European Court of Human Rights finds Russia responsible for Abkhazia human rights violations

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Tuesday held Russia responsible for the unlawful arrests, ill-treatment and detention of two vulnerable men by authorities from Abkhazia, a breakaway state recognized and supported by Russia.

Levan Mamasakhlisi and Grigol Nanava were arrested in 2001 and 2003 respectively and alleged that they were subject to ill-treatment, false conviction and unlawful detention by Abkhaz authorities. The judgment states that Russia’s extensive and long-term political, economic, and military involvement in Abkhazia was sufficient enough for Russia to exercise jurisdiction over the area, making the country subject to the men’s claims in court.

The ECHR found that the men’s arrests and detentions had been unlawful, that the men had suffered from ill-treatment and detention in inhuman and degrading conditions, and neither man had received sufficient medical attention. Further, the court found that the men had not been afforded a fair hearing conducted by an impartial tribunal. The hearings that the men did receive were conducted without legal representation, assistance or the opportunity to prepare a defense.

The court reasoned that, within the meaning of Article 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights, it needed to consider whether Russia had exercised “effective control” over an area, which the court concluded that Russia did. Further, the court maintained that it had jurisdiction over the two men’s claims as Russia had remained a signatory of the convention until September 16, 2022.

According to the court, neither Russia nor Abkhazia provided the specific provisions of domestic law which the men were accused of breaching. Further, the court considered the lack of legal and official information about the judicial and legislative systems in Abkhazia, and determined that there was no evidence that the breakaway state’s legal system was compliant with Article 5, nor that the applied “law” were compatible with the Convention.

The decision comes with a considerably mounting number of charges against Russia for human rights violations one year after the country invaded Ukraine.