European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said on July 3 that the arrest, detention and collective expulsion of Georgian nationals from Russia in the autumn of 2006 violated the European Convention of Human Rights.
Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg-based court delivered on July 3 judgment into inter-state complaint lodged by Georgia against Russia in connection to deportation of hundreds of Georgian nationals in late September 2006 and early 2007 following Russian-Georgian spy row.
ECHR said that the question of just satisfaction “was not ready for decision” and the Court invited the parties to submit within 12 months “their observations on the matter and to notify the Court of any agreement that they may reach” over the just satisfaction.
In its application, filed more than seven years ago, the Georgian government was asking the Court to award compensation “for all the pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage” suffered by the injured parties as a result the Russian authorities’ actions.
Over 2,300 Georgians were detained and forcibly expelled by the Russian authorities; hundreds of them were flown back to Tbilisi on a Russian Emergency Ministry’s cargo planes. More than 2,000 other Georgians were also expelled from Russia and left the country on their own, according to the Georgian government’s estimations.
Georgia claimed in its complaint, that these measures were reprisals by the Russian authorities in response to the arrest of four Russian officers in Tbilisi in September 2006.
Russia, which was denying any reprisal measures against the Georgian nationals, argued that it was just a continuation of its standard policy against illegal immigration.
“There had been a coordinated policy of arresting, detaining and expelling Georgian nationals and… the Court considered that those arrests had been arbitrary,” ECHR said, adding that "no effective and accessible remedies had been available to the Georgian nationals against their arrest."
“The conclusion reached by the Court regarding the implementation in the Russian Federation of a coordinated policy of arresting, detaining and expelling Georgian nationals from October 2006 also shows that the expulsions were collective in nature,” reads the judgment.
“That finding does not call into question the right of the States to establish their own immigration policies. It must be pointed out, however, that problems with managing migratory flows cannot justify a State’s having recourse to practices which are not compatible with its obligations under the Convention,” reads ECHR verdict.
Georgia’s complaint against Russia was raising multiple issues of the European Convention on Human Rights, involving prohibition of torture, right to liberty and security, right to respect for private and family life, right to an effective remedy, limitation on use of restrictions on rights, protection of property and right to education, prohibition of collective expulsion of aliens and procedural safeguards relating to expulsion of aliens.
Grand Chamber of 17 judges of the Strasbourg-based court ruled by the majority that there had been a violation of the Convention in respect of prohibition of collective expulsion of aliens; right to liberty and security; right to judicial review of detention; prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment; right to an effective remedy.
But ECHR found no violation concerning the right to respect for private and family life; procedural safeguards relating to expulsion of aliens, and protection of property and right to education.
Georgia lodged the inter-state application against Russia in March, 2007. In June, 2009 the Strasbourg-based court found Georgia’s application admissible to be heard on its merits and in January and February, 2011 ECHR judges took evidence from witnesses in Strasbourg
In late 2009 the case was referred for hearing to ECHR’s Grand Chamber, the highest level of the court representing panel of 17 judges, among them ECHR’s President and Vice-Presidents.
Cases go to the Grand Chamber if parties want to appeal a ruling of a lower chamber or if a lower chamber to which the case is originally assigned itself relinquishes it in favor of the highest level of the court. This latter has been the case in respect of Georgia vs. Russia inter-state application. Such relinquishment of jurisdiction in favor of the Grand Chamber happens if the case “raises a serious question of interpretation of the Convention” or if there is a risk of departing from existing case-law. Grand Chamber judgments are final.
“Georgia has won,” said Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani, who attended the announcement of the judgment in Strasbourg. “I congratulate on this victory all those Georgians, who were victims of humiliating treatment.”
Tsulukiani told Rustavi 2 TV last week that she had resisted number of attempts aimed at dropping the case against Russia at the Strasbourg-based court; she did not elaborate details.
“Since I was appointed as the Justice Minister, various types of multiple actions were carried out to make me withdraw this complaint from [ECHR], but this complaint was brought to the end on July 3 I will hear the judgment,” Tsulukiani said.
When asked later by journalists who wanted the case to be dropped, Tsulukiani said that she would only speak publicly about it after quitting the cabinet.
Georgia also has a separate inter-state application against Russia, filed to ECHR in connection to the August, 2008 war. This war-related case has also been referred to the Grand Chamber and the verdict is pending.