Case of Rustavi 2 - Tea Tsulukiani makes a statement on Strasbourg"s decision
"The dispute has ended with the victory of the state,"- Tea Tsulukiani, the Justice Minister of Georgia made a statement a few minutes ago.
According to her, only part of the Strasbourg decision on Rustavi 2"s case is not subject to appeal - the cancellation of the suspension mechanism.
"The state has won the dispute with a full victory. The Chamber composed of seven judges decided unanimously that it is no longer appropriate to maintain the application of the suspension mechanism and it is removed. They found inadmissible all complaints of "Rustavi 2" . They found inadmissible the complaint on property rights of brothers Kharamanishvili and " TV Sakartvelo". They unanimously ruled that the right of the brothers Karmanishvili and TV " Georgia" regarding the fair court, which is linked to Nino Gvenetadze was not violated. There is no need to discuss the complaint in this case, "Tea Tsulukiani said.
PACE Georgia monitors welcome adoption of Constitutional amendments by the Georgian Parliament
Strasbourg, 29.06.2020 - The co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Georgia, Titus Corlatean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ALDE), have welcomed the adoption today by the Georgian Parliament of the Constitutional amendments to implement the new election system for the 2020 elections that was agreed between the ruling majority and opposition in March this year, with the support of international mediators.
“The Assembly has consistently called for the introduction of a proportional election system in Georgia. That will now be the case as from the 2024 elections. In addition, as a result of the adoption of these Constitutional amendments, the system for the next elections in 2020 will now also be far more proportional than was previously the case, which potentially could allow for a more pluralist and representative parliament. We strongly welcome this,” said the co-rapporteurs.
At the same time, the co-rapporteurs regretted that the political agreement had not resulted in a less tense and polarised political environment. “We call on all sides to seek co-operation over confrontation and to constructively pursue the implementation of the remainder of the 8 March political agreement. In addition, we call on all stakeholders to refrain from any statements and actions that could increase tensions and polarisation or otherwise negatively affect the environment needed for the conduct of genuinely democratic elections.”
“As we have said, the political agreement, and the election system resulting from it, offer a window of opportunity to Georgia. We implore all stakeholders to fully take that opportunity in the best interest of Georgia,” emphasised the co-rapporteurs.
The co-rapporteurs intend to visit the country in November with a view to finalising their report on Georgia, which they will present to the Assembly during its January 2021 part-session.
Georgian Foreign Minister: Situation in occupied territories significantly deteriorated, process of annexation and occupation continues
The situation in occupied territories significantly deteriorated, unfortunately, the actual process of annexation and occupation continues, – Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani answered questions of the members of the PACE after delivering a speech at the Winter Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg today.
“Installation of barbed wire fences and artificial barriers is in progress. Even when we speak now, the process is going on. I would like to recall the recent case of kidnapping and illegal detention of the doctor, who was visiting a patient on the occupation line, which was outrageous fact. The only instrument we have is consolidation of the international community, and that we are doing constantly, with your support, through different instruments and frameworks”, – Minister said.
According to the Georgian Foreign Minister, the pressure should be increased on the force exercising control over the occupied territories.
“The issue of access to the occupied territories is another important challenge that we also have to deal with on a daily basis. The recent case that took place in the Akhalgori district of the Tskhinvali region was the violation of the fundamental principles of international law – freedom of movement. We face this challenge in both occupied regions of Georgia – in Abkhazia and in Tskhinvali regions. In Gali district of Abkhazia, ethnic Georgians are forced to abandon Georgian citizenship. They have no access to get an education in their native language, they are denied to get immediate medical treatment, they have no access to their agricultural lands, and this is happening in the twenty-first century, which is unacceptable. This should be discussed very carefully in all international formats. I’ve mentioned that only instrument is a constant raise of that issue and drawing the attention of the international community. We should not turn a blind eye on these illegal activities, otherwise, it will encourage the occupation force, the Russian Federation, to continue all these illegal activities”, – Davit Zalkaliani said.
