The European Court of Human Rights Rules in Ugulava vs Georgia Case

On February 9, 2023, The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) released the ruling, that had been deliberated privately on January 17, regarding the application of CASE OF UGULAVA v. GEORGIA. 

The application was submitted on the grounds of Mr. Giorgi Ugulava’s complaint that his arrest and pre-trial detention “had been contrary to domestic law and arbitrary.” The applicant presented allegations of the unlawfulness of his pre-trial detention under several instances, relying on Article 5 §§ 1 (c), 3 and 4 of the Convention, regarding the right to a lawful arrest, period of detention, and reasonableness of pre-trial detention.

The ECtHR ruled that there had been no violation of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention on account of the applicant’s arrest and subsequent remand in custody during the period from 3 July 2014 and 2 April 2015, and the same ruling was applied to the period of detention between 4 July 2014 and 15 March 2015. Overall, the Court ruled the alleged instances of violation presented by the applicant to be “neither manifestly ill-founded nor inadmissible on any other grounds.” 

Mr. Ugulava’s application also relied on Article 18 of the Convention in conjunction with Article 5 upon Mr. Ugulava’s implication of “political motivation” behind his pre-trial detention in two different sets of criminal proceedings. Specifically, Mr. Ugulava, claimed that the first pre-trial detention was aimed at preventing him from leading the campaign for the United National movement’s candidate for the elections for the Tbilisi mayor’s office. He similarly described the case of his second pre-trial detention as arbitrary and motivated by an “ulterior purpose.”

According to the ruling, there had been no violation of Article 18 of the Convention taken in conjunction with Article 5 § 1 of the Convention. As further explained in the issued document, the Court found it difficult to justify the applicant’s arguments as if the timing of his arrest and pre-trial detention could serve as indicators of ulterior purposes since Mr. Ugulava was detained immediately after the charges were made against him. The court similarly rejected the claim that his first pre-trial detention was upheld to keep the applicant from political activity referring to the fact that he was not a candidate in the elections and his argument overall was “less convincing.” 

The Court did rule on violations in two instances, under Article 5 § 1 of the Convention regarding the applicant’s pre-trial detention between 2 April and 17 September 2015, and under Article 5 § 3 of the Convention, on account of the pre-trial detention from 18 February 2015 onwards. In the latter case, the argument being given that “the applicant’s pre-trial detention ceased to be based on relevant and sufficient grounds.” Moreover, the Court considered that the applicant “must have suffered a certain amount of stress and anxiety as a result of the violations of Article 5 §§ 1 and 3.”

On all the above grounds, the Court held that the respondent state (Georgia) was to pay the applicant 10,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

Following the ECHR ruling the Ministry of Justice of Georgia issued a statement which said that “according to the Strasbourg court, Giorgi Ugulava’s arrest was legal and was not politically motivated”.

Ugulava’s lawyer, Oto Kakhidze, said in response to the MoJ that this was a “false statement”. He added: “The court did not say that political motives were not present. The court said that they had a higher standard for determining political motives and that more evidence was needed. They did not say it was not politically motivated. They said they could not prove political motivation. That’s not the same thing. It’s a rough interpretation.”

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


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