Published: 28 Nov 2017 | By Emil Sahakyan

Merabishvili v Georgia [Grand Chamber]

Case Summary

Case No. 72508/13
Judgment date: 28 November 2017

On 21 May 2013, Ivane Merabishvili, former Prime Minister and, at the time, the leader of the main opposition party (United National Movement), was arrested and detained for abuse of power and other offences. On 14 December 2013, he was removed from his prison cell, driven to an unknown destination with his head covered, and questioned by the Chief Prosecutor and the Head of the Georgian Prison Service about the death of a former Prime Minister and the bank accounts of the former Georgian President. He was told that if he provided the requested information he would be released and allowed to leave the country with his family, but he refused.

In its judgment of 14 June 2016, a Chamber of the Court held a violation of Art. 18 in conjunction with Art. 5(1) ECHR as the applicant’s pre-trial detention was treated as an additional opportunity to obtain leverage over issues unconnected with the offences with which he had been charged. It also found a violation of Art. 5(3) ECHR as regards the judicial decision of 25 September 2013 concerning Mr Merabishvili’s pre-trial detention. The Georgian Government’s request that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber was accepted on 17 October 2016. Mr Merabishvili was represented by EHRAC and Georgian lawyer Otar Kakhidze, including during a Grand Chamber hearing on 8 March 2017.

Read the full case summary in the Summer 2018 Bulletin.

Find out more

There have been two European Court rulings on this case – Mr Merabishvili won both. You can read about the original precedent-setting decision and its impact, and the second decision by the Grand Chamber of the Court in some of our earlier pieces about the case. We also published analysis of this case on OC Media and Open Democracy.
How did the Georgian Government justify its actions? You can watch the European Court Grand Chamber hearing (March 2017) and read about what we argued.
For more on the context, the Georgian Democracy Initiative has published a report entitled ‘Politically biased justice in Georgia’, including detailed analysis of Mr Merabishvili’s case. We also represent the former Mayor of Tbilisi, Giorgi Ugulava, in a similar case.
Politically-motivated proceedings are also a systemic problem in Azerbaijan and Russia, in particular for human rights lawyers, defenders and media outlets. EHRAC also represents Rasul Jafarov, whose arrest and detention were also found to be politically motivated in March 2016; the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers recently called on the Azerbaijani government to re-open his conviction, which results from a ‘political prosecution’.
In January 2018, EHRAC and Mr Kakhidze wrote to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, requesting that they call on the Georgian authorities to conduct an independent investigation into the applicant’s covert removal from his cell in December 2013 and his interrogation; to re-open the criminal proceedings against Mr Merabishvili (which could justify quashing his conviction); and to release him pending the outcome of these proceedings.