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Georgian Government Calm about Verdict of the European Court on Girgvliani’s Case

28.04.2011

Aleko Tskitishvili

On April 26, several Georgian news agencies simultaneously reported the verdict delivered by the European Court of Human Rights on Sandro Girgvliani’s high-profile case. The European Court concluded that the government of Georgia has breached the European Convention and it is a serious response to the government’s most sensitive case.

The first published media assessments of the European Court’s verdict have reported that Sandro Girgvliani’s family might request a new investigation into the case.

Sandro Girgvliani’s uncle, Gogi Enukidze, has told Interpresnews that the European Court of Human Rights has almost completely satisfied the suitor’s requests. “We found justice only in the Strasbourg Court. According to their verdict, the investigation into the case was insufficient.  We might request a new investigation of the case. We are pleased with the court’s verdict.”

He said the imposed 50, 000 EUR on the Georgian state in favor of the family is a minor issue.

Extracts from the Verdict

People can read the full text of the verdict on the official website of the ECHR in the English language. The Georgian translation of the verdict is not available yet. Several extracts from the document were published on the website of the Georgian Republic Party. Later, when Georgia’s Ministry of Justice commented on the verdict, we saw that the government, opposition parties and Girgvliani’s family have different interpretations of the verdict.

According to the assessment of the Republic Party, the ECHR verdict unilaterally confirmed all allegations of society against the government with regard to the case. The Court Judgment reads:

“Summarising its findings above, the court reiterates that the investigation into the death of Sandro Girgvliani manifestly lacked the requisite independence, impartiality, objectivity and thoroughness.

On the contrary, the relevant circumstances of the case allow the court to draw the conclusion that the domestic authorities were lacking in candor and impartiality in the conduct of the investigation. Even if the failings of some of those authorities would not alone have been sufficient for finding the investigation inadequate, their coexistence and cumulative effect is more than enough in this regard.

Indeed, the court is struck by how the different branches of State power – the Ministry of the Interior, with regard to the initial shortcomings of the investigation, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, with regard to the remaining omissions of the investigation, the Prisons Department, with regard to the unlawful placement of the convicts in the same cell, the domestic courts, with regard to the deficient trial and the convicts’ early release and the President of Georgia, with regard to the unreasonable leniency towards the convicts.”

The court states that an adequate reaction of the state in a similar cases is urgently important; “Otherwise, the state risks instilling a sense of impunity in its agents by appearing to tolerate their life-threatening acts, which could open the way to more wanton crimes such as that committed in the present case.”

The Strasbourg Court imposed a fine of 50,000 EUR on the state of Georgia, which is to be paid to the suitor –Guram Girgvliani within three months. In addition, all unforeseen expenses shall also be rendered to the suitor.

The application was sent to the Strasbourg Court in Summer of 2007. Lawyers requested the court to recognize the violations of several articles of the European Convention (the right to life, the right to a fair trial, the protection against torture, as well as human rights violations).  They have requested moral compensation for the damage.

Officials of the Georgian MIA abducted Sandro Girgvliani in January 2006 and tortured him. This resulted in his death. Four officers of the Constitutional Security Department were arrested for the crime (Gia Alania, Aleksandre Ghachava, Avtandil Aptsiauri and Mikheil Bibiluridze). They were sent to prison for 6 years. However, based on a presidential pardon, they were released early.

The accused had their term reduced and were released early from prison in 2009.

Lawyers Evaluate

According to the lawyers of Sandro Girgvliani’s family, the Strasbourg Court recognized the violation of the second article –right to life – of the European Convention. The ECHR underscored that the investigation implemented by Georgian law enforcement institutions – the MIA, the Prosecutor’s Office and court - did not comply with the standards of Article II of the European Convention. In addition, the Court recognized the violation of Article 38 of the European Convention which entitles the state to cooperate with the court in the fact-finding process. Some allegations by the government of Georgia were filed later and parts of them were fraudulent.

As the lawyers noted, the court concluded that the allegations regarding the violation of the right to life completely reflected those allegations which they could have with regard to a fair trial and the court did not discuss the violation of the right to fair trial separately.

Sandro Girgvliani’s family lawyer and member of the Georgian political party Free Democrats Shalva Shavgulidze, spoke about the significance of the ECHR verdict at a special briefing in the Free Democrat’s office. He said the verdict illustrated that the preliminary investigation, as well as the court hearings of the case in the Georgian court were incomplete and biased.

He added that when executing the verdict, the Government of Georgia will have to carry out an additional investigation under the supervision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and launch criminal prosecution against those people who avoided criminal liability for their crime.

“I mean those people who were at table during the famous dinner-party had a conflict with Sandro Girgvliani and then called the brigade to punish him. Those people are: former Chair of the Constitutional Security Department Data Akhalaia, Head of General Inspection Vasil Sanodze, Head of the MIA Press-Center Guram Donadze, officer of the MIA Oelg Melnikov and wife of the Minister of Internal Affairs Tako Salakaia,” said the lawyer.

Shavgulidze said the ECHR verdict casts doubt on the participation of those people in the crime; so a new investigation shall be launched for the next court hearing.

Shavgulidze said the ECHR wrote in its verdict that pardoning the convicted people for the murder and their early release was a completely unjustified decision and contradicted the Convention. Therefore, the decision shall be annulled and the four convicted shall serve their terms in their entirety.