Adopting its final agenda at the opening of the 2020 Winter Session, the Assembly decided to hold an urgent debate on the theme “International obligations concerning the repatriation of children from war zones”, as well as a current affairs debate on “Recent developments in Libya and in the Middle East: what consequences for Europe?”. The Session opened this morning with the election of Rik Daems (Belgium, ALDE) as the new PACE President.
The Presidents of Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, as well as the Georgian Foreign Minister and President of the Committee of Ministers and the newly-elected Secretary General of the Council of Europe, will address PACE and answer questions.
Debates on the agenda include a complementary joint procedure between the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly in response to a serious violation by a member State of its statutory obligations, the functioning of democratic institutions in Poland, and reported cases of political prisoners in Azerbaijan.
Parliamentarians will also discuss threats to media freedom and journalists’ security, a report on “Democracy hacked? How to respond?” and the protection of freedom of religion in the workplace.
The Assembly will hold two joint debates – one on migrant trafficking and missing refugee and migrant children, and another on organ transplant tourism and trafficking in human tissues and cells.
A report on minimum standards for electoral systems and a report on the observation of elections in Belarus are also on the agenda.
Avtandil Otinashvili, Strasbourg
New youth sector strategy 2030: strengthening democracy through youth engagement
Strasbourg, 22.01.2020 – Today the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted the new Youth sector strategy 2030 which will provide policy guidance to the 50 States Parties to the European Cultural Convention for the ten years to come.
Young people’s creativity, dynamism, social commitment and competences are crucial for any sustainable democratic society. For almost fifty years, the Council of Europe youth sector has been supporting generations of young people and their organisations to become actors of social change and assists public authorities to implement participative youth policies.
The new Youth sector strategy 2030 will give a new impetus to this work in four thematic priorities:
- Youth revitalising pluralistic democracy,
- Young people’s access to rights,
- Living together in peaceful and inclusive societies and
- Youth Work.
The Committee of Ministers, when adopting the new strategy, stressed the importance of the unique geographical scope and role of the Council of Europe youth sector and its instruments, including the co-management system, the European Youth Centres in Strasbourg and Budapest, the European Youth Foundation, and the partnership with the European Commission in the field of youth.
The Youth sector strategy 2030 is being launched in the framework of the Georgian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers (November 2019 – May 2020) which attaches the highest importance to the full and meaningful participation of young people in European societies, and aims notably at “strengthening democracy through education, culture and youth engagement”.
"Decision is shocking and unbelievable" - Nika Gvaramia responds to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights
Nika Gvaramia responded to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights. The European Court has recently announced the decision on the case of Rustavi 2. The general director of the broadcasting company noted that the decision is legally scandalous.
"We are in Rustavi 2 and we are going to stay here. This decision is shocking and unbelievable. I have the right to criticize. Unfortunately there left only one option in the decision to appeal and of course we will use this. I can not claim that the court was biased, but it must be incorrect interpretation. This case is very important and we are going to appeal the decision of Judge Urtmelidze and Todua,"- Nika Gvaramia said.
According to the general director of the "Rustavi 2" the cancellation of the temporary measure does not mean that the decision has come into force.
"The cancellation of the temporary measure does not mean that this decision has come into force. The temporary measure was canceled because it was based on the request of "Rustavi 2." I would say that it is legally scandalous, because the second chamber of the same court has admitted the violation of the freedom of expression and the response was utterly revolutionary when the first chamber used the temporary measure. The Second chamber said that this Chamber has not enough qualification. I would say that the decision is scandalous in terms of the communication between the chambers of the same court. It is not my competence, I can only assess this issue. "- said Gvaramia.
