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The Case of Georgia v. Russia before the ECtHR

Background and history of the proceedings

The hearings in the inter-State Georgia v. Russia (II) case (application no. 38263/08) before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) were held on 22 September 2011. The webcast of the hearings is available here. For a complete list of inter-State cases before the ECtHR see here.

The formal inter-State application was submitted by the Georgian Government on 6 February 2009. The case is based on the brief armed conflict of August 2008 between Georgia and Russia.  The application was first lodged with the ECtHR on 11 August 2008 and was accompanied by a request for an interim measure under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court. As discussed in previous posts in this blog, the case brought by Georgia before the International Court of Justice was thrown out for lack of jurisdiction in a judgment on preliminary objections rendered on 1 April 2010.

In addition to the present inter-State case, the ECtHR has received a large number of individual applications in connection with the same armed conflict. In particular, 1,712 individual applications are currently pending against Georgia before the ECtHR. Further 208 individual applications, involving more than 900 applicants, have been lodged against Russia. In addition, 20 individual applications are pending against both Georgia and Russia. It will be interesting to see how the inter-State case and the individual cases relating to the August 2008 armed conflict are going to influence each-other.

 Provisional/interim measures of protection

On 12 August 2008, the President of the ECtHR, acting as President of the Chamber, decided to apply Rule 39 and called upon both Parties concerned to comply with their engagements under the Convention, particularly in respect of Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention. The application of Rule 39 has since been prolonged several times and is still in force up to date.

That is interesting because the tense situation in the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia has been covered by overlapping interim/provisional measures issued by the ECtHR and the ICJ. However, it should be mentioned that the provisional measures indicated by the ICJ in its order of 15 October 2008 ceased being operative upon the delivery of its judgment of 1 April 2010.

 Claims regarding violations of the ECHR

Georgia alleges that Russia allowed, or caused to develop, an administrative practice through indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against civilians and their property in the two autonomous regions of Georgia – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – by the Russian military forces and the separatist forces under their control.

Georgia relies on Articles 2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of torture and of inhuman or degrading treatment), 5 (right to liberty and security), 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as on Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property), Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education) and Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 (freedom of movement) to the Convention.

Russia maintains that Georgia’s claims are ill-founded, unjustified and not confirmed by admissible evidence. They maintain that the Russian armed forces did not launch attacks but defended the civilian population of South Ossetia and Abkhazia against Georgian offensives.

(* This post is based on a press release issued by the Registrar of the ECtHR, ECHR 150 (2011) of 22 September 2011)

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