Former Mayor of Tbilisi’s case communicated by European Court
The case of Giorgi Ugulava, the former Mayor of Tbilisi, was communicated by the European Court of Human Rights to the Georgian Government on 28 September 2015. The case concerns criminal proceedings brought against Mr. Ugulava, which he argues are politically motivated. He belongs to the opposition United National Movement (UNM) party; his arrest, along with many other senior party figures, took place after the Georgian Dream coalition won the 2012 parliamentary elections. He is being represented by EHRAC, based at Middlesex University, and partner lawyers in Georgia.
Mr. Ugulava became the first directly elected Mayor of Tbilisi on 30 May 2010. He was arrested on 3 July 2014, while acting as a campaign manager for the UNM opposition party, and has since been in pre-trial detention. Mr. Ugulava lodged his application at the European Court on 27 December 2014. Under Article 5(1) of the ECHR, he alleges a violation of his right to liberty, and that his arrest and detention were unlawful and politically motivated. Moreover, he argues that the lack of reasonable justification for his detention amounts to a violation of Article 5(3), and that he was not given immediate access to his lawyer following his arrest, in violation of Article 5(4). In his application he also relies on Article 18, arguing that his arrest and prosecution was politically motivated – his arrest came just ten days before the mayoral elections.
The Court’s communication of the case came after Tbilisi City Court released Mr. Ugulava from pre-trial detention on 17 September as the result of a decision by the Constitutional Court of Georgia, which had found that his pre-trial detention was unconstitutional. He was, however, imprisoned the next day, as a result of another set of criminal proceedings.
The case is of particular significance, given the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) report on its fact-finding mission to Tbilisi earlier this month. It “welcomed the recent decision of the Constitutional Court with regard to the use of pre-trial detention” but nevertheless remained “concerned about reported cases where pre-trial detention ostensibly continues to be applied for reasons other than the strict framework that is set by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.” PACE adopted a resolution on 1 October 2014 on the Functioning of Democratic Institutions in Georgia, in which it notes that “almost the entire leadership of the former ruling party has been arrested or is under prosecution or investigation”, and “regrets that these tensions sometimes overshadowed the many positive changes that were taking place in the democratic environment of Georgia.”
Indeed, since late 2012, criminal proceedings have been instigated against a number of former government representatives from the UNM party, including the former Prime Minister, Ivane Merabishvili; Mr. Merabishvili is also being represented by EHRAC and partner lawyers in his case at the European Court. Numerous statements expressing concern about prosecutions of UNM members, after the victory of the Georgian Dream party in the October 2012 Parliamentary elections, have been made by the international community, including the Secretary General of NATO, the President of the EU Commission, the US Secretary of the State and many others.
 Article 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights states: ‘The restrictions permitted under this Convention to the said rights and freedoms shall not be applied for any purpose other than those for which they have been prescribed’.