The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe examined at its 1331st meeting on December 6 the implementation by the Georgian authorities of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on former Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili’s pretrial detention case.
The ECHR case concerns violations against Merabishvili, in the context of criminal proceedings launched against him in December 2012 and in January 2013, for alleged embezzlement and abuse of power, which Merabishvili claimed were aimed at excluding him from politics.
In its ruling of November 2017, the Strasbourg-based court said pretrial detention of Vano Merabishvili was justified in the beginning and “was for the legitimate purpose of the investigation of offences based on a reasonable suspicion,” but later on the predominant purpose became to obtain information on unrelated cases involving former senior officials.
The ECHR also found that Merabishvili’s allegations concerning his covert removal from his prison cell in December 2013 cell were proven, and that the initial investigation into the incident “was marred by a series of omissions which were not corrected by the second investigation” carried out between June 2016 and February 2017.
As a result, the court established that there were violations of Article 5 § 3 and Article 18 taken in conjunction with Article 5 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, leading the defense lawyers to request reopening of the criminal proceedings, and pending the outcome of these proceedings, Merabishvili’s release.
Georgian authorities, however, have maintained that the ECHR ruling does not call for Vano Merabishvili’s release, and have stressed that the inmate is serving the sentence based on other, unrelated court judgments, the lawfulness of which has not been examined by the European Court, rendering the lawyers’ demands for Merabishvili’s release unreasonable.
Decision by the Committee of Ministers
The Committee of Ministers upheld the argument of the Georgian authorities that “just satisfaction has been paid in full,” and ruled that since the applicant is no longer in pre-trial detention, no further individual measures are needed to that end.
On the applicant’s request for his release, the Committee recalled that the Court found no violation of Article 5 § 1 taken alone, that it rejected the applicant’s argument that his arrest was used to exclude him from the political scene, and that he is currently serving a sentence of imprisonment relating to a number of different convictions, including offences linked to the murder in the Girgvliani case, which is currently under the Committee’s supervision.
“For these reasons, it does not appear appropriate or necessary at the present time to call on the government to ensure Mr. Merabishvili’s release,” reads the CoE Secretariat’s analysis.
The Committee of Ministers “noted with interest” that a new investigation has been launched into the December 2013 incident, and urged the authorities “to ensure that it is organized in such a way as to be institutionally and practically independent from any person implicated,” and “sufficiently broad in scope to determine whether the events had any impact on the criminal proceedings.”
It also “noted with interest” the ongoing reform of the prosecution service, and encouraged the authorities to “reflect on the need for further general measures” once the outcome of the new investigation is known.
- The Committee of Ministers is the Council of Europe’s decision-making body. It meets at ministerial level once a year and at Deputies’ level (Permanent Representatives to the Council of Europe) weekly.
- The European Court of Human Rights rules on individual or state applications alleging violations of the civil and political rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. Once ECHR judgment becomes final, it is transmitted to the Committee of Ministers for supervision of its execution.