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European Court of Human Rights ruling on Girgvliani’s case

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, April 28
The European Court of Human rights has partly satisfied the appeal of Sandro Girgvliani’s family against the Georgian government and has ruled that Georgia has to pay EUR 50 000 to the family in compensation. According to the decision of the European Court, published on April 26, the investigation of Girgvliani’s case “lacked independence, impartiality, objectivity and thoroughness.”

The Court ruled with six votes against one that Article 38 of the Convention of Human Rights and Freedoms, which obliges the state to cooperate with the court in fact-finding, had been breached. The Court decision says that the procedural part of the second article of the convention was also violated, which, according to the decision published by the Court, refers to the “lack of effective” investigation into the case of Girgvliani’s death. Six of the seven judges voted for the decision.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled with four votes against three that a substantial part of the second article of the Convention was not violated. With this decision the court rejected the guilt of the Interior Ministry high rank officials in the death of Sandro Girgvliani. “the court, sharing the Government’s arguments, attaches particular importance to the fact that, even if Sandro Girgvliani met his death at the hands of the State agents, the perpetrators were not acting in the exercise of their official duties,” the ruling of the Court reads “On the contrary, according to the circumstances of the case as established by the domestic courts, the crime was committed in the context of the perpetrators’ private celebration of their friend’s birthday. They were not engaged in any planned police operation or in a spontaneous chase,” it continues.

The European Court touched upon the issue of pardoning the people convicted for Girgvliani’s murder. “The Court is struck by the fact that on 24 November 2008 the President of Georgia found it appropriate to pardon State agents convicted of such a heinous crime by reducing the remainder of their sentences by half. Then, as if that measure of clemency was not generous enough, on 5 September 2009 the prison authority recommended and the relevant domestic court granted the convicts’ release on license,” the court judgment reads “the Court considers that when an agent of the State, in particular a law-enforcement officer, is convicted of a crime that violates Article 2 of the Convention, the granting of an amnesty or pardon can scarcely serve the purpose of an adequate punishment,” it continues.

Among the main shortcomings of court procedure in Georgia, the European Court named the fact that the Georgian Court refused to provide enough time to the applicants to study the case. The European Court also mentioned that the investigation process held in Georgia lacked impartiality.

The applicants – Sandro Girgvliani’s mother Irina Enukidze, who died in 2007 and Girgvliani’s father Guram Girgvliani claimed that the Georgian government violated the second article of the Human rights and Freedoms Convention (Right of Life), the third article (prohibition of torture), the sixth article (right for fair trial) and the thirteenth article (right for effective remedy). The court ruled the violation of three articles. According to the statement released by the Georgian Ministry of Justice following the court ruling, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the state is not responsible for the death of the appellants’ son, the court has also not confirmed that the appellants were the victims of torture and inhuman treatment. The sides have a right to appeal the decision of the European Court in three months time.

The advocates of the Girgvliani family have stated the Georgian side should launch a new investigation into the case, however the Georgian Ministry of Justice has said the court has not given this recommendation to the Georgian state. Georgian opposition representatives meanwhile have expressed hopes that the Georgian government “will not sell the decision of the Strasbourg Court as its own victory.” Leader of the Republican Party, Tina Khidasheli said the launching of a new investigation is possible, however she noted that it depends on the will of the government. “We cannot demand from the Strasbourg Court to investigate the case again, because it is not in the Court’s mandate, but the fact that the Georgian state was found guilty in terms of crimes committed during the investigation, is a fact. It means that the court was not fair, the investigation was not impartial, and it means that the investigation should be started over again. However it is hard to say if the Georgian government representatives will do this,” Khidasheli stated.

The leader of Free Democrats, Irakli Alasania said, that the Strasbourg court ruling has given a sentence for Saakashvili’s regime. “The conclusions included in the Court’s decision has finally proved that Saakashvili’s government’s branches – Interior Ministry, Penitentiary Department, the Court and the President himself were acting in agreement with each other, in order to prevent finding out the truth about this terrible murder,” Alasania said.