The European Court of Human Rights on November 16 ruled against Georgia in a case of police abuse and discrimination of four Muslim Georgians during their arrest at a tense protest rally in Mokhe village, in southern Adigeni municipality, in 2014.
The applicants – Teimuraz Mikeladze, Otar Mikeladze, Malkhaz Beridze and Gocha Beridze – had accused Georgian authorities of breaching Articles 3 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, involving inhuman or degrading treatment and discrimination, respectively.
The court established that the procedural aspect of Article 3, taken alone and in conjunction with Article 14 was violated with respect to all applicants, while in the case of Teimuraz Mikeladze, there was also a substantive breach of Article 3.
The four applicants alleged that the police used excessive force during their arrests and shouted insults, calling them and other protesters, among other things, “Tatars.” The claimants argued the police used the term in a derogatory manner to insinuate that their Muslim faith was incompatible with being Georgian. They also alleged that there was an atmosphere of fear and intimidation at the police station.
Additionally, Teimuraz Mikeladze claimed that he had been beaten by about 4-8 officers at the police station, while Malkhaz Beridze maintained that he was first beaten at the protest for 10 minutes, and then at the station was forced to stand facing the wall for two hours. Otar Mikeladze stated that officers had twisted a seatbelt around his neck in the police car, and Gocha Beridze claimed he was being beaten for a minute before being detained.
The Government denied the abuse and discrimination claims. The authorities maintained that the men were arrested for resisting the police’s lawful orders and breaching public order. According to them, the four men and others resorted to verbal and physical violence and tried to break the police cordon in order to occupy the disputed building.
Based on the evidence provided by the sides, the Court could only reach conclusion on the substantive breach of Article 3 of the Convention in the case of Teimuraz Mikeladze, the only applicant who could provide medical records proving the presence of injuries on his body. According to the ruling, the government failed to show they were caused by anything other than ill-treatment by the police. Mikeladze was awarded EUR 3,900 in non-pecuniary damages.
In the case of the other three claimants, awarded EUR 1,800 each, the Court ruled that they could not provide evidence of the ill-treatment to constitute a substantive breach of Article 3. However, the ruling stressed that the authorities had failed to effectively investigate the relevant allegations, breaching their procedural obligations.
“To date – that is to say almost seven years after its opening –the investigation into the alleged police abuse has not produced any conclusive finding,” the Court said in the ruling.
Read more on the Mokhe incident: