Police raid on first-ever Georgian LGBT group was abusive and discriminatory, rules European Court of Human Rights

On 8th October 2020, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that members of staff and the community served by Georgia’s first LGBT organisation, Inclusive Foundation, were ill-treated by police in a 2009 homophobic raid. The Court also declared the subsequent investigation by Georgian authorities to be ineffective and discriminatory.

Trust grantee European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) represented Inclusive Foundation’s co-founder, Ekaterine Aghdgomelashvili, in her appeal to the European Court, jointly filed with former Inclusive Foundation Programmes Officer Tinatin Japaridze. Philip Leach, Director of EHRAC said, “The Court has rightly come down hard on the appalling treatment which Eka and Tinatin faced. In finding that homophobic and transphobic hatred were at the root of the police actions, the judgment exposes systemic discriminatory attitudes within the Georgian police which must now change.”

During the 2009 raid, police officers subjected those present in the office to homophobic and transphobic slurs, threatened to publicly expose their sexual orientation to relatives, and conducted strip searches believed to have been solely for the purposes of humiliation. Aghdgomelashvili and Japaridze later lodged complaints with Georgian prosecutors, citing the homophobic and transphobic nature of the police’s behaviour, but they were largely ignored.

The Court ruled that the Georgian Government were unable to demonstrate that a single investigative act was ever undertaken in relation to the allegations made, and the protracted nature of the investigation “exposed the domestic authorities’ long-standing inability – which can also be read as unwillingness – to examine the role played by homophobic and/or transphobic motives in the alleged police abuse.” The ineffective investigation into the ill-treatment and discrimination by the police was found to be in violation of Article 3 of the ECHR, the right to freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, in conjunction with Article 14, the right to protection from discrimination. The ECtHR’s ruling stated, in unequivocal terms, that the police officers had “wilfully humiliated and debased” Aghdgomelashvili, Japaridze and the others by strip-searching them, leading to an additional violation of Article 3, the prohibition of torture, in conjunction with Article 14.

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