The right to respect for private and family life is one of the most important universally recognized human rights and is protected by Article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. This article places limits on arbitrary interference by a public authority in family life and imposes positive obligations to respect family life.
Unfortunately, Russian courts and law enforcement agencies frequently violate this right in respect of the most vulnerable people—migrants and displaced persons whose families are located in the Russian Federation. One recent example is a case heard by Gatchina City Court in Leningrad Oblast on October 19, 2019, in which Armenia citizen O. was accused of violating Russian migration rules. At the time of the decision’s publication, O. was living with his spouse, who is a Russian citizen, their child, and other relatives, also Russian citizens. In spite of this, the court refused to recognize the right to family unity and handed down a sentence of a fine and expulsion.
Working the ADC “Memorial”, the attorney Olga Tseytlina appealed this decision with the Leningrad Oblast Court. Agreeing with Tseytlina’s argument that the Gatchina City Court did not consider the fact that O. was residing with close relatives who were Russian citizens, the oblast court supported O. and excluded expulsion from the city court’s decision.
In adopting this decision, the court considered the precedence of norms of international law prohibiting interference by a public authority in private and family life and concluded that a fine with expulsion would violate the right to respect for family life, which is not in keeping with the requirements of Article 8 of the European Convention.
Until quite recently, Russian courts have rarely directly cited the European Convention in their decisions, particularly in administrative cases against migrants. However, thanks to the work of human rights defenders and attorneys, the practice of citing and applying Convention norms in administrative cases against foreign citizens and stateless persons is becoming more common. This is especially important in cases involving the protection of family unity and the rights of the child to life and to an upbringing by both parents, since the violation of migration rules is not a serious offense and cannot serve as a justification for interference in family life.