Femicide in Georgia: EHRAC and partners argue State responsibility
EHRAC and our partners at the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) and Union Sapari (Tbilisi) are litigating three femicide cases from Georgia before the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In each case the women had reported the domestic violence to the police a number of times, before being murdered by their partners (all in 2014). Each time the police and prosecutors failed to take protective or punitive measures. We therefore argue that the Georgian state bears responsibility for its failure to protect the victims from domestic violence and, ultimately, murder.
“These cases highlight ongoing gaps and failings in the law enforcement approach to violence against women in Georgia. We hope that judgments finding the State responsible will contribute to the implementation of a robust, comprehensive framework to tackle violence against women in Georgia, so that women who report domestic violence do not have to die to be taken seriously.”
Jess Gavron, EHRAC Legal Director
B married her husband in 2004. After the birth of their son in 2007, her husband began to be physically and verbally abusive towards her, controlling her behaviour and criticising her lifestyle. In 2013, B moved out to an apartment nearby, but her husband continued to visit and fight with her. In the year leading up to B’s death, four reports were made to the authorities about her husband’s abusive behaviour, including by a doctor treating her after a fight. No measures were taken to protect her, and B’s husband fatally stabbed her with a kitchen knife in March 2014.
Together with GYLA, we submitted an application to CEDAW in September 2017, raising violations of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Article 2(b)-(f) in conjunction with Article 1 and also Article 5 (a)). Relying on CEDAW’s newly adopted General Recommendation 35, we also argue that entrenched patriarchal attitudes and cultural stereotypes meant that domestic violence was seen by those around B, as well as by the police responding to her reports, as a private matter. She was encouraged to accept domestic violence as part of her role as a wife. The CEDAW Committee has a strong record of addressing social and cultural patterns underlying gender-biased laws, regulations, customs and practices.
|This is EHRAC’s second case before CEDAW. In 2015 we won the first CEDAW case against Georgia for domestic violence, X and Y v Georgia, concerning prolonged physical, sexual and psychological abuse against a mother and daughter. CEDAW’s decision outlined several concrete measures to prevent future such abuse, including:
|The case was nominated for a Gender Justice Uncovered award in 2016 by Women’s Link Worldwide.
Following violence, harassment and threats fuelled by jealousy and alcohol and drug addiction, M left her husband in September 2014. In the six months leading to her death, she made six recorded calls to a police hotline, and she and her mother also made unrecorded visits to various police stations. Her father-in-law also called the police on one occasion to report his son’s abuse. The police failed to take these incidents seriously, did not take detailed evidence from M, or interview her friends, colleagues, relatives or even her husband (except on one occasion). They also made discriminatory remarks, indicating that it was a private, not police matter. M was shot dead by her husband in October 2014, in front of her colleagues at Ilia State University, where she was a lecturer. Her husband then killed himself with the same weapon. Her murder received a great deal of media attention.
M’s mother, the applicant in this case, is represented by EHRAC and Union Sapari. We lodged the application with the European Court in April 2017. We argue that the authorities failed to respond with due diligence to threats to M’s life and health, and failed to protect her, in breach of Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). We further allege that the conduct of the authorities and the individual police officers was discriminatory on grounds of gender, in breach of Article 14 ECHR. The case was sent by the Court to the Georgian Government for their observations just two months after it was lodged, highlighting the severity of the issue.
S was 20 when her ex-husband, a police officer, shot her dead in a local park with his police firearm in July 2014. He was routinely aggressive towards her, abusing her physically and verbally, including kidnapping her at gunpoint when she was 17. S made repeated reports of domestic violence to the local police, but these were never investigated. Instead, the police officers, who were friends and colleagues of her husband, humiliated her and downgraded her complaint, implying violence was a normal part of marriage.
Together with GYLA, we submitted the case to the European Court in September 2016, arguing that the authorities had violated S’s right to life (Article 2 ECHR). The authorities failed to put in place and implement an adequate regulatory framework around the use of police firearms, and S’s husband was allowed to carry a gun at all times despite multiple complaints and reports of his violent behaviour. We also argue that the authorities failed to act with due diligence to protect S’s life and health, or to protect her from inhuman and degrading treatment. The police failed to take her complaint seriously, colluded with her husband and made humiliating and discriminatory remarks to S. Finally, we argue that S was the victim of discrimination (Article 14 ECHR) on the basis of her gender.