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20 Dec 2023

GYLA Achieves Success in Matkava and Others v Russia at ECtHR

On December 19, 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled on the case of Matkava and others v. Russia. The case concerned the applicants’ complaint that their close relative, Giga Otkhozoria, had been killed by a border guard of the de facto Abkhaz authorities and that there had been no effective investigation into the killing.

The applicants complained of a violation of Article 2 of the Convention. The case was litigated by the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) together with the European Human Rights Advocacy Center (EHRAC) supported by the USAID Rule of Law Program and USAID/PROLoG.

The Court unanimously held that the Russian government failed to comply with its obligations under Article 38 of the Convention, and that there had been a violation of the substantive and procedural limbs of Article 2 (right to life) of the Convention, and that the respondent State is to pay the applicants jointly, the following amounts: EUR 130,000 for non-pecuniary damage; and EUR 9,265.15 for costs and expenses. The Georgian Government was involved as a third party in the case and made a submission in support of the applicants.

GYLA filed the case with the ECtHR in January 2018. According to the Russian Government, Abkhazia was a sovereign State that was not under the “effective control” of Russia, and the applicants’ allegations against Russia and their request for Russian authorities open a new investigation were unsubstantiated. The Court noted that “Russia had effective control over Abkhazia during the relevant period. Accordingly, its responsibility cannot be confined to the acts of its own soldiers or officials there; that responsibility must also be engaged by virtue of the acts of the local administration, which survived by virtue of Russian military, political, and economic support...from the time when the Russian Federation exercised “effective control” over the territory of Abkhazia it was also responsible for the actions of the Abkhaz forces in that territory, without it being necessary to provide proof of “detailed control” of each of those actions."

In addition to the above-mentioned, the Court in connection with the substantive limb of Article 2 clarified that Giga Otkhozoria was killed as a result of the unlawful use of lethal force by the de facto Abkhaz authorities and that that force was excessive and not strictly necessary under the circumstances.

According to GYLA, the case is of national significance, because the ECtHR discussed to what extent the Russian Federation exercises effective control over the territory of Abkhazia and to what extent it bears responsibility for the actions of the representatives of the de facto government of Abkhazia.


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