Georgia’s Minister of Justice Tea Tsulukiani has said that the government wishes to demonstrate to the European Court of Human Rights that “you can’t touch the decision of a Georgian court with just one swipe of the hand,” in an interview with Imedia TV. Justice Minister Tsulukiani said that regardless of what decision is made, the Strasbourg court cannot change the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding the ownership of Rustavi 2 TV company.
“Our aim is to show the Strasbourg court that our court is independent, unbiased, and that you can’t touch the decision made by this court with just one swipe of the hand,” she said. “We should explain to [Georgian] society that the Strasbourg court is not a fourth instance court, and whatever the final decision [of the ECHR] will be, it doesn’t have the right and it can’t change the Georgian Supreme Court’s ruling regarding Rustavi 2. The Strasbourg court can only say whether or not the freedom of expression was violated, that’s it. The Strasbourg court’s final decision won’t result in the abolishment of the Supreme Court ruling.”
Justice Minister Tsulukiani added that the ECHR does not have the right to return the case for a new hearing:
“The Strasbourg court is a precedential court, and in order to violate precedents and introduce new ones, the legitimate decision of 17 judges, of the Grand Chamber, is needed. The precedent was neglected by the judge on duty, and then by the chamber consisting of seven judges, and they made an absolutely unprecedented decision. That’s our main argument, that you cannot change precedents like that and that you can’t use such a suspension decision in an ownership dispute, to which the Strasbourg court has been saying no for several decades...Now there is an attempt of changing the precedent and our next legal dispute will be accented on that.”
On March 2nd, the Supreme Court of Georgia made a decision to grant ownership of the Rustavi 2 TV Company to former owner Kibar Khalvashi. The next day, on March 3rd, the European Court of Human Rights suspended the Supreme Court’s decision; they then prolonged the suspension on March 7th.
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.