Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia Irakli Kobakhidze asserts that the European Court of Human Rights made its recent decision concerning TV company Rustavi 2 under outside political influence.
“There were specific signs that specific individuals, including the President [of Georgia], political parties and other individuals were trying to assert political influence on the Strasbourg court’s decision. They’ve sent letters as well and naturally this was an attempt to assert political influence and obviously the decision was made under this influence. This doesn’t mean that the decision was political, however the aim was to assert political influence”, he said in response to the decision of the ECHR to suspend the implementation of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
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.
Speaking with students at Ilia State University President Margvelashvili responded to Kobakhidze’s statement, and stated that “I can confess that I control Strasbourg court and also the New York stock market”.
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.
The ECHR decision to suspend the implementation of the Supreme Court’s decision on Rustavi 2’s ownership is unprecedented. The suspension mechanism was never used regarding cases of freedom of expression; it has previously been used by the Strasbourg court when a human life is in danger.
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