The European Court of Human Rights has struck out the case of Gamtsemlidze and others v Georgia in response to a declaration submitted by the Georgian Government in which they conceded that the right to life had been violated in a case brought on behalf of Mr Giorgi Gamtsemlidze, who was killed during a police chase on 8 May 2008.
The applicants are the mother, widow and children of Mr Gamtsemlidze. They were represented by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre, based at Middlesex University, and the Georgian Young Lawyers' Association in Tbilisi, Georgia.
On 8 May 2008, at around 1:20 a.m., two patrol police officers began to pursue a vehicle that was speeding in a central district of Tbilisi. At some point, the car hit the curb, and the driver, Mr Gamtsemlidze, got out and attempted to escape by running over the roof of an adjacent garage. One of the police officers ran after him and proceeded to pull out his service pistol, firing a shot which mortally wounded Mr Gamtsemlidze in the back of his neck. He died almost immediately, before an ambulance, which the police officers called, could arrive.
Two criminal cases were launched following the incident; firstly for the excessive use of force by the police officer and secondly, against Mr Gamtsemlidze for possession of a gun. The police officer admitted he had not seen a gun in Mr Gamtsemlidze's hand and that the shot he fired had been 'accidental'. Further investigation revealed that it could not be established that Mr Gamtsemlidze had been in possession of a gun. This was upheld by the statement of the other police officer who witnessed the incident.
The police officer was convicted in January 2009 of involuntary manslaughter, sentenced to two years in prison and two years' probation, and was ordered to pay €20,000 to Mr Gamtsemildze's widow. She appealed against the decision, arguing numerous shortcomings in the investigation, but her appeal was rejected in March 2009.
The applicants brought the case to the European Court under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to life), claiming that Mr Gamtsemildze was killed by the use of excessive force and that the investigation into the incident was ineffective. They also claimed that criminal proceedings against the police officer were unfair and resulted in an unjustifiably lenient punishment.
In its declaration, the Georgian Government acknowledged that a violation of the right to life had taken place:"Considering the factual and legal circumstances of the case, the Government of Georgia wish to express their regretful acknowledgement of violations of Article 2 of the Convention" and that the "failure of the authorities to guarantee sufficient involvement of the victim in the investigation and to verify and give objective consideration to the witness statements of Mr O.T. is incompatible with the procedural obligation of effective investigation stemming from Article 2 of the Convention."
In order to remedy the situation, the Government has also undertaken to re-investigate the case and guarantee the applicants' right to participate in the investigation. They are also to pay the applicants €20,000 in damages.