European Court Rules Violation in the Lasha Chkhartishvili Case - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

European Court Rules Violation in the Lasha Chkhartishvili Case

16 May, 2023

On May 11, 2023, the European Court of Human Rights found a violation of freedom of assembly in the case of Lasha Chkhartishvili. His interests were defended by Transparency International - Georgia. This decision should have a significant impact on the protection of the rights of protesters and activists.

On November 29, 2019, Lasha Chkhartishvili was participationg in a protest against the rejection of the Proportional Election System Bill by Georgian Dream at the National Library. As part of the demonstration, Chkhartishvili performed a symbolic act of throwing beans. As a result he was arrested by the police and charged with petty hooliganism and disobedience to authorities. Judge Valeriane Filishvili subsequently sentenced him to 8 days of administrative detention on the same day.

National courts, which often make illegal, unjustified and disproportionate decisions against participants in peaceful protests, are obliged to consider the established practices of the Strasbourg Court when dealing with cases of administrative offences.

In the case of Lasha Chkhartishvili, the European Court noted:

  • Public servants, including police officers, have a higher obligation to tolerate criticism than other citizens in the performance of their duties;
  • The question of applying imprisonment to a person for a non-violent act should be checked with particular diligence by the court. The use of even a few days' imprisonment is an excessive interference with freedom of expression and may have a chilling effect;
  • Freedom of expression protects not only the content of the protest, but also the form of its expression. When a person's behavior during a peaceful demonstration is not violent, his action neither caused harm nor threatened to escalate the events, the imprisonment  is disproportionate.

According to the the Strasbourg Court, the national court used the prison term against Lasha Chkhartishvili in such a way that it is not examined these circumstances. In addition, the European Court pointed out that Judge Valeriane Filishvili's decision was general and formulaic, as a result, it found that the state violated Lasha Chkhartishvili's right to freedom of assembly by using imprisonment for throwing beans and ordered the state to pay 1,200 euros in his favor as a just satisfaction.

For years, civil organizations and human rights defenders have been calling for a systematic reform of the Code of Administrative Offenses, however, instead of improving legal standards, the government uses the law for unjustified, disproportionate and arbitrary restrictions on critical opinion. This approach indicates the Government's intention to restrict the freedom of expression for the public to refrain from exercising their right to protest.