In July 2014 European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) has made several important rulings on appeals made by citizens of the Russian Federation concerning conditions of custody. One of the appeals was a result of common work of the lawyers of the Russian “Migration and law” network and ADC “Memorial”. It has been many years that the human rights defenders started to draw attention to systematic violations of human rights of foreigners and people without citizenship, who were administratively detained in the Centers for foreign nationals in very degrading conditions and who were in fact kept in prison for indefinite periods of time (up to 2 years in some cases!). They are kept in custody for a simple lack of documents, i.e. not for crimes, but for violation of migration rules.
On July 17, 2014 a ruling was made by ECtHR in the case №44260/13 “Kim v. Russia”, where the court admitted violations of Articles 3 and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights and demanded that the Russian authorities take general measures to avoid similar violations in future. Mr. Kim, a person without citizenship, spent 2 years in the Center for detention of foreign nationals. During that period of time he was deprived of the right to appeal his detention. Conditions of custody in the Center for foreign nationals in Saint Petersburg were considered to be degrading (crowdedness, improper sanitary conditions, lack of regular walks). Besides that ECtHR judged that Article 5 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms was violated (the right for freedom and personal. Because the claimant was a person without citizenship and could not be extradited to any country, because no country would accept him, thus his continuous custody had no rational grounds. Apart from the ruling for material compensation of moral damages of the claimant, who had spent two years of his life in prison, ECtHR also ruled that Russian authorities should adopt general measures, including periodic court control of the legality of placing people into custody for administrative violations and checking the possibilities for administrative extradition in each case.
Olga Tseytlina, Mr. Kim’s legal representative in ECtHR, stated that “it was an important ruling of the European Court regarding systematic problems of the Russian legislation. Legality and grounds of the continuous custody of a person to be extradited should be considered in court in each particular case, subject to competitive court procedure. The court should also indicate concrete and minimal required time period for extradition. In fact even before that the court should find out if extradition is at all possible, in particular, whether a country of destination is ready to take the extradited person.” In 2011 ECtHR has already considered the case of Lakatosz v. Russia (the appeal was made by lawyer Olga Tseytlina and ADC “Memorial”). Back then the Russian authorities admitted