European Court of Human Rights: Ex-PM Merabishvili’s pre-detention was legal

Ivane Merabishvili was arrested in 2013. Photo by, 14 Jun 2016 - 16:40, Tbilisi,Georgia

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has today released its verdict  over Georgia's  former Prime Minister Ivane (Vano) Merabishvili. 

The Court rejected Merabishvili’s complaint against the current Government of Georgia and said pre-trial detention being imposed on the ex-high official was legal. 

The pre-trial detention of the former PM of Georgia was lawful and based on reasonable grounds,” ECtHR wrote. 

Merabishvili, who served as Prime Minister for a few months but mainly Interior Minister of Georgia under the previous state government, was arrested in May 2013 after the current ruling Georgian Dream (GD) coalition defeated the United National Movement (UNM) in the 2012 Parliamentary Elections.

Merabishvili was charged with faking documents, misspending budgetary funds and vote-buying. He was also charged with exceeding official power in connection with three different notorious cases but he denied all charges, saying they were politically motivated.

Kutaisi Court ordered Merabishvili’s pre-trial detention in May 2013 and his motion for release was declined four months later. 

In the following months in several separate trials the former PM and Interior Minister was found guilty and sentenced to jail. In February 2014 Kutaisi Court found Merabishvili guilty of the charge of exceeding official power and was sentenced to four years and six months in prison. 

Merabishvili claimed his pre-trial detention had not been governed by clear legal rules and sentencing him had been unreasonable. 

 Merabishvili also claimed his pre-trial detention served the purpose of excluding him from being involved in the country’s political life, as he was appointed Secretary General of UNM after the 2012 Parliamentary Elections and intended to participate in the 2013 Presidential Elections. 

About Merabishvili’s claim about pre-trial detention, the ECtHR judgement said: "The Court concludes that there has been no violation”.

However the ECtHR said one of the decisions of Kutaisi Court that concerned replacement of pre-trial detention with bail could be a violation, as a Judge orally announced the decision in a very short period of time.

The Court concludes that, when confirming the applicant’s detention on 25 September 2013 on the basis of a single abstract phrase pronounced orally – ‘the request for the cancellation of the pre-trial detention should be rejected’ – the Tbilisi City Court acted in contradiction to its heightened obligation, which followed from the lapse in time since the initial authorisation of the detention measure, to establish convincingly the existence of new concrete facts justifying the continued detention and to consider alternative non-custodial pre-trial restraint measures. 
That superficial manner of the judicial review of the reasonableness of the deprivation of the applicant’s liberty constituted a particularly broad restriction of the latter’s rights,” said the ECtHR.

The European Court of Human Rights added the Government of Georgia must pay Merabishvili €4,000 in respect of nonpecuniary damage and €8,000 for costs and expenses.

This afternoon Georgia’s Justice Minister reacted to the ECtHR ruling.

We are very pleased that the Court clearly said that Merabishvili's pre-trial detention, which began in May 2013 and ended in February 2014, was lawful, said Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani.

But she added the Ministry would soon appeal against the compensation part of the ECtHR’s ruling.