A recent judgement by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) should help deliver long-overdue compensation to thousands of Georgian nationals arbitrarily detained and expelled from Russia more than a decade ago.
The court ordered Russia to pay a total of 10 million euros (US$ 11.5 million), to be distributed between at least 1,500 Georgian nationals for damages they suffered during a 2006 campaign in which the Russian government illegally detained and expelled thousands of them living in Russia.
The ECtHR’s January 31, 2019 judgement makes multiple references to a 2007 Human Rights Watch report, “Singled Out: Russia’s Detention and Expulsion of Georgians,” which documented the expulsion campaign.
According to the Court’s ruling, each affected person should receive 2,000 euros (US$ 2,300). People who also suffered unlawful detention should receive between 10,000-15,000 euros ($ 11,200-17,000). The Committee of Ministers which oversees implementation of the judgement will need to ensure Russia fulfills its obligations to make the payments.
The Russian government claimed the 2006 expulsions were part of a fight against illegal migration, but the campaign singled out ethnic Georgians, Georgian nationals, and Georgian-owned or themed businesses and organizations, including many people who legally lived and worked in Russia. Those detained were denied their basic rights. Most were denied lawyers or access to Georgian embassy officials, given hearings that lasted only a few minutes, and held in severely overcrowded cells. Two Georgians died in detention while awaiting expulsion.
The campaign coincided with a wave of abusive migration policies in Russia, including a restriction on foreigners working in certain positions in retail markets and organized sweeps to seek out and detain migrants living or working without authorization.
The Court’s decision builds on a July 2014 judgement, which held that Russia’s policy of arresting, detaining, and expelling large numbers of Georgian nationals violated the European Convention on Human Rights.
Nearly 13 years after being forced to leave their homes and suffering mistreatment in detention, thousands of victims are finally expected to receive the long-awaited justice they deserve.