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ECHR: Georgia to Pay 50,000 Euros into Decade-old High-Profile Murder Case

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The seven-member Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on July 18 that Georgia has to pay 50,000 euros “in respect of nonpecuniary damage” to Tsiala Shanava, the mother of Zurab Vazagashvili, who died in a police operation in 2006.

Five former police officials and six servicemen of the Interior Ministry’s special purpose unit have been arrested in connection to death of Vazagashvili and another man, Aleksandre Khubulov in a police operation in 2006. His father, Yuri Vazagashvili, who was among the plaintiffs at the ECHR, died in an explosion that occurred at the grave of his son in January 2015. A month later, a police officer suspected of planting a hand grenade that killed Yuri Vazagashvili was arrested.

The Chamber of the ECHR held unanimously that there had been:

  • A violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights under both its procedural and substantive limbs.

The official press release issued by the Registrar, says “the Court found in particular that a first investigation into the killing had been flawed as it had been carried out by the police officers involved in the shooting,” while “the second investigation, which had led to convictions, had only taken place several years after the crime and had been based to some extent on investigative work carried out by the first applicant [Yuri Vazagashvili] himself.”

The Court particularly noted the fact that the first applicant’s efforts to disclose police crime and corruption had ultimately led to him being murdered by a police officer, highlighting the consequence of the authorities’ lack of diligence in pursuing the perpetrators of the original murder,” the press release says.

The Court also noted “that the findings of the domestic courts had made it clear” that the killing of Zurab Vazagashvili “by State agents with malice aforethought had been attributable to the respondent State.”

Background

Zurab Vazagashvili and Aleksandre Khubulov were killed by the police, armed with machine guns, while driving in car in central Tbilisi on May 2, 2006. Police claimed they had to respond with fire only after shots were fired from inside the car. But alternative ballistic investigation commissioned at the time by the Public Defender’s Office established that no shot had been made from the car.

In April 2007 the authorities closed investigation into allegations that police used excessive force. The Vazagashvili family kept on campaigning persistently, accusing authorities of fabricating evidence and covering up the case to prevent punishment of law enforcement officers, who were involved in the police operation. In 2007 the family also took the case to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.

Investigation was reopened after the change of government in late 2012; but father of Zurab Vazagashvili, Yuri Vazagashvili, was publicly complaining about slow progress of the investigation and also accused former interior minister Alxander Tchikaidze of “protecting” some of the police officers, who were involved in the May 2, 2006 operation.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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