European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said today that Russia was responsible for the breach of six articles of the European Convention of Human Rights, as well as for violating Art. 2 in procedural sense, involving failure to conduct effective investigation into alleged breach of right to life, in the aftermath of Russo-Georgian War of August 2008.
The judgement, delivered by the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg-based court into inter-state complaint lodged by Georgia against Russia in connection to the War of August 2008, said events following the ceasefire agreement of 12 August, 2008 that ended the active phase of the war, had fallen within the Russian jurisdiction regarding Article 1 of the Convention, involving obligation to respect human rights.
The Court said the events occurring during the active phase of hostilities between 8 to 12 August 2008, had not fallen within the Russian jurisdiction and declared this part of Georgia’s application inadmissible, however, held that “the Russian Federation had exercised “effective control” over South Ossetia, Abkhazia and the “buffer zone” during the period from 12 August to 10 October 2008, the date of the official withdrawal of the Russian troops.”
The Court continued that, “after that period, the strong Russian presence and the South Ossetian and Abkhazian authorities’ dependency on the Russian Federation indicated that there had been continued “effective control” over South Ossetia and Abkhazia.”
The ECHR held:
by sixteen votes to one, that there had been an administrative practice contrary to Articles 2, 3 and 8 of the Convention, involving right to life, prohibition of torture and respect for private and family life, respectively, and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention, involving protection of property.
unanimously that the Georgian civilians detained by the South Ossetian forces in Tskhinvali between approximately 10 and 27 August, 2008 had fallen within the Russian jurisdiction for the purposes of Article 1, and that there had been an administrative practice contrary to Article 3, involving prohibition of torture “as regards the conditions of detention of some 160 Georgian civilians and the humiliating acts which had caused them suffering and had to be regarded as inhuman and degrading treatment.”
unanimously that there had been an administrative practice contrary to Article 5, involving right to liberty and security as regards the arbitrary detention of Georgian civilians in August 2008.
unanimously, that the Georgian prisoners of war detained in Tskhinvali between 8 and 17 August 2008 by the S. Ossetian forces had fallen within the Russian jurisdiction for the purposes of Article 1; and by sixteen votes to one, that there had been an administrative practice contrary to Article 3 (prohibition of torture) as regards the acts of torture of which the Georgian prisoners of war had been victims.
by sixteen votes to one, that the Georgian nationals prevented from returning to S. Ossetia or Abkhazia had fallen within the Russian jurisdiction; and by sixteen to one that there had been an administrative practice contrary to Article 2 of Protocol No. 4, involving freedom of movement as regards the inability of Georgian nationals to return to their homes;
unanimously, that Russia had had a procedural obligation under Article 2 to carry out “an adequate and effective investigation” not only into the events which had occurred after the end of hostilities (after the August 12, 2008 ceasefire deal), but also into the events which of the active phase of hostilities (8 to 12 August 2008);
and by sixteen votes to 1, in this regard, that there had been a violation of Article 2 in its procedural aspect, meaning obligation to conduct an effective probe into alleged breaches of the Article’s substantive limb.
by sixteen votes to 1, that Russia failed to meet its obligations under Article 38, involving examination of the case.
unanimously, that the question regarding Article 41, involving just satisfaction “was not ready for decision and should therefore be reserved in full.”
Georgia appealed ECHR on August 11, 2008, a day before the EU-mediated six-point ceasefire agreement was signed with Russia. The formal inter-state application was filed in February 2009, alleging Russian military and/or separatist forces under their control carried out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against civilians and their property in different parts of Georgia, including the now-occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions.
Georgia claimed Russia violated eight articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, involving right to life, the prohibition of torture, right to liberty and security, right to respect for private and family life, right to an effective remedy, protection of property and right to education and freedom of movement.
Russia on its part dismissed allegations as unjustified and unconfirmed by “admissible evidence,” claiming its military forces did not attack and instead defended the Tskhinvali region’s civilian population against a Georgian offensive. ECHR declared the application admissible in December 2011, relinquishing the case to the Grand Chamber, which consists of 17 justices.
Seven ECHR judges completed hearing 33 witness testimonies in the inter-state case in June 2016. Of the witnesses, the Court summoned six directly,16 through the Georgian government and 11 through the Russian government.
In the final stage before the ruling, ECHR Grand Chamber completed the oral hearing of the application in May 2018.
This was the second inter-state case of the total three against Russia in the Strasbourg-based court. Georgia won the first in 2014 when ECHR ruled that the arrest, detention and collective expulsion of Georgians from Russia in 2006 violated the Convention. In a follow-up decision in 2019, the Court ruled Russia had to pay EUR 10 million in compensation for damages related to the mass deportation.
Georgia lodged its third complaint against Russia in 2018, over the death of Archil Tatunashvili, a Georgian citizen, at the hands of Kremlin-backed authorities in Tskhinvali.