GYLA Applies to ECtHR on Behalf of July 5 2021 Victims

The civil society organization, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), announced on 7 November that they have applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on behalf of 16 journalists, cameramen, and photographers who were victims of the July 5-6 homophobic pogroms. GYLA’s application claims that four articles of the European Convention on Human Rights were violated – the prohibition of torture (3), freedom of expression (10), right to an effective remedy (13), and the prohibition of discrimination (14).

According to GYLA, despite several persons being punished for the July 5 violence, law enforcement agencies do not have the will to punish the people who organized the violence, and “none of the organizers of the violence of July 5 have been arrested.”

Per the CSO, while it’s true that an investigation against the organizers remains ongoing, based on the “zero number of defendants and the focus of the investigation, its course is not comprehensive and properly effective.”

GYLA emphasized that the 5-year sentence given to those accused of assaulting Aleksandre (Lekso) Lashkarava on April 4, 2022, is one of the prerequisites for the prosecution to initiate a criminal case against the July 5 organizers.

“Especially taking into account that the verdict states that the evidence examined during the proceedings confirmed the existence of a plan regarding the actions to be carried out by Alt-Info on July 5…,” GYLA explained.

The organization also recalled the statement of Internal Affairs Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri, when he said that “the strategy of the investigation was to reveal the perpetrators first, and then the organizers.”

GYLA believes that victims’ access to case materials related to the organizers was purposefully limited and that they do not have an effective means for a legal dispute against the organizers.

GYLA also takes issue with the fact that the state’s responsibility, which was supposed to, among other things, “fully protect journalists, so that they could carry out their professional activities without interference,” remains unaddressed.

They further noted that it remains unknown whether an investigation has been launched on the basis of the broadcast by TV Pirveli in June 2022, which described the alleged participation of State Security Service (SSG) employees in the planning and execution of the July 5 events.

The CSO also believes that “in some cases, the perpetrators of the crimes committed against the applicants have not been revealed at all, and in some cases, they are incompletely identified.” The organization revealed that they last addressed these concerns to the relevant agencies on July 5, 2022, but have received no response.

In conclusion, the organization recalled calls made by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and European parliamentarians for an effective investigation of the July 5 events, as well as the European Parliament’s resolution, which states that a lack of transparency and effective investigations “has led to a widespread impression of impunity for those guilty of crimes against journalists.”

During the July 5-6 2021 homophobic pogroms, more than 50 media representatives were injured in homophobic attacks by far-right groups while trying to cover Tbilisi Pride. Among them was Lashkara, the TV Pirveli cameraman who died 6 days after he was assaulted. 

In total, 31 people were arrested by law enforcement for homophobic violence, 27 of them for assaulting journalists. The Court found all persons accused of violence against journalists guilty, with 26 of them imprisoned for various terms, and 1 one of them fined GEL 5,000 (USD 1,828). 

Significantly, none of the organizers have been identified or charged by law enforcement agencies. 

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