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Strasbourg court will judge Georgia vs. Russia case

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, July 6
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has decided to admit for judicial consideration Georgia’s complaint against Russia’s actions in the autumn of 2006 when more than two thousand ethnic Georgians were driven out of Russia.

Georgia has accused Russia of violating human rights and stated that Russia’s actions were a response to the detention of four Russian militaries in Georgia on espionage charges in September 2006. Tbilisi has demanded that Moscow compensates the victims for the damage caused by its mass deportations which it considers to be illegal. “The [European Human Rights] Court’s admissibility decision in no way prejudges the merits of the Georgian Government’s complaints. The Court will deliver its judgment at a later date,” says the statement published on the ECHR website on July 3.

The European Court announced that Georgia had made a claim against Russia for violating the “European Convention on Human Rights and its Protocols under the following provisions: Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment), Article 5 (right to liberty), Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), Article 13 (right to an effective remedy), Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), Article 18 (limitation on the use of restrictions on rights) of the Convention; Articles 1 (protection of property) and 2 (right to education) of Protocol No. 1; Article 4 (prohibition of collective expulsion of aliens) of Protocol No. 4 and Article 1 (procedural safeguards relating to expulsion of aliens) of Protocol No. 7.”

These breaches were said to have derived, in particular, from widespread arrests and detentions of members of the Georgian immigrant population in the Russian Federation, which created a generalised threat to the security of the person, and multiple, arbitrary interferences with the right to liberty. The Georgian Government also complained of the conditions in which “at least 2,380 Georgians” had been detained. They asserted that the collective expulsion of Georgians from the Russian Federation had involved a systematic and arbitrary interference with these persons’ legitimate right to remain in Russia – a right duly evidenced by regular documents – as well as with the requirements of due process and statutory appeal process. During their deportation three ethnic Georgians died from various diseases, and Tbilisi claims these deaths were caused by the negligence of the Russian authorities, which refused to provide proper medical care to the deportees. In addition, having closed the land, air and maritime border between the Russian Federation and Georgia, thereby interrupting all postal communication, had allegedly frustrated access to remedies for the persons affected.

“We want the Court to give a legal assessment of all the instances of violations of the rights of the deportees… The Court may rule that Russia should reimburse pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages to a person whose rights have been violated,” Bessarion Bokhashvili, Georgia’s representative at the ECHR, said in 2007 when Georgia first addressed the Strasbourg court on this matter.

The Russian Government has contested the Georgian Government’s allegations. They stated that the events surrounding the arrest in Tbilisi of four Russian officers and their subsequent release had no relation, either chronologically or in substance, to the events described by the Georgian Government in their application. The Russian authorities had not taken reprisal measures against Georgian nationals, but merely continued to apply the ordinary law aimed at preventing illegal immigration, in compliance with the requirements of the Convention and the Russian Federation’s international obligations. In particular, the end of 2006 had not been marked by an increase in the number of administrative expulsions of Georgian nationals who had breached the regulations governing residence on Russian territory.

The date of the trial has still not been announced, but according to the rules of the ECHR, the process should be conducted by seven judges, two of whom should be Russian and Georgian citizens respectively. Meanwhile Russia also plans to sue Georgia in international courts, accusing it of “massacre of the civil population and genocide” during the August 2008 conflict.

“The Russian Federation should be more active in the international courts. We can demand the creation of special international organs for the definition of the crimes of those personalities against whom we conduct investigations,” stated Alexander Bastyrkin, head of the Russian Prosecutor’s Investigation Commission, speaking to Russian journalists on Friday. He also noted that Russia “possesses proof that the Georgia military command gave direct orders for the liquidation of Ossetian civilians” during the military actions in South Ossetia in August 2008.

Tbilisi has already reacted to Bastyrkin’s statements, calling them “absurd allegations designed to distract the attention of the international community and its own population and thus cover up its culpable actions against Georgia.”

“Besides, we can presume that behind Bastyrkin’s cynical allegations stands another Moscow attempt to influence the work of the European Union's independent international commission on the 2008 conflict in the Caucasus. We are confident that the Kremlin's propaganda machine, employing the services of Bastyrkin and other similar people, will not be able to portray white as black and camouflage and justify its aggressive and culpable policy against Georgia,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a special statement published on July 3.