“I think that the decision the European Court of Human Rights makes is a final one,” Georgia’s Public Defender (Ombudsman) Ucha Nanuashvili stated in an interview with Rustavi 2. “We have to implement this decision. Years ago, Georgia decided on its own to become a member of European family, to become a member of the Council of Europe and join the convention [European Convention on Human Rights] oriented towards defending human rights.”
Ombudsman Nanuashvili’s comments then addressed those in the Georgian leadership who have spoken against the ECHR decision: “I can’t understand any statement regarding the revision of this decision,” stated Nanuashvili. “Such statements [against the ECHR decision] aren’t just for a Georgian audience; information regarding these statements will most probably be received by all the European institutions… All in all, it completely damages the process which is called ‘Georgia’s path towards European structures.’”
On March 3rd, the European Court of Human Rights suspended the ruling of the Supreme Court of Georgia regarding ownership in the Rustavi 2 case until March 8th. On March 7th the ECHR then permanently extended this decision.
In reaction, the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Giorgi Gakharia, commented that it is unclear “why freedom of expression is prioritized over property rights.” Member of the High Council of Justice of Georgia, Eva Gotsiridze, stated that “the suspension of the decision made by the national court will have a stinging effect on the effectiveness of the justice system in Georgia.” Georgia’s Parliamentary Vice Speaker Tamar Chugoshvili said that the “Strasbourg decision has risen questions and astonishment.” On March 13th, Education Minister Aleksandre Jejelava stated that the ECHR judge made the ruling “hastily,” because Rustavi 2 had created a picture of “apocalypse” and “tragedy on the streets of Tbilisi” if the Supreme Court of Georgia’s decision regarding the company’s ownership would be implemented.
Alongside the Ombudsman, President Giorgi Margvelashvili has also spoken out that questioning the ECHR decision is unacceptable. The president’s spokesperson Eka Mishveladze has stated that: “In 1999 we unconditionally joined the European Human Rights Convention, by which we stated that we are ready to defend European values. With this decision we’ve affirmed the supremacy of the European Court and we took the responsibility to implement all the articles of the convention. Questioning the decision made by the ECHR in this context is a hit to Georgia’s European Future.”
The Rustavi 2 ruling received wide international attention from diplomatic organizations and members of European Parliament. The EU Delegation to Georgia and the U.S. Embassy Tbilisi issued official statements raising concerns regarding freedom of media and freedom of speech in Georgia.
Tbilisi City Court and the Appellate Court of Georgia previously decided to grant 100% ownership of the TV company to former owner Kibar Khalvashi; his sister has been an MP for the Georgian Dream party since 2012. Rustavi 2 applied to appeal the decisions to the Supreme Court of Georgia.