International Criminal Court judges have authorized an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the brief 2008 conflict in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The investigation is the first full-scale case for ICC prosecutors outside Africa.

Judges on Wednesday gave Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda the green light to investigate crimes allegedly committed "in and around South Ossetia, Georgia," from July to October 2008 by rebels possibly backed by Russian forces, and by Georgian forces.

The court says in a statement that the three-judge panel found that "there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the ICC's jurisdiction have been committed" including murder, attacking peacekeepers and pillaging.

Georgia lost control of its breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the 2008 war with Russia.