No judge bias or other breach of fair trial guarantees in television channel ownership row
The case Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company Ltd and Others v. Georgia (application no. 16812/17)
concerned an ownership row over a privately owned television channel, Rustavi 2, the first applicant
in the case. The dispute led to a ruling in March 2017 by the Supreme Court of Georgia finding that a
former owner of Rustavi 2 had been coerced into giving up the television channel and that the
current owners, the second to fourth applicants in the case, were not therefore bona fide third-party
acquirers. Pending those proceedings, Rustavi 2’s corporate assets and all of the owners’ shares in
the company were frozen.
In the case before the European Court of Human Rights, the current owners of Rustavi 2 alleged in
particular that the judges examining the ownership row had lacked independence and impartiality.
In today’s Chamber judgment1
in the case the European Court held:
by six votes to one, that there had been no violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial by an
independent and impartial tribunal) of the European Convention on Human Rights as concerned the
judge deciding the case at first-instance;
unanimously, that there had been no violation of Article 6 § 1 of the European Convention as
concerned the court deciding the case on appeal;
by six votes to one, that there had been no violation of Article 6 § 1 as concerned the composition
of the bench deciding the case during the cassation proceedings before the Supreme Court.
The Court found in particular that all but one of the allegations of bias had either been
unsubstantiated or unconvincing. The involvement of Rustavi 2’s Director General in disciplinary
proceedings against the President of the Supreme Court some years previously, leading to her
dismissal from her judicial post at the time, had raised an arguable claim of a lack of impartiality.
However, the Supreme Court had extensively assessed any fears in that regard and had convincingly
dissipated them in a thoroughly reasoned ruling.
In coming to those conclusions, the Court bore in mind in particular that Rustavi 2’s owners had
systematically introduced ill-founded recusal requests against many different judges at all three
levels of jurisdiction in a probable attempt to paralyse the administration of justice, while Rustavi 2’s
Director General had made gratuitous and virulent attacks in the media against the domestic judges
involved in examining the ownership row and against the Georgian judiciary in general.
The Court, unanimously, rejected as inadmissible the remaining complaints brought by Rustavi 2’s
owners (the second to fourth applicants) as well as all those brought by Rustavi 2 (the first
applicant) itself, including in particular their allegations that the proceedings had been a State-led
campaign to silence the television channel.
Given those inadmissibility findings, the Court decided, unanimously, to lift the interim measure
under Rule 39 of its Rules of Court indicating to the Georgian Government that it should among
other things suspend enforcement of the decision of March 2017.
1. Under Articles 43 and 44 of the Convention, this Chamber judgment is not final. During the three-month period following its delivery,
any party may request that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber of the Court. If such a request is made, a panel of five judges
considers whether the case deserves further examination. In that event, the Grand Chamber will hear the case and deliver a final
judgment. If the referral request is refused, the Chamber judgment will become final on that day.
Once a judgment becomes final, it is transmitted to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for supervision of its execution.
Further information about the execution process can be found here: www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/execution.
The applicants are Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company Ltd, a television channel in Georgia, and its
current owners, TV Company Sakartvelo Ltd and Levan and Giorgi Karamanishvili, two brothers who
are Georgian nationals living in Tbilisi. There were numerous transfers of Rustavi 2 shares from one
private party to another from 1996, when the television channel was founded, until 2011, when the
second to fourth applicants took over.
In August 2015 a former owner of Rustavi 2, K.K., brought civil proceedings against the applicants
alleging that he had been coerced into selling his shares in the company in 2005 and 2006 by the
then leaders of the governing party, the United National Movement. He submitted in particular that
President Saakashvili, who was dissatisfied with Rustavi 2’s editorial policy, and high-ranking State
officials had threatened him and his family if he refused to sell his shares. He had then had to leave
the country for fear of further persecution, and was granted political asylum in Germany. In his
claim, he also requested that he be acknowledged as the creator of the channel’s logo and three
In November 2015 the first-instance court found in K.K.’s favour regarding most of his claims, apart
from those regarding his intellectual property, which it dismissed as unsubstantiated. In particular it
found that there had been no coercion under Article 85 of the Civil Code, but that there had been a
“manifest discrepancy” between the actual value of Rustavi 2 in 2005-2006 and the payment K.K.
had received in exchange. It therefore considered that the agreement which he had entered into
was void under Article 54 of the Civil Code. The current owners of Rustavi 2 had to have been aware
that the property they were acquiring had been misappropriated and they could not therefore be
considered bona fide third-party acquirers. In June 2016 the appeal court upheld that decision in full.
