The messenger logo

The News in Brief

Monday, May 22
ECHR Judge Accuses Police of ‘Work-related’ House Search

Nona Tsotsoria, the judge of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) from Georgia, said on May 19 that the police search of her brother’s house in Batumi a day earlier is related to her work at ECHR.

Media sources reported that the police seized two hunting rifles, a handgun and bullets following a four-hour long search in the flat of Otar Tsotsoria on May 18. They also said the investigation was launched on charges of the illegal purchase and possession of firearms. Otar Tsotsoria, however, has until now, not been charged and interrogated by the police.

Nona Tsotsoria released a brief note on Facebook a day later, saying the family did not know “how those objects appeared” in our house, referring to the handgun and bullets. “They do not belong to my brother or to any of the family members. My brother never had any conflict with the law and has no criminal record. Freedom, honesty, hard work and respect of the law have been and will remain the main values for my family,” she noted.

“I have reason to believe that those actions are related to my work at the European Court of Human Rights,” Tsotsoria added. “I would like to state unequivocally that nothing will affect on performing my judicial duties and I will continue contributing to strengthening democracy and human rights in Georgia.”

Otar Tsotsoria told reporters on May 19 that the two hunting rifles belonged to him and were registered, but added that the handgun and bullets were planted by the police in an attempt to get back at his sister for her past position in UNM government.

“This is pressure...a reprisal, we cannot call it another word. This is a reprisal against my sister, through punishing me,” Tsotsoria stated.

Otar Tsotsoria, who owns a car repair shop in Batumi, said that the police inspected his service garage a month ago as well.

Political Party Reactions

Opposition political parties denounced the police search, saying the move might be related to the government’s dissatisfaction over ECHR’s decisions on two ongoing cases, namely over the Rustavi 2 TV ownership dispute and over a case involving the former Prime Minister, Vano Merabishvili.

The Movement for Liberty-European Georgia, which has the largest opposition faction in Parliament, issued a statement calling upon the Georgian government “to refrain from any pressure on Judge Tsotsoria and her family and respect her work in the European Court of Human Rights”.

“There is a high likelihood that this is politically motivated, because Bidzina Ivanishvili (the former Prime Minister) and the current government do not like the ECHR's decisions, on Rustavi 2, for instance, and they are trying to exert pressure on the brother of an ECHR judge,” European Georgia’s Zurab Chiaberashvili added.

Khatia Dekanoidze of the United National Movement party said there were many unaddressed questions on the matter and called on the government to conduct a transparent investigation.

“The ECHR decision suspended the Georgian government’s step against Rustavi 2, which was very important for the country’s democratic development. So, instead of the carrying out their duties to conduct a non-biased and objective investigation, the law enforcement agencies are searching Nona Tsotsoria’s brother’s house and [allegedly] finding a gun, which the person [Otar Tsotsoria] claims does not belong to him,” Dekanoidze stated.

Aleksandre Jejelava, Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister, responded to the accusations on May 19, saying the Otar Tsotsoria’s statement was a “defense strategy” to cover up the violation.

“Every person who violates the law prefers to come up with some kind of excuse, and in this case, this is a defense strategy. We would like to reiterate that no one stands above the law, neither the judge’s brother, nor the minister’s brother, no one. Therefore, if we are dealing with a violation, this is absolutely justified, regardless of who’s relative we are speaking about,” Jejelava noted.

Nona Tsotsoria, who served as the deputy chief prosecutor before joining the ECHR in 2008, sits at court chambers on all Georgia-related cases. Tsotsoria’s tenure expired in January 2017, but was prolonged due to the PACE committee rejection of the three Georgia-nominated candidates to ECHR.

Constitutional amendments to be discussed at Berlin conference

The constitutional amendments will be discussed at a conference in Berlin on May 22-23, InterpressNews was informed by the Parliament’s press service.

According to them, Irakli Kobakhidze, the Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, will introduce the draft constitutional law to Secretary of Venice Commission Thomas Markert and experts, constitutionalists and representatives of non-governmental organizations.

Irakli Kobakhidze will deliver a welcome speech at the conference.

The conference, supported by the German International Cooperation Society (GIZ), will also be attended by Georgian MPs Tamar Chugoshvili, Mamuka Mdinaradze, Giorgi Kakhiani, Giorgi Lomia, Salome Samadashvili, Zurab Chiaberashvili, representatives of the Presidential Administration, international organizations, NGOs and experts.