Equal Protection

Georgian State Failed to Properly Protect LGBT Demonstrators

By: George Rose

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

STRASBOURG, France — On May 17, 2013, members of the LGBT community in Georgia planned and obtained permits to hold a vigil on the steps of parliament on International Day Against Homophobia. Many former Soviet countries still have laws outlawing homosexuality, with Georgia legalizing same sex marriage in 2015. While the LGBT community was planning their vigil, members of the Orthodox Church began planning a counter demonstration, citing this as a spread of “homosexual propaganda”.

The demonstration when violence broke out.
Photo curtesy of the New York Times.

While a peaceful counterdemonstration may not have been a problem, peace was not the outcome at the demonstration. Once the members of the Orthodox Church’s counterdemonstration arrived, they quickly overrode the police barriers erected around the parliament building. The Orthodox protesters became violent, videos show priests brandishing various weapons, going as far as using stools from bars and shops, shouting “kill them”. One LGBT demonstrator remarked that she had been assaulted by members of the Orthodox Church, she recalled seeing blood on the ground and was unsure if it was hers or not. After the violence broke out, the police loaded the LGBT demonstrators onto a minibus, however, the members from the Orthodox church smashed through the windows to attack those on board. In the aftermath of the attack, eight members of the LGBT demonstration were hospitalized, as well as three police officers. Following the attack on the LGBT demonstrators, Georgia’s Prime Minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili vowed that those who promoted the violence would be punished. However, the LGBT rights groups are still waiting for proof that the government has held those who promoted violence, accountable.

In a case brought against Georgia in the European Court of Human Rights, the court ruled that Georgia had been complacent by failing to properly protect the LGBT groups. The court reasoned that the use of police officers who were unarmed, thus protecting the demonstrators with a thin line of police officers, was not adequate protection. Further, the court found that in video footage, several officers allowed the violent members of the Orthodox Church within reaching distance of the LGBT demonstrators.

The court ordered Georgia to pay €193,500 to the applicants, with €10,000 reserved to an applicant who had suffered a concussion, and €6,000 for an applicant who had been humiliated by police officers.

For further information, please see:

The European Court of Human Rights – Press Release: Unprecedented Violence against LGBT Demonstrators

The New Yorker – What Was Behind Georgia’s Anti-Gay Rally? – 23 May 2013

The New York Times – Crowd Led by Priests Attacks Gay Rights Marchers in Georgia – 17 May 2013

NPR – Anti-Gay Riot in Tblisi Tests Balance Between Church, State – 30 Jul. 2013

ECHR Demands Protection for Victims of Domestic Violence in Russia

By: Jorge Estacio

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

RUSSIA — The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has recognized that Russian authorities continue to systemically fail to protect victims of domestic violence.

Protestors hold banners against domestic violence in Russia. Photo courtesy of euronews.com.

On September 14, 2021, the ECHR rendered a verdict in favor of Valeriya Igorevna Volodina, holding that authorities violated the European Convention on Human Rights. Specifically her right to respect for private life. After separating from her partner, “S.”, Ms. Volodina became a target for cyber violence. Her former partner created faked social media accounts using her name, planted a GPS tracking device within her bag, and sent death threats to her actual social media account. Additionally, S. used the fake social media account to display nude pictures of Ms. Volodina without her consent. The court stated that Russian law failed to provide protection for victims of domestic violence. The authorities had the legal tools to investigate the ongoing cyberviolence but failed to take measures of deterrence. They took two years to open a criminal case for the matter. Which resulted in the perpetrator escaping justice due to a time limit contingency within criminal proceedings. For security reasons Ms. Volodina changed her name to an undisclosed identity as of 2018.

The ECHR is threatening to continue handling Russian domestic violence cases in a simplified and accelerated form if the government does not adopt proper measures. The court refers to Ms. Volodina’s case as an example of the systematic problems that continue to prevent prosecution and convictions for domestic violence.

Displaying their willingness to expedite justice for Russian victims of domestic violence, the ECHR joined the judgment of four cases with similar subject matter. It resulted in Russia paying monetary compensation for each victim. The case noted authorities failed to properly assess the victims’ claims, were not properly trained to do so, and failed to take any action towards the known risk. Additionally, the international court condemned the government for having a legal framework that set a high threshold for injuries to be prosecutable and criminal proceedings that rushed through domestic violence inquiries. One of the victims lost her case in Kuzminskiy District Court because she arrived “sixteen minutes late” for the hearing. On December 14, 2021, in its decision the ECHR noted Russia violated several Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights culminating in discrimination against women.

Although insufficient to fully compensate for gross disregard of Human Rights, the ECHR efforts are certainly making it clear that the Russian government cannot continue to disregard the lack of human protection.  

