22 September 2011, 23:00

ECtHR holds hearing on eligibility of Georgia's lawsuit against Russia

Today, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg held a public hearing on the lawsuit of Georgia to the Russian Federation on the results of the war in South Ossetia in August 2008.

"The essence of this lawsuit is in Russia's responsibility for human rights violations that occurred during and after the August war. This is the main landmark and the direction of our complaint," said Levan Meskhoradze, the representative of Georgia in the Strasbourg Court.

Let us remind you that the lawsuit was filed back on August 11, 2008, and in March 2009, it was handed over for answer to the Russian government, which presented the arguments in its own defence.

Tbilisi accuses Russia of violating five articles of the European Convention on Human Rights - Article 2 (right to life), Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment), Article 5 (right to liberty and security), Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy). Besides, Moscow faces complaints of breaching during the military operations Article 1 of Protocol 1 to the Convention, which protects right to property, Article 2 of the same protocol (right to education), and Article 2 of Protocol 4, which protects right of free movement.

Russian side: we have no control over South Ossetia and Abkhazia to be responsible for actions in their territory

Georgy Matyushkin, Russia's Envoy to the ECtHR, stated that his country never had the level of control over the territories of the two republics, which "would allow imposing on Moscow responsibility for the actions of militaries, militiamen, or civilians of South Ossetia and Abkhazia."

Georgy Matyushkin urged the Court to consider the lawsuit of Georgia inadmissible "for lack of territory of South Ossetia and Abkhazia within the jurisdiction of Russia." According to him, actions of Russian forces in the territory of Georgia fully met the requirements of the laws of war.

"It is clear that namely the Georgian forces began military actions against South Ossetia, and Russian forces were only defending peacekeepers and Russian citizens," the BBC quotes Andrei Fyodorov, Chief of the Office of Russia's Envoy to the ECtHR, as saying.

Georgian side considers Russia's arguments unconvincing

The Georgian side, which was represented by Tina Burdjaliani, Deputy Minister of Justice, Levan Meskhoradze, Envoy to the ECtHR, and their two British advisers, considered Russia's arguments unconvincing.

"Today, the Russian side presented two arguments in its own favour, stating that it was not responsible for the events in the allegedly independent South Ossetia and, besides, they had been given no time to improve the situation, and this contradicts the international agreements. On the contrary, we prove that namely Russia is responsible for what is happening in the territory of another state, which it occupied," the "Trend" quotes Tina Burdjaliani as saying.

Levan Meskhoradze expressed his confidence that the arguments of the Russian side would not be heard. The Russian authorities were "the authors, who planned and implemented their policy," the "Gazeta.ru" quotes the diplomatic official with reference to the "Imedi" TV Channel.

The Georgian side believes that Russia should bear direct responsibility for human rights violations and indirect responsibility - for the actions of South-Ossetian armed formations, which, according to Levan Meskhoradze, acted in the territory controlled by the Russian authorities by order of the latter.

According to British lawyer Ben Emerson, representing the official Tbilisi in Strasbourg, the court will be able to pronounce its decision in several months only.

All this time, the court will be considering the case behind closed doors, the "News-Georgia" reports.

South Ossetia: Georgia is trying to shift blame on Russia

"In 2008, Georgia treacherously attacked the Republic of South Ossetia. By that attack Georgia had violated a number of international regulations, launched military operations against the civilian population of our republic. Now Georgia is trying to shift its own responsibility on the shoulders of other countries, in particularly, on Russia," said David Sanakoev, Human Rights Envoy of President of the Republic of South Ossetia (RSO).

According to him, "at that time, Russia protected the citizens of the Russian Federation, the people of South Ossetia, and its peacekeepers," the official website of the Plenipotentiary Envoy of the President of South Ossetia on post-conflict settlement reports.

"I believe that the European Court will make the right decision and we will meet the day when all those parties responsible for the deaths of many innocent civilians - from Ossetian, Georgian, and Russian sides - will incur responsibility," concluded Mr Sanakoev.

Outcome of litigation will affect individual lawsuits against Georgia and Russian Federation, human rights activist asserts

"At present, we will consider the case without merits, and only the question of admissibility - that is, whether the Georgian side has completed those formal procedural obligations that it should have been completed before appealing to the European Court," explained Liya Mukhashavriya, the head of the organization "Human Rights Priority".

According to her, "Georgia not only failed to fulfil the procedural obligations, but also failed to investigate these cases on merits."

According to the lawyers, familiar with the practice of the European Court, without investigating and appealing to the investigatory agencies of Russia, the Georgian lawsuit can be admitted to be inadmissible.

Liya Mukhashavriya believes that the outcome of interstate litigation at the European Court will also affect individual complaints lodged to the European Court of Justice in connection with the war of August 2008.

The very organization of Liya Mukhashavriya filed to the ECtHR approximately 30 individual complaints of Georgian citizens connected to the events of August 2008. In total, the Strasbourg Court have at consideration almost 2,000 of such individual lawsuits - against Georgia, against Russia and two dozen complaints against both sides of the conflict at once.

"We're trying to prove that the both governments are guilty of the fatal consequences of the war of August 2008. The Georgian government was to protect its civilians, evacuate, and inform them of the danger. The Russian side was to investigate these cases and punish the guilty persons," concluded Liya Mukhashavriya.

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