LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Strong words now require real action in Georgia following ECtHR ruling

Following this morning’s (Tuesday, 12 May 2015) judgment from the European Court of Human Rights, ILGA-Europe commend the dedication and resilience of our member organisation Identoba and the wider LGBTI movement in Georgia. 

The ECtHR ruled that the police failure to protect an IDAHOT march violated the participants’ rights under Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association).

It is almost 3 years since Identoba organised a peaceful march to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia in May 2012. This event was disrupted by counter-demonstrators who verbally abused the participants before violently attacking the group, without adequate intervention from the police officers present.

The Court’s Chamber judgment was particularly critical of the police’ lack of action, a failure amplified by the fact that they had received advanced notice of the march: “In particular, although given notice 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. They had thus been under an obligation to use any means possible to ensure that it could be held peacefully…”.

Since 2012, LGBTI organisations in Georgia have not been able to hold a peaceful demonstration to mark IDAHOT due to failure of the authorities to protect the participants (2013) or due to lack of such guarantees (2014). This year, the celebrations are again in doubt, despite long negotiations and the best efforts of NGOs.

The unease surrounding LGBTI events must cease. ILGA-Europe are reminded of the strong words from political leaders in the wake of violent clashes which marred the 2013 IDAHOT events in Tbilisi. Then Prime Minister Ivanishvili issued a call for tolerance and respect for the democratic rights of all; while (now former) President Saakashvili said that violence couldn’t be a part of Georgian society and that the government needed to take responsibility. The time for well-placed rhetoric has now come to an end.

ILGA-Europe welcomes the judgment from Strasbourg and calls on the Georgian authorities to fulfil their obligation to ensure freedom of assembly for the Georgian citizens, particularly in relation to IDAHOT public events this year.