ECtHR Rules Against Georgia in 2016 Police Chase Death Case

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held Georgia responsible for the violation of the procedural limb of Article 2 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms concerning the right to life in the case of Z.E.’s death related to police chase in 2016, ordering the country to pay the compensation of EUR 12,000 to the mother of the deceased. The Court’s judgement was published on February 22, 2024.

On August 1, 2016, Z.E. was reportedly driving at a high speed along the Mtkvari River in Tbilisi when police ordered him to pull over. He didn’t obey, accelerated, and crashed into a parked van. He then fled, the officers gave chase but lost him in dark. In the meantime, five more police patrol vehicles stopped at the scene of the incident. All of the police officers present searched again for Z.E. at the scene but could not find him in the dark. The police officers then left the scene, and Z.E.’s car was removed to a police car park. Later on August 3, 2016, Z.E.’s body was found in the river, and a criminal investigation into inciting suicide started. Z.E.’ s death was ruled as asphyxia due to suffocation in water. The investigation is ongoing, and no charges have been filed.

In September 2021, Z.E.’s mother complained to ECtHR under Articles 2 and 13 of the Convention about the death of her son and the lack of an effective investigation in that respect. “Being master of the characterisation to be given in law to the facts of the case,” the Court considered that the complaint had to be examined solely under Article 2. The Georgian government argued that the complaint was inadmissible for failure to comply with the six-month time-limit or as being premature, but the Court dismissed both inadmissibility please.

The Court held that the police initiated an investigation into Z.E.’s death without a delay and conducted several timely and pertinent investigative actions. However, the court pointed out that Georgia’s domestic laws require investigations into potential police crimes to be handled by the Prosecutor’s Office. Despite this, the investigation of this specific case was entrusted to the police and not the Prosecutor’s Office.

The Court also noted that the investigation was taken over by the Prosecutor’s Office only fifteen months later, meaning that “the most crucial stage of the investigation was conducted by an authority lacking sufficient independence from the police officers whose responsibility might have been engaged in the incident.”

Among other challenges of the investigation, the ECtHR emphasized the “unsatisfactory” and the “belated” gathering and handling of the potentially important CCTV evidence, inconsistency between the statements of the police officers and the traffic accident report, as well as the unjustified delay of questioning of the remaining police officers.

The ECtHR also held that the Georgian government has been unable to justify the protraction of the investigation, which is a “recurrent” problem particularly concerning investigations involving the law enforcement representatives.

“The foregoing considerations are sufficient for the Court to conclude that the criminal investigation into the death of the applicant’s son has not been effective,” the Court said “As regards the issue of the alleged responsibility of the respondent State for the death of the applicant’s son” the Court considered that it’s not in a position to reach any definite findings under the substantive limb of Article 2 of the Convention and did not examine the complaint.

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


Back to top button