Tbilisi, DFWatch – The European Court of Human Rights ruling in the case Identoba and others vs Georgia can be considered a landmark decision, as it stated that hate crimes, committed against individuals based on their sexual orientation is a violation of the European Convention on Human rights.

“The significance of the judgment is that the Court has gone beyond recognizing that the peaceful assembly of LGBT associations is protected by Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) taken in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the Convention and now also recognizes that homophobic attacks against those participating in such assemblies amounts to a breach of Article 3 in conjunction with Article 14,” writes Paul Johnson, a sociology professor from the University of York who specializes in  the relationship between law, human rights, sexual orientation and intimacy.

The ECHR ruled on May 12 that police failed to protect participants of the May 17, 2012 demonstration. The judges found that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhumane or degrading treatment) taken in conjunction with Article 14  (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) in conjunction with Article 14.

The judges considered in particular that the authorities knew or ought to have known of the risks surrounding the demonstration. They had therefore been under an obligation – but had failed – to provide adequate protection so that it could be held peacefully.

The Court held that Georgia was to pay the 13 participants of the march between 2,000 and 4,000 EUR each, and 1,500 EUR to the Identoba as compensation for non-pecuniary damages by August 12. However, none of them has received any payment so far.

DFWatch met with two of the claimants and LGBT* rights activists, Levan Berianidze from Identoba and Natia  Gvianishvili from the Women’s Initiative Supportive Group, to talk about the implications of this decision on human rights movements in Georgia.

According to Berianidze, this ruling is a solid argument for the human rights activists, and it implies that the state must protect minority demonstrations from any possible violence.

“Before there were some discussions, that the government was not prepared for that demonstration, that it did not know what to do. Now the government has no pretext anymore. Thus this ruling is important not only for the LGBT* movement, but also for all minority movements and demonstrations which can be attacked,” said Berianidze.

He continued telling that the financial compensation is not the main issue in this case. “I speak for myself, but I do believe that for most of the activists is not about to get the money, but to show that we were violently attacked and that our basic human rights were violated. And that the government activities were not sufficient and that we should be better protected in the future. This is most important, I believe, in this ruling, not the money,” Berianidze explained.

Gvianishvili added, that, apart from it being a principal victory,  it is also important that the government has to pay for failing to protect its citizens: “It is an additional measure in this case.  Our economy  is not great, and the government always complains that there is no money for human rights. And this time they have to pay.”

According to the interviewees, the ruling, which was announced just a few days before May 17, has already changed the government’s involvement with the LGBT* activists and were more willing to help organize demonstrations and to ensure their safety than in previous years. Gvianishvili stressed, that there were three separate small demonstrations on May 17 this year, and the government managed to offer a protection for all three of them: “It was a step forward towards rebuilding the trust between activists, community and the government. This trust was definitely lost in 2012, as you cannot trust the government who just promises to protect you, but their ability to protect three separate and almost simultaneous demonstrations this year, is a good sign.”

However, Georgians are still behind its ‘post-soviet brothers’ in the Baltics. For the first time in history, Euro Pride was held in the post-soviet space, in Riga. There were over 5000 participants, and the police was able to ensure their safety.

Berianidze, who attended the Euro Pride himself, said Georgia needs at least a couple of years to catch up with Estonia and Latvia in the LGBT* rights, despite the fact that its legal system is already ahead of the Baltic states: “If you look at Latvia and Estonia, how they are developing and how they were ten years ago, you see that they are going forward. We also do a lot, and I feel that there is some hope and progress in this perspective in Georgia.”

But Gvianishvili pointed out that Georgia might need more time to catch up with the Baltics, because of very polarized political system, where all actors use LGBT* issues as a part of their political campaign and generate a lot of hatred in the society. “Add a bad education system, which does not prepare for critical thinking, no information about gender and sexuality, and you have an explosive combination. And you also have the church, which tries to drag people towards their side, also using the same issues. Estonians are more chilled in this regard,” she explained.

You can find the full discussion here.