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Sunday, 8 May 2011

First case from Georgia to the European Court of Human Rights concerning police homophobia

Aftermath of the police raid
Source: INTERIGHTS

Edited to add: Blogger Gay Armenia notes that this is the first LGBT case from the South Caucasus. He adds that, "unfortunately, the Inclusive Foundation is no longer active."

The International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights (INTERIGHTS), together with Article 42 of the Constitution, a Georgian human rights NGO, has submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Aghdgomelashvili and Japaridze v Georgia (Application no. 7224/11).

The case concerns a police search of the premises of the ‘Inclusive Foundation’ (IF) conducted on 15 December 2009. From 2006 to 2009 the IF was the only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) NGO in Georgia. It was co-founded by the first applicant, Eketarine Aghdgomelashvili who is currently the Executive Director of ‘Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group’ (WISG). The second applicant, Tinatin Japaridze worked for the IF as a full time programme officer from 2006 to 2009 and is currently a project manager at the ‘WISG’.

The complaint to the Court alleges that, in conducting their search, the police officers abused their powers and violated the relevant domestic procedures whilst subjecting the applicants to humiliating and degrading treatment.

In particular, as soon as the police officers discovered the nature of the IF’s work, they displayed extreme homophobic behaviour towards all the individuals present in the office including the applicants.  This included multiple insults and rough treatment based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation. The IF staff were also unlawfully strip searched without being provided with any explanation or information about their rights.

Even though it has been two years since the incident, both applicants are still extremely upset and stressed by the police officers’ behaviour and its negative effect on their lives.

The seriousness of the incident is reflected in the significant amount of attention it has received both in the media and civil society. Both national and international NGOs have made public statements condemning the violations and appealed to the Georgian authorities to remedy them. However, despite all of this, there has never been any investigation or attempt to hold any of the police officers accountable.

The application argues that the applicants were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights) and /or interference in their private lives (Article 8 of the Convention) as well as discrimination based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation (Article 14 of the Convention; Article 1 of Protocol No 12). In addition, it is contended that applicants’ strip searches were not “in accordance with the law” and did not pursue any of the legitimate aims envisaged by the second paragraph of Article 8 of the Convention. Further, it is submitted that, in the absence of an investigation into the incident, including whether it was motivated by homophobia and a subsequent failure of the State to identify and punish those responsible, there is a continuing procedural violation of Articles 3, 8 and 14.  The lack of effective remedies also breaches Article 13 of the Convention.

This is the first case from Georgia concerning homophobic ill-treatment by the police. In the absence of any similar judgments against other member states to the Council of Europe, it provides the Court with the opportunity to express its position in relation to such a serious issue. In particular the application places the incident within the wider context in Georgia where discriminatory practices towards LGBT individuals, a vulnerable group, regularly occur.

This case is a further illustration of attempts by officials in the former Soviet Union space to suppress LGBT activism which has already been done through banning gay-pride marches (see Alekseyev v Russia, nos. 4916/07, 25924/08 and 14599/09; Genderdoc-M v Moldova, no. 9106/06), resorting to hate speech (Alekseyev  et al v Russia, no 39954/09) or refusing to register LGBT NGOs.


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