In March 2017, following an appeal on points of law lodged by the second to fourth applicants, the
Grand Chamber of the Supreme Court confirmed the lower courts’ findings about Rustavi 2’s current
owners not being bona fide third-party acquirers. However, it considered that Article 85 of the Civil
Code, under which it was possible to void a contract made under duress, should have been applied
instead of Article 54. It found that K.K. had been coerced into selling his shares, which had been
proven, among other things, by the fact that he had been granted political asylum in Germany in
2009 and the status of a person persecuted for political reasons by the previous regime in 2012. It
also took into account the fact that K.K. had voiced his grievances about the coercion before the
relevant domestic authorities as early as December 2009.
Pending a decision in those proceedings, the judge assigned to the case at first instance, Judge T.U.,
granted K.K.’s application for a preliminary injunction to freeze both Rustavi 2’s corporate assets and
all of the owners’ shares in the company. Appeals against that ruling were all dismissed in November
Throughout the proceedings, the applicants made a series of unsuccessful recusal requests,
complaining that judges examining their case lacked independence and impartiality. The Supreme
Court found in particular that the judges had been right not to withdraw from the case. It referred,
among many other arguments, to various public interviews by Rustavi 2’s Director General between
September 2015 and March 2017, finding that he had made unacceptable insults against the judges
of the first and appellate instances and had even confirmed that he had intentionally attacked Judge
T.U. to provoke his recusal.
According to the applicants, the proceedings against them were a disguised attempt to silence
Rustavi 2, an independent television channel, and were part of a wider orchestrated campaign
against them from 2012 when the new ruling party, the Georgian Dream Coalition (“the GDC”), came
to power. They alleged that the campaign included among other things: criminal proceedings being
brought against the Director General of Rustavi 2 for corruption; alleged Government wiretapping of
Rustavi 2’s premises; a national audit of so-called “people-meters”, devices used to monitor people’s
viewing behaviour by private television channels such as Rustavi 2; numerous interviews given to the
media by the GDC and its leaders concerning the ownership row; and the suicide of another former
owner of Rustavi 2 who had publicly declared that he also intended to claim back the channel.
The Government contested the applicants’ allegations, arguing that the way in which they presented
the incidents was deliberately misleading, incomplete or unrelated to the dispute before the
European Court of Human Rights.
Following the decision by the Supreme Court, Rustavi 2 (the first applicant) requested that the
European Court grant an interim measure under Rule 39 of its Rules of Court, based on fears of
irreparable harm to the television channel’s rights under Article 10 (freedom of expression). The
Court granted the interim measure, indicating to the Georgian Government that the enforcement of
the final domestic decision of March 2017 should be suspended, and that the authorities should
abstain from interfering with the first applicant company’s editorial policy. The Court subsequently
decided to extend that measure until further notice.
Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court
The applicants brought a number of complaints about the injunction and main proceedings
concerning the ownership dispute over Rustavi 2, alleging that they had interfered with their rights
under Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial), Article 10 (freedom of expression), Article 18 (limitation on
use of restrictions on rights) and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property).
They all complained that those proceedings had not been fair because the judges examining their
case had lacked independence and impartiality and had been a disguised attempt to silence the only
independent television channel in the country.
Rusatvi 2’s (the first applicant) complaints focussed on the injunction proceedings, while its owners
(the second to fourth applicants) specifically alleged unfairness in the main proceedings because of
an unwarranted change in the judicial approach to the examination of the ownership dispute by the
Supreme Court and because the reasons given by that court in its decision of March 2017 had been
insufficient and/or arbitrary.