For further information, please see:

The European Court of Human Rights – Press Release: Violations in authorities’ failure to respond to domestic violence cases; urgent legal changes required – Dec. 14, 2021

Jurist| Legal News & Commentary – Europe human rights court rules Russia must do more to combat domestic violence – Dec. 16, 2021

The European Court of Human Rights – Press Release: Russian authorities failed to protect domestic abuse victim from her partner’s cyberviolence – Sept. 14, 2021

Institute of Modern Russia – Sergei Davidis: “The human rights violations in Russia is fraught with instability in the West” – Jan. 12, 2022

When Parents Disagree, Prioritization of Paternal over Maternal Surname Ruled Discriminatory

By: Sallie Moppert

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

STRASBOURG, France — In a Chamber judgment handed down on October 26, 2021 by the European Court of Human Rights, it was ruled that Spain’s practice of prioritizing the paternal surname over the maternal surname in parental disputes was discriminatory. The case before the court was León Madrid v. Spain and it arose from legislation in Spain that required, in a dispute between parents, a child would be given the father’s last name first, followed second by the mother’s last name.

Members of the European Court of Human Rights appear in Chamber. Photo courtesy of Jean-Francois Badias.

In 2005, Josefa León Madrid gave birth to a child whose name was entered into the registrar of births using the two surnames that Josefa had, León Madrid, (Josefa’s father’s last name, followed by Josefa’s mother’s last name). After a non-marital paternity suit in 2006, the judge in the case ruled that the child in question would, in accordance with Spanish Law under Article 194 of the Regulation Implementing the Law on the registration of births, marriages and death, would be given two last names, her biological father’s first, followed by her mother’s second, due to parental disagreement. León Madrid challenged the ruling by the judge, requesting an inversion of her daughter’s last name (mother’s surname, then father’s), but the request was denied.

The Court found that the Spanish law prioritizing the father’s surname over the mother’s was discriminatory against women under Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which prevents discrimination. The lack of equal protection under the law, the Court found, led to a difference in treatment exclusively due to the person’s gender: “The Court noted that two individuals in a similar situation – the applicant and the child’s father – had been treated differently and that the distinction was based exclusively on grounds of sex.”

The Spanish government denied the existence of discrimination in this practice, stating that the daughter could change her last names upon turning 18 years old. However, the Court found that the lack of ability to change the surname order of a child could have far-reaching impacts that go beyond equal protection under the law and gender discrimination:  beside the “unquestionable impact that a measure of such duration could have on the personality rights and identity of a minor, who would be obliged to give precedence to the surname of a father with whom she was only biologically related, the Court could not overlook the repercussions on the applicant’s life too: as her legal representative who had shared her daughter’s life since her birth, the applicant suffered on a daily basis from the consequences of the discrimination caused by the inability to change her child’s name.”

Article 194 has since been amended by Law no. 20/2011, which would allow a “civil status judge” to decide the order of surnames in parental disagreement, but, at the time of the case, because León Madrid’s daughter was already 16 years old, the amendment did not apply to her.

For further information, please see:

European Court of Human Rights – Automatic imposition of surname order, paternal followed by maternal, when parents disagree, is discriminatory – Oct. 26, 2021

Law Euro – León Madrid v. Spain (European Court of Human Rights) – Oct. 26, 2021

ECHR Awards Damages Based on Religious Discrimination Claim against Georgia

By: Tina Perez

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

STRASBOURG, France — The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that Georgia discriminated against, mistreated, and used excessive force against four Muslim men who were arrested for protesting a decision of Adigeni Municipality (the local government) to renovate a former mosque in the Village of Mokhe into a library. In Mikeladze v. Georgia, police alleged that the four men were resisting arrest at a protest on October 22, 2014 and sustained injuries while resisting. The four men complained that police verbally and physically assaulted them during and following their arrests. The men claimed, with several witnesses also reporting, that the authorities acted with discrimination because the officials used degrading racial slurs. ECHR awarded damages of 3,900 euros to the man who was the most severely injured and 1,800 euros to each remaining man.

Muslims gather in prayer outside the Disputed Building, Mokhe. Photo courtesy of Dato Parulava and Liberali.

The ECHR’s findings in this matter include that the injuries reported were not consistent with resisting arrest because one of the protestors was injured but no police were injured. Additionally, the report of the man’s injuries was not an adequate investigation because it did not investigate the origin of his injuries.

ECHR also found that the four men did not need to pursue all available remedies within Georgia if those remedies were ineffective. The men made official complaints related to physical and verbal abuse they received but Georgia conducted no official investigation. Georgia instead claimed that the criminal investigation against the men was sufficient to uncover and address their mistreatment. This matter was brought to ECHR and ECHR found that the state criminal investigation was not sufficient because it was not independently conducted. ECHR further noted that the criminal investigation of the men failed to make any inquiry into the racial slurs used against them. Additionally, in the seven years since the incident the internal investigation had made no conclusive findings.

