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27 Mar, 2007 22:10

Georgia files case against Russia in European court

Georgia files case against Russia in European court

Georgia has filed a case against Russia in the European court of Human Rights after thousands of its citizens were deported by Moscow last year. Tbilisi says the case is based on citizen rights' violations.

This will be the first time Russia will act as a defendant for an entire country.

The Russian Foreign ministry has met the news with bitter irony calling the case full of insinuation and propaganda. They say Georgia aims to find international support for its policies which are hostile towards Russia.

The statement published on the ministry's official web site suggests Georgia could have followed the path of negotiations instead of making it an open political row.

Thousands of Georgians had to flee Russia after relations between the two countries drastically deteriorated last year. Hundreds of nationals were taken by plane from Moscow to Tbilisi for apparently violating visa regulations.

Mass deportation, canceled air connections between the countries and a ban on the import of Georgian goods became the outcome of the political dispute.

It was originally sparked by the detention of 6 Russian servicemen in Georgia in September of last year for alleged spying in the country.

Now after 6 months work by a special commission into the matter Georgia has filed a 200-page document describing the deportation as a violation of human rights.  

“An interstate application is mainly based on numerous violations of human rights during the deportation process which was carried out last autumn by the Russian authorities,” says Bessarion Bokhashvili, Georgian Ministry of Justice spokesman.

The document claims seven Georgians died in the course of the deportation and events surrounding it. Some of the victims were killed in what Georgia calls nationalist conflicts in different parts of Russia.

Georgia wants not only financial compensation but also apologies from the Russian side to the families of the victims.

It is the first time a whole country has filed a case against Russia and the Georgian side is hoping for success.

Lawyer Aslan Abashidze, a Russian citizen and Georgian by origin, believes a legal case is a harsh step and is not directed towards friendlier relations.

“By doing this Georgia claims that it does not want to seek diplomatic negotiations and is just shutting the door, handing the case over to a third party,” says Aslan Abashidze.

This case has been filed just as relations between the two countries were showing signs of improvement. The Russian ambassador has returned to Tbilisi and talks are being held by Russian and Georgian air companies about the renewal of flight connection between the two countries.

But Abashidze says it's not yet time to despair.  

“I hope that Georgia's appeal to the European Human Rights Court against Russia will not have any consequences. The fact that the appeal has been sent to the Court does not mean it will automatically be accepted. And if the Court gives in to this appeal, if it takes such a principled position in this matter then Russia, as the Council of Europe member, will have to remind Strasbourg it should be the same about other matters, for instance, about massive violations of the Russian-speaking population in different countries,” says Aslan Abashidze.

The court must now study all the documents filed by Georgia and if it acknowledges the claim hold direct talks with Russia.