ECHR declares Inter-State case Georgia v. Russia admissible
ECHR declares Inter-State case Georgia v. Russia admissible

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) unanimously declared Georgia’s application in the inter-State case Georgia v. Russia as admissible.

The case concerns the alleged deterioration of the human rights situation along the administrative boundary lines between Georgian-controlled territory and the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.

Georgian government lodged the case in Strasburg court on 22 August 2018. It is the fourth Georgia v. Russia inter-state application.

“The Court established that it had jurisdiction to deal with the case, as the facts giving rise to the alleged violations of the Convention took place before 16 September 2022, the date on which Russia ceased to be a Party to the European Convention. Although the Georgian government had asked the Court to consider the cases of Davit Basharuli, Giga Otkhozoria and Archil Tatunashvili not only as illustrations of the administrative practices alleged, but also as individual violations of the Convention, the Court noted that those cases were also the subject of three pending individual applications. It therefore decided that, in this inter-State case, it would only examine the allegations of administrative practices and would consider the three individual cases as alleged illustrations of such practices. Moreover, the Court agreed that no events which had occurred before 2009 – that is to say before the process of “borderisation” – should be taken into consideration.

In response to the Russian Government’s objection that the application had been brought to seek a decision on issues of general international law rather than on issues related to the protection of human rights under the Convention, the Court considered that the case concerned rights and freedoms defined in the Convention and, although those issues had political aspects to them, the Court could not refuse to treat a case merely because it had political implications. It considered that there was no basis for the application to be rejected as lacking the requirements of a genuine application, and it dismissed the objection,” the ECHR desicion reads.

The Court noted that in Georgia v. Russia (II) the Court had held that the strong Russian presence and the dependency of the de facto Abkhazian and South Ossetian authorities on the Russian Federation, on whom their survival depended, indicated that Russia had continued “effective control” over those two breakaway regions until at least 23 May 2018.

“Given the absence of any relevant new information to the contrary, the Court considered that that conclusion continued to be valid. It followed that the victims of the alleged violations of the Convention in this case fell within the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation.

The Court reiterated that the rule of exhaustion of domestic remedies did not apply to inter-State cases in which the applicant State complained of administrative practices of violations of the Convention and where the Court was not being asked to decide individually on each of the cases put forward as proof or illustrations of those practices. Therefore, as the Court would be examining the allegations of administrative practices only in this inter-State case, it found that the exhaustion rule did not apply,” it reads.

The Court rejected the Russian Government’s argument that, to be admissible, an allegation of administrative practice must be supported by direct evidence from the alleged victims.

“The Court reiterated that it was entitled to refer to evidence of every kind, while being conscious of the need to treat all statements and material with a degree of caution. The reliability of reports, as well as the relative probative value of all available evidence, would be considered not only on the basis of whether they corroborated each other, but also in the light of the fact that human-rights monitoring bodies had not had unhindered access to the two breakaway regions since August 2008. The Court drew a parallel between a State restricting access of independent human-rights-monitoring bodies to an area in which it exercised jurisdiction and the non-disclosure of crucial documents to prevent or hinder the Court from establishing the facts. As in previous inter-State cases, relevant inferences might be drawn from the Russian Government’s conduct in this connection. In assessing the evidence available to it, the Court noted that the Georgian Government had submitted, in support of their complaints, a detailed list set up by the State Security Service of Georgia referring to many incidents and alleged victims. Except for the three illustrative cases already mentioned, they had not provided statements from the alleged victims or witnesses in the list. Nor had they submitted forensic or any other evidence. That being said, it appeared from the material originating from international organisations and independent international human-rightsprotection associations submitted by the Georgian Government and those obtained by the Court itself that many human-rights incidents had indeed taken place since the onset of the process of “borderisation” in 2009. By way of example, the hotline set up by the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia had been contacted 2,741 times in respect of detentions for administrative-boundary-line crossings between 2011 and September 2018,” ECHR declares.