Another Citizen Wins Case against Georgia at the European Court of Human Rights

On 16 February 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) published its decision in the case of “Ochigava vs. Georgia”. The decision finds a violation of Article 3 (Prohibition of Torture) of the European Convention of Human Rights, both substantively and procedurally, by reason of the ill-treatment of the applicant, some of which amounted to torture, and the lack of an effective criminal investigation. In its judgment, the Court orders the State to pay the applicant the sum of EUR 20 000.

Substance of the case

Akaki Ochigava was arrested in June 2011 on suspicion of robbery and was subsequently convicted. According to a doctor who examined him when he was admitted to Gldani prison, he was in good health.

His complaint relates to his ill-treatment during his detention in Gldani Prison. According to his complaints of 29 October and 5 December 2012, between June 2011 and August 2012, the applicant was subjected to repeated ill-treatment at Gldani Prison by eleven identifiable prison officers, some of whom held senior positions.

The ill-treatment included severe beatings, regular and arbitrary placement in solitary confinement in a small cell, inhuman and degrading conditions, “routine violence”, physical and verbal abuse, arbitrary restrictions, etc. As a result of a particularly severe beating by prison officers in November 2011, his spine was so severely injured that he lost the ability to walk. He was released in 2014.

Court reasoning

In its reasoning the ECHR said that while the applicant formally lodged his complaint of ill-treatment as early as October 2012, it took the competent domestic authorities more than five years to identify the perpetrators and secure convictions against some of them. “There were periods of unexplained inactivity on the part of the investigating authorities between 2012 and 2016, when they failed to conduct the most basic investigative measures repeatedly requested by the applicant…”- says the Court decision.

ECHR said that findings of the domestic courts, make it clear that the applicant’s ill-treatment was “committed by representatives of the prison authority as part of both systematic and systemic abuse of inmates of Gldani Prison at the material time.”

The Court also noted that while the domestic authorities secured convictions of some of the prison officers in relation to some of the incidents of ill-treatment, they apparently failed to investigate a number of other serious incidents, namely: the alleged beating of the applicant in early November 2011 which resulted in his spinal injury; and others. The Court also found that the State had failed to clarify the role of senior prison officers who participated in the ill-treatment of Ochigava.

Ministry of Justice Reaction

The Ministry of Justice of Georgia reacted to the decision in its statement saying that: “According to the decision of the Strasbourg Court, torture was systematically used in the Georgian prison system until 2012.”

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


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