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Georgia Brings Russia to European Court over Deportations
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 27 Mar.'07 / 18:07
Nino Khutsidze

Tbilisi wants Moscow to reimburse pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages for the alleged violation of the rights of hundreds of ethnic Georgians who have been deported from the Russian Federation.

The Georgian Justice Ministry lodged an interstate application to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on March 26 against the Russian Federation.

Over 2,000 ethnic Georgians have been deported from Russia since late September, 2006 against the background of Russo-Georgian tensions, which hit boiling point following a spy row between the two countries.

It will be the sixth state vs. state case in the ECHR if the court rules favorably on the admissibility of Georgia’s application, Besarion Bokhashvili, Georgia’s state representative to the Court, said on March 27.

Russia has already warned that the lawsuit would not help to normalize relations between the two countries.

Bokhashvili said the 70-page lawsuit, which was prepared by the Justice Ministry with the assistance of a group of British legal consultants, contains the cases of about 150 Georgian deportees, including three who died awaiting deportation.

Zurab Muzashvili, who suffered from tuberculosis, died in a detention center in the Russian town of Engels in the Saratov District in January, 2007. Manana Jabelia, 51, died in a detention center in Moscow in December, 2006 and Tengiz Togonidze, 48, died of an asthma attack on October 17 in Domodedovo airport in Moscow, shortly before he was due to be deported to Georgia.

The Georgian authorities claim that all three people died due to negligence on the part of the Russian authorities, in particular their failure to provide adequate medical treatment to detainees.

“We have decided to record approximately 150 cases and submit them because these are the strongest cases,” Bokhashvili told reporters.

Video files including interviews with deportees have been attached to the lawsuit as supporting evidence.

“We want the Court to give a legal assessment to all those facts involving the violation of the rights of deportees… The Court may rule that Russia should reimburse pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages to that person whose rights have been violated,” Georgia’s state representative to the ECHR said.

He declined to comment on what figure Georgia will demand from Russia, but added that “it will be quite a reasonable sum.”

The Georgian authorities maintain that the Russian side is in violation of the following provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights:

  • Prohibition of collective expulsion of aliens;
  • Procedural safeguards relating to expulsion of aliens: the deportees were not allowed to submit arguments against their deportation;
  • Right to life;
  • Prohibition of torture: deportees were detained in unbearable conditions;
  • Right to liberty and security: deportees were arbitrarily detained and they were prevented from challenging the lawfulness of their detention;
  • Right to respect for private and family life: school principals in Moscow were instructed by the authorities to forward private information about pupils with Georgian ethnicity;
  • Protection of property: access to property in the Russian Federation was denied to deportees;
  • Right to education: Russian authorities requested that school administrations submit information about Georgian pupils to local divisions of Militia (Russian Police Service); the pupils and teachers of Russian schools in Georgia under the supervision of the Russian Federation (#9 School in Tbilisi and #17 in Batumi) were denied access to the schools;
  • Right to an effective remedy;
  • Prohibition of discrimination: deportations were carried out on national ground;
  • Limitation on use of restrictions on rights.

“Of course, the Russian side will claim that these accusations are groundless, but now it is up to the Court to decide who is right,” Bokhashvili told Civil.Ge on March 27.

“The fact in itself that we have lodged an application already means that we have a strong case,” he added.

Theoretically it is possible to reach “a friendly settlement” with Russia; but Georgia does not see this as an option at this stage, Bokhashvili said.

Justice Minister Gia Kavtaradze told Georgian lawmakers in February, when the authorities were still undecided whether to file the lawsuit or not, that the government needed very strong evidence.

“I cannot allow us to lose if we file the lawsuit,” Kavtaradze said then.

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