The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 3 March 2017.
The Public Defender of Georgia and the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association were granted leave to
intervene in the proceedings as third parties.
Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows:
Angelika Nußberger (Germany), President,
Yonko Grozev (Bulgaria),
Vincent A. De Gaetano (Malta),
Síofra O’Leary (Ireland),
Mārtiņš Mits (Latvia),
Lәtif Hüseynov (Azerbaijan),
Lado Chanturia (Georgia),
and also Milan Blaško, Deputy Section Registrar.
Decision of the Court
Complaints brought by Rustavi 2
The Court declared inadmissible all the complaints brought by the first applicant, Rustavi 2, under
Article 6 § 1, Article 10, Article 18 and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
The part of the application concerning the injunction proceedings had been submitted out of time.
In particular, for an application to be admissible it had to be lodged within six months of the last
judicial decision in the case; Rustavi 2 had submitted its complaints about the injunction proceedings
in March 2017, more than six months after the final decision had been taken by the domestic courts
upholding the injunction measures, namely in November 2015.
Furthermore, it found that the television channel did not have standing to bring a complaint about
the main proceedings, namely the ownership row over Rustavi 2 shares. A person or company could
not complain of a violation of the Convention in proceedings to which he or she had not been a
party. Rustavi 2 was the object rather than the subject of the ownership dispute and it could not
therefore claim to possess an interest.
Complaints brought by Rustavi 2’s owners
The Court also declared inadmissible most of the complaints brought by Rustavi 2’s owners, the
second to fourth applicants, under Article 6 § 1, Article 18 and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, finding
them to be manifestly ill-founded.
It considered that the Supreme Court applying Article 85 instead of Article 54 of the Civil Code in the
case had not been a change in approach at cassation level but a clarification of a point of law.
Indeed, it had simply accepted the argument of duress that had been made by K.K. and contested by
Rustavi’s owners from the beginning to end of the proceedings. Moreover, both sides had been
given equal opportunity to make written submissions and, on that basis, the Supreme Court had
been fully capable of properly reviewing the lower courts’ interpretation of the relevant legal
provisions. The principles of a fair hearing under Article 6 § 1, including equality of arms and
adversarial nature of the proceedings, had not therefore been infringed.
Nor could the Court find, contrary to what was alleged by Rustavi 2’s owners, any “manifest errors of
assessment” in the reasons given by the Supreme Court for its judgment of March 2017.
The relevant applicants’ complaints calling into question the outcome of the ownership dispute did
not raise a prima facie issue under Article 1 Protocol No. 1 because that provision did not guarantee
the right to a particular outcome in civil litigation. The ownership dispute could not therefore
amount to an interference with their property rights.
Because Article 1 Protocol No. 1 was manifestly ill-founded and Article 18 could never be relied on
alone, it followed that the second to fourth applicants’ complaint about a State-led campaign against
Rustavi 2 brought under Article 18 in conjunction with Article 1 Protocol No. 1 was also manifestly illfounded.
The Court found, however, that the complaints about the judges deciding the ownership dispute had
raised serious issues of facts and law which required an examination of the merits.
It addressed each of the levels of jurisdiction separately and found that none of the judges had
lacked either independence or impartiality.