This matter grabbed the attention of human rights organizations because Muslims are a religious minority within Georgia.  Although the majority of the population of the Village of Mokhe is Muslim, the local officials are not and discrimination against Muslims in the region goes back decades.  The disputed building was constructed as a mosque between 1927-34 but in the 1940s, Joseph Stalin expelled Muslims from the region. From the 1940’s until 2007 when Adigeni Municipality took ownership of the building, it was used first as a warehouse and later as a village club.  However, the Orthodox Church of Georgia also asserted ownership over the building claiming that a church stood on the location during the sixteenth century. Following the protest, the Muslim community of Mokhe continued to pray inside the ruins of the building until October 2016 when the building was blocked off with yellow police tape. An official commission was created to determine the origins of the ruin and in May 2017, the commission determined that the building “couldn’t be attributed to either” religion. The ruins have been declared a cultural heritage site named “Disputed Building.”

For further information, please see:  

Agenda.ge – European Court finds Georgia guilty of discrimination against four Georgian Muslims – 17 Nov. 2021

European Court of Human Rights – Forthcoming Judgments and Decisions – 10 Nov. 2021

European Court of Human Rights- Judgment, Case of Mikeladze and Others v. Georgia – 16 Nov. 2021

OC Media – Mokhe’s ‘Disputed Building’ to be Sealed off for Conservation – 14 Sept. 2017

Tolerance and Diversity Institute – Analysis of Recent Occurrences in Mokhe Village – 3 Nov. 2014

European Court of Human Rights Dismisses Age Discrimination Claim

By: William Matthew Krueger

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

VILNIUS, LithuaniaOn October 26, 2021, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Housing Act was reasonable and did not discriminate based on age.

The Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania. Photo Courtesy of Lithuanian Courts.

On January 1, 2015, the Housing Assistance Act came into effect. The Act provided three types of housing assistance: subsidies that would cover a portion of a home loan, a right to rent housing from the State, and partial rebates of rent payments. Article 8 of the Act defines two general conditions for an individual or family to qualify for subsidies to cover a portion of a home loan.

First, the annual income of the individual or family must not exceed the threshold provided in other provisions of the Housing Assistance Act. Second, they must be seeking their first home in Lithuania or alternatively, should not have owned residential property during five years prior and did not previously receive this form of assistance; that the residential property currently owned falls underneath a legally established threshold; or the individual or family member(s) have a disability and the home is not adapted to fit the individual’s needs.

Furthermore, the applying individual had to fit in one of many categories just to qualify for the home loan.

In 2016, Loreta Šaltinytė, a single mother with a four-year daughter, applied for a housing subsidy available to lower income “young families” who were buying their first home. Šaltinytė’s application was denied by municipal authorities on the grounds that she was thirty-seven at the time of her application.

Soon, Šaltinytė filed a complaint with the administrative courts, alleging that the refusal of the housing subsidy was age discrimination, which was prohibited by Lithuania’s Constitution and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Šaltinytė also asked for her claim to be referred to the Constitutional Court, which was dismissed. In addition, the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court dismissed Šaltinytė’s complaint on the grounds that legislature has discretion to limit who qualifies for welfare benefits.

In an appeal, Šaltinytė stated the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court failed to address the potential conflict between the Act, the Constitution, and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The appeal was dismissed on December 6, 2018 by the Supreme Administrative Court based on precedent from the Constitutional Court that permits legal regulation of certain categories of persons, the State has wide discretion when performing social assistance and has an obligation to service the most vulnerable members of society. The Court also held that the Act was not built solely on age parameters.

In the complaint to the European Court of Human Rights, Šaltinytė alleged a violation of Articles 14 and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. Article 14 states that discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth, or other status is prohibited. Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 states that every legal person is “entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions” except in cases where the public interest is at risk and such a right is subject to other legal conditions. Šaltinytė alleges that Lithuania failed to demonstrate a reason for establishing the cut-off age at thirty-five.

In response, Lithuania stated that the purpose of the relevant portion of the Housing Assistance Act was not as a general form of welfare, but as a way of assisting younger people to acquire property and hopefully reverse the decline of the working population. Finally, Lithuania stated that at the time Šaltinytė had her daughter she could have applied as she met the definition of “young family.”

The Court found that this difference in treatment was legitimate as the Act intended to encourage younger people to have children and reduce potential emigration. Secondly, the Act was based on statistical data gathered by Lithuania and possessed a “reasonable relationship of proportionality” between the treatment based on age and the goal of Lithuania.

The European Court of Human Rights found no violation of Article 14 or Article 6, Section 1 of the Convention.

For further information, please see:

European Court of Human Rights – European Convention on Human Rights – 1 Aug. 2021.

European Court of Human Rights – Case of Šaltinytė v. Lithuania – 26 Oct. 2021.

European Union – Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union – 26 Oct. 2012.

Republic of Lithuania – Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania – 25 Oct. 1992.