European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that the police “failed to provide adequate protection” to a small group of gay rights activists against attacks when they were marking International Day Against Homophobia on May 17, 2012.
Application, filed to the Strasbourg-based court by Tbilisi-based LGBT rights group Identoba and over dozen of individuals, was stemming from the incident which took place in Tbilisi center three years ago, when the first-ever march of a small group of rainbow flag-waving gay activists ended in a scuffle after Orthodox groups blocked activists’ way, not allowing them to continue procession.
Along with violation of freedom of assembly rights, ECHR also ruled in a judgment released on May 12 that there was a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) taken in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The court ruled that Georgia has to pay to nine out of 13 individual applicants EUR 2,000 each; EUR 3,000 to two applicants each and EUR 4,000 each to remaining two applicants. Identoba was awarded with EUR 1,500 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.
“Although given notice [by organizers] nine days prior to the march, the authorities had not used that period for careful preparation. Given the attitudes in parts of Georgian society towards sexual minorities, the authorities knew or should have known of the risk of tensions associated with the march,” the Strasbourg-based court said. “Instead of focusing on restraining the most aggressive counter-demonstrators with the aim of allowing the peaceful procession to proceed, the belated police intervention shifted onto the arrest and evacuation of some of the applicants, the very victims whom they had been called to protect.“
“The Court considered that the authorities had failed to ensure that the march to mark the International Day against Homophobia could be held peacefully by sufficiently containing homophobic and violent counter-demonstrators,” it said.
ECHR also said that the authorities had failed to investigate the incident thoroughly and no significant progress had been made for over two years.
“The only tangible result was the administrative sanctioning of two other counter-demonstrators who had been given a fine. However, in view of the level of unwarranted violence and aggression against the applicants, the Court did not consider that sanction sufficient,” the ECHR said.
In 2013 group of LGBT rights activists faced violence of much larger scale, when thousands of anti-gay demonstrators, led by Orthodox clerics, attacked small group of activists who wanted to mark May 17 in an area adjacent to Freedom Square in center of Tbilisi; at least 28 people were injured in the violence.
Fearing homophobic violence, LGBT rights groups have since then opted against public events to mark the International Day against homophobia on May 17.
In an obvious attempt to counter the International Day Against Homophobia, the Georgian Orthodox Church introduced, what it calls, “Family Day” on May 17. Last year the day was marked with a large rally, led by the Orthodox clerics, which turned into anti-gay demonstration and protest against anti-discrimination law, which was newly adopted at the time.