First, it examined the second to fourth applicants’ challenge to T.U., the judge appointed to examine
the case at first instance. It found no substantiation for the allegation that K.K. had decided to
include a copyright claim in his action that had clearly lacked merit so that he would be sure to have
Judge T.U., who was specialised in intellectual property disputes, sitting in his case. The Court found
that there had been two other judges specialising in intellectual property law at that judicial level
and, in any case, Judge T.U. had been assigned according to the usual procedure, namely in
The allegation that criminal proceedings against the Judge T.U.’s mother for attacking her son-in-law
had been revived to influence the judge was likewise unsubstantiated. The Court found that any
delay in the proceedings against his mother could be explained by the fact that it was the
prosecuting authorities’ practice in such cases, involving a senior citizen in poor health accused of an
offence which was not of a serious nature, to only bring charges after all attempts at reconciliation
As concerned Facebook posts published by Judge T.U.’s wife about Rustavi 2 and its director, they
had been negative but they did not comment on the eventual outcome of the ownership dispute,
nor did they give the impression that his wife, who was the author of the posts, had been attempting
to influence her husband or exploit his judicial position. Moreover, there was no evidence to show
that the judge had actually approved of his wife’s personal opinions. On the contrary, the case file
showed that Judge T.U. had sufficiently distanced himself from the opinions expressed by his wife,
an everyday citizen who had every right to be politically and socially active, while adjudicating the
Furthermore, the Court did not see anything to suggest that Judge T.U. had been unduly close to
N.G., one of three judges who had adjudicated the case on appeal. There was nothing improper
about both of those judges being founding members of the Union of Judges of Georgia, an
association representing acting judges’ interests, or about the fact that they were still members of
the association, together with some 50 other judges, at the time of the ownership dispute.
Nor did the Court find anything untoward about the association’s statements in October 2015 in
defence of the judiciary in general and Judge T.U. in particular following what it considered to be
abusive public attacks by Rustavi 2’s Director General. In televised statements the Director General
had notably referred to Judge T.U. as a “Sonder-judge” (which has a Nazi connotation) and had used
such expressions as “soil will burn under the judge”, “illiterate”, “corrupt”, “puppet”, “pseudoservant of Themis”, “armed with an axe”, “for hire” and “scoundrel”. The Director General had not
chosen to voice his criticism in a courtroom, although he had every possibility to do so, but via
Rustavi 2’s powerful media, without even hiding his intention to provoke the judge and artificially
create conditions for his recusal.
Lastly, as concerned the cassation proceedings, the Court looked at allegations of impartiality against
one of the judges, M.T., sitting on the bench of the Grand Chamber of the Supreme Court and
against that court’s President.
It noted that M.T. had made financial contributions to the new ruling party, the GDC, but found that
that was not sufficient to disqualify her. It would normally be preferable for a judge to refrain from
contributing to political parties or campaigns, however, she had contributed to the political party in
question some years previously, at a time when she had been employed in the private sector.
Furthermore, the ownership dispute over Rustavi 2 shares had concerned two private parties.
Neither the GDC as a political party nor any State authority had been a party to the proceedings or
had been related to the substance of the ownership dispute.
The Court considered that the involvement of Rustavi 2’s Director General, when he had been a
member of the High Council of Justice, in disciplinary proceedings against the President of the
Supreme Court, which had resulted in her dismissal from her judicial office some years previously,
was a serious matter which could raise an arguable claim about lack of impartiality. However, the
Supreme Court had extensively addressed the relevant arguments of Rustavi 2’s owners, giving a
thoroughly reasoned ruling which convincingly dissipated any fears in that regard. Furthermore,
there was no evidence in the case file to show that the President of the Supreme Court had ever
expressed any views at all about Rustavi 2, its director or the latter’s role in the disciplinary
proceedings conducted against her a decade ago. In any event, it was difficult to see any long-lasting
effects of her dismissal from her judicial post, given that she had subsequently risen to the position
of the President of the highest judicial body in the country.
When examining the challenges against those two Supreme Court judges, the Court bore in mind in
particular that Rustavi 2’s owners had systematically introduced ill-founded recusal requests against
many different judges at all three levels of jurisdiction. Such actions could be considered an attempt
to paralyse the administration of justice, and could even be indicative of the abusive nature of the
motion for bias.
The Court therefore found that there had been no violation of Article 6 § 1 as concerned the
independence and impartiality of the judges who decided on the ownership dispute over the Rustavi
2 television channel.