“Our main target was to punish all persons who were responsible for this crime,” said Shavgulidze.

“The Georgian state lost the trial in Girgvliani’s case,” pointed out the second lawyer of the Davit Jandieri family who evaluated the ECHR verdict in his interview with the Radio Palitra. He underscored the fact that when the European Court recognizes violation of the European Convention, it has lost the trial.

According to the lawyer, the court stressed that they cannot impose punishment on the state as the crime was committed by high ranking police officials and in this particular case- no special operations were conducted by the government. The court added that the crime had resulted from a small dinner-party for which the court could not find enough grounds to punish the state for the offensive activities of particular police officers.

“The court found the Georgian state responsible for not having provided materials to the European Court despite their many requests,” said Jandieri.

He added that parties can appeal the court verdict at the Grand Chamber of the European Court within three months. Later, the verdict cannot be appealed and it will be assigned to the Committee of Ministers for execution.

Assessment of the Opposition Political Parties

According to the leader of the Free Democrats, Irakli Alasania, the conclusions presented in the decision of the European Court of Human Rights ultimately confirmed that all branches of Saakashvili’s government – the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Office of Prosecutor, the Penitentiary Department, the Judiciary and the Georgian President - acted in compliance to hinder the determination of truth and materialization of justice in the case of this horrific murder.

“The Office of Prosecutor of Saakashvili and the Ministry of Internal Affairs falsified the protocols of interrogation and distorted the facts; they hid important evidence”,  stated Alasania. According to his assessment, the judiciary in Georgia is not independent, impartial and objective. According to him, the Strasbourg Court called the president’s action of pardoning convicts and releasing them early shocking.

“The Strasbourg Court passed the verdict to the Saakashvili regime. I am warning Mikheil Saakashvili and his government, that they cannot escape justice and will be held accountable for the crimes they committed,” – stated the leader of the Free Democrats.

“I hope the government will not deceive the public and will not interpret the Strasbourg Court decision as its victory,” – stated Tina Khidasheli, leader of Republican Party while commenting on the Strasbourg Court’s decision.

As Khidasheli stated to Interpressnews, the most important part of the Strasbourg decision is the argumentation element of the decision where the reasons to why the Court made the decision against the state and for the benefit of Girgvliani are explained.

“One of the important passages for me is where the Court states that “it is struck by how the different branches of state power… acted in concert in preventing justice from being done in this gruesome homicide case,” and this is written in its decision,” – states Khidasheli.

As for the renewing investigations, Tina Khidasheli states that it is possible to do so, but it depends on the will of the government.

“The Strasbourg Court cannot request a new investigation, as it does not belong to its mandate, but the fact is that the Georgian government was found untruthful for the crimes committed during the investigation. The court was not just, the investigation was not impartial. That means that the investigation should start over. It is hard to say whether the representatives of our government will do so. I hope that the government will not distort this decision this time and will not sell it as its victory by its propagandist TV channels,” – stated Khidasheli.

Government Position

The parliamentary majority met the decision of ECHR with the expected restraint. Deputies from the National party gave the simple answer that they have not read the decision and cannot comment on it.

The Ministry of Justice commented on the ECHR decision. The Ministry does not consider this decision to be its victory but does not perceive it as its failure either.

As the Ministry told Interpressnews, the applicants were appealing against the breaching of four articles of the European Convention of Human Rights (the right to life, the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to a fair trial and the effective means of legal protection).

The Ministry of Justice considers that despite the request of the applicant, ECHR denied the breach of three articles.

“The Court states that the state is not responsible for the death of the applicant’s son; the Court did not find the right to a fair trial and availability of effective means of legal protection breached. In addition, the Court did not conclude that the applicants became the victim of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. As a result of the arguments presented by the sides and analyzing the factual and legal circumstances of case, the only breach that the Strasbourg Court found is the lack of an effective investigation into the dead of the applicant’s son,” – reads the statement of the Ministry of Justice.

According to the Ministry, though the applicants were requesting 300, 000 EUR as moral compensation, the European Court of Human Rights imposed 50, 000 EUR.

The statement of the Ministry of Justice shows that the government is not concerned by the decision of the ECHR or it hides the concern and closes its eyes to the shortcomings existing in this case. However, before the Georgian translation of the document is published, the public will need to apply its analytical capability and analyze what exactly the ECHR ruled.

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Name: Dash
2011-07-15 12:50
A mliilon thanks for posting this information.
Name: გიორგი
2011-05-10 17:44
ოპოზიცია გამოვიდა და იძახის საქართველომ წააგო პროცესიო. ხელისუფლება საწინააღმდეგოს ამტკიცებს მაგრამ ფაქტია რომ საქარტველოს სახელმწიფოს დაეკისრა ჯარიმა.ამდენ ლაპარაკს არ ჯობია გამოაქვეყნონ იმ დოკუმენტის ასლი რომელშიც გადაწყვეტილება წერია და დაურთონ თარგმანი
Name: მარიამი
2011-05-01 16:00
სად შეიძლება გავეცნო სანდრო გირგვლიანის საქმეს და სტრასბურგის სასამართლოს სრულ გადაწყვეტილებას?
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