BSQ Partner Roger Sahota attended a press conference in the Hague, Netherlands on 29 May 2018 held by BSQ client Mikheil Saakashvili, the Former Georgian President and Governor of Odessa.
Advised by Leading Counsel, Geoffrey Robertson QC and Susie Alegre of Doughty Street Chambers and BSQ Solicitors Mr Saakashvili is considering bringing a claim before the European Court of Human Rights following the cancellation of his Ukrainian citizenship and abduction and expulsion from that country.
Mr Saakashvili is best known for leading the “Rose Revolution” in his native Georgia against that country’s corrupt post-communist regime. After losing office in 2013 criminal proceedings were brought against him in absentia in Georgia although many human rights groups consider these to be politically motivated reprisals.
In 2015 he was invited by Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine to take up Ukrainian citizenship and become the Governor of Odessa. As Ukrainian law does not permit dual citizenship, Mr Saakashvili renounced his Georgian nationality in 2015 to do so. On 26th July 2017, his Ukrainian citizenship was arbitrarily revoked by Presidential Decree, leaving him stateless.
On February 12th 2018 he was forcibly detained and expelled to Warsaw, and has been denied re-entry to the country of which he was a permanent resident and leader of a major political party. He was deported from Ukraine to Poland without a court warrant in what is believed to be a politically motivated measure after organizing protests against President Poroshenko.
During the press conference Mr Robertson QC highlighted a “number of serious breaches in international law” in Mr Saakashvili’s treatment to which Germany, Britain and France “had turned a blind eye.” Primarily, these included:
Arbitrarily revoking Mr Saakashvili’s citizenship. In doing so Ukraine has acted in breach of Article 8 of the European Court of Human Rights (an individual’s right to respect for family and private life) and its international obligations to prevent statelessness.
The detention and deportation of Mr Saakashvili in circumstances where he was violently and forcibly abducted amount to a violation of the right to liberty and security of the person (contrary to ECHR Article 5(1)(f) ECHR which allows for the lawful arrest or detention of a person against whom action is being taken with a view to deportation or extradition) and further to degrading treatment (contrary to Article 3 ECHR, prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment). In addition, the speed at which these events had taken place did not allow him to challenge the lawfulness of his detention before a court amounted to a further breach of ECHR, Article 5.
In denying his right to return to Ukraine the Government was also in breach of Article 12(4) of the ICCPR (International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights) by arbitrarily depriving him of the right to enter his own country. This, in turn also constituted a violation of his right to private and family life protected under Article 8 ECHR and his right to freedom of association as protected under Article 11 of the ECHR, freedom of expression (Article 10, ECHR) in further breach of Article 14 ECHR (discrimination on the grounds of his political opinion.)
BSQ continue to monitor the progression of claims brought on Mr Saakashvili’s behalf in the courts of Ukraine. Before any human rights claim can be submitted either pursuant to the ICCPR or ECHR, both conventions require an exhaustion of domestic remedies.
In the meantime, Mr Saakashvili has called upon the international community to consider taking diplomatic action including cutting diplomatic ties with Ukraine in an effort to persuade the Ukrainian authorities to allow him to return to that country to take part in the elections scheduled for later this year.
Roger Sahota specialises in international criminal and human rights litigation and particularly in sensitive cases with a political dimension.