Mr. M., a convicted Roma from Astrakhan region serving prison term, has appealed to ADC “Memorial” with a claim of unjust criminal prosecution and conviction. His lawyer has forwarded to ADC “Memorial” copies of the convict’s court materials and a letter from him, which had evidence of obvious violations of rights of the claimant both during the investigation and the court hearings.
Since all the Russian court instances ruled against the appeals of the claimant, Mr. M. appealed to the lawyers of ADC “Memorial” with a request to present his case to the European Court of Human Rights. In spite of the fact that ADC “Memorial” learnt about this case already during the final stages of the appeal in Russian courts and although communication with the claimant was difficult due to the act that he was in prison, an appeal was prepared by ADC “Memorial” based on violation of articles 6 and 14 of the Convention on human Rights (ban of discrimination) and forwarded to the European Court of Human Rights in late April 2013.
According to the materials of the criminal case, Mr. M. was convicted by Leninsky district court of Astrakhan based on article 162 (section 2) of the Russian Criminal Code to serve a prison sentence of 5 years and 6 months and a penalty of Rb 20,000. At the same time, according to the lawyer of Mr. M. both the criminal investigation and the court procedures were carried out with violation of the right of the claimant to a just court procedure, which is proven by the documents of the case, and there is evidence of discrimination based on ethnicity of the claimant.
As it becomes evident from the materials of the criminal case and court procedures, “evidence” was picked in order to effectively accuse the claimant. The victim of the investigated crime claimed that he was attacked by “a Roma”, which defined the circle of potential suspects – Roma people living in the area, where the crime was committed. The basis for the detention of the claimant, Mr. M., was a certificate to the effect that he had been previously convicted for a similar crime, which in the end turned out to be false due to the misspelling of his last name. Nevertheless this document remained in the materials of the case. This fact was documented by Mr. M.’s lawyer. All the other pieces of evidence collected by the investigators were aimed at proving the guilt of Mr. M., not trying to find the perpetrator of the particular crime. Even the testimonies of the victim of the crime and one of the witnesses, which served as the basis for prosecution, can be put in doubt:
– The testimony of Mr. N., a witness, that Mr. M. has sold him a mobile telephone were refuted by the witness himself in the course of
the court hearings. Nevertheless the court only took into consideration the testimonies made by the witness during the investigation stage.
– The victim of the crime, Mr. A., in the course of the court hearings has expressed uncertainty that it was Mr. M. in particular who had attacked him, because he claimed that “all Roma look the same” to him. But the court has interpreted this uncertainty against the rosecuted, although it has stated in the verdict that “there were some doubts about the prosecuted as the real attacker”. The verdict of the court based on these pieces of evidence was made in violation of the Article 6 (section 2) of the Convention on Human Rights: all the uncertainties in proving guilty were interpreted against the prosecuted. The pieces of evidence provided by the attorney of the prosecuted, which included testimonies of his alibi on the part of 10 Roma persons, were refused by the court. The course of court hearings documented in the verdict and the latter claim made by the lawyer of the prosecuted, demonstrates lack of impartiality in thecourt hearings. The same has happened in considering the case in the courts of appeal and cassation.
The case of the convicted Mr. M. could be considered as a violation of Articles 6 and 14 of the European Convention because the ruling on prosecution of a person was made based on his ethnicity. The convicted person belongs to a vulnerable group of population based on his ethnicity – Roma people, which in Russia often are victims of various types of discrimination. As was stated in the Third report on the Russian Federation of the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, in Russia there exist “serious problems etween the officers of the law enforcement agencies and Roma people. Some issues discussed in other parts of this Report, related to the conduct of the law enforcement agencies, also concern the Roma people: the latter are subject to arbitrary checks of documents, detentions, money are extorted from them, representatives of law enforcement agencies fabricate evidence against them”. Bias against the convicted Mr. M. is linked to prejudices that Roma people are “criminalized” and it possibly contributed to the accusatory tendency in this particular criminal case and the court procedures.