result in justice taking its course."

Russia's position
Russia has previously denied that it used an Iskander system in South Ossetia. As Human Rights Watch, among others, rightly noted, this leaves open the possibility that Russia did deploy the Iskander elsewhere in the conflict, such as in Gori which was entirely on (uncontested) Georgian territory. Moreover, Russia has denied the use of cluster munitions in "the zone of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict". Later, when President Medvedev was confronted with the findings of the Dutch investigation into Storimans' death - namely that it was caused by a Russian cluster bomb - Medvedev took the position that Georgia had admitted that it had used cluster bombs in the conflict and therefore Russia could not be blamed for Storimans' death. That reasoning is flawed since, as mentioned, the Georgian armed forces never possessed SS-26 missiles.

In conclusion
In the complaint, Akkermans and Storimans ask the public prosecutor to open a criminal investigation and prosecute those responsible for Stan's death in the Netherlands. Clients are assisted in this case by lawyers Barbara van Straaten and Liesbeth Zegveld.

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