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European court rules against Georgia in femicide case

16 June 2023
European Court of Human Rights. Photo via Wikipedia.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Georgia failed to prevent and investigate an instance of femicide, and ordered the state to pay compensation to the family of the victim.

According to the ECHR ruling on Thursday, the 23-year-old woman took her own life in 2017 after years of reporting physical and verbal abuse by her partner to the police. Her partner and child were at home at the time. 

They found that Georgia had violated the right to life and the prohibition of discrimination, and ordered the state to pay the victim’s mother €20,000 ($22,000) in moral damages.

The ruling also noted the need to investigate inaction by Georgian law-enforcement officials, in light of previous domestic violence cases against the country.

The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), who represented the victim’s mother in court, hailed the verdict on Thursday. ‘The state did not investigate the fact of suicide from the point of view of femicide, did not take into account gender-related approaches and aggravating circumstances in the case in the process of investigating and punishing the crime’, they wrote.

According to the ECHR ruling, the victim started cohabiting with her partner in 2012, and they had a child in January 2013. In the years following, the woman contacted the police complaining of abuse on at least sixteen occasions, and a restraining order was issued against her partner three times. 

‘Their relationship was marred by constant arguments related to [her partner’s] gambling addiction, excessive drinking and financial problems, as well as his violent behaviour’, the ruling read. The court added that the victim maintained regular contact with her former partner after 2016 when she moved to her godmother’s house, allowing him to see their child.

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According to the court, an argument and physical altercation took place between the victim and her former partner a few hours before she took her own life on 19 February 2017.

The court found that he had physically assaulted her ‘causing her multiple injuries around the head’.

‘The court further noted that [the victim] had been subjected to systematic domestic violence and that all of this had led her to commit suicide’, reads the ECHR ruling. 

The Georgian police initially began investigating the case under the charge of incitement to suicide. In February 2018, Tbilisi City Court found the victim’s former partner guilty of aggravated incitement to suicide by ill-treatment of a family member and sentenced him to three years in prison.

In 2019, Georgia’s Supreme Court partially satisfied an appeal by the victim’s former partner, reducing his conviction from incitement to suicide to domestic violence. His prison sentence was reduced to one year and he was freed following the court hearing. 

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, 186 cases of femicide were recorded in Georgia between 2014 and 2022.

If you are a victim of domestic violence in Georgia or have information about domestic violence, you can call the national emergency number on 112. A counselling hotline for people experiencing or witnessing domestic abuse in Georgia can be reached at 116 006.

Read in Armenian on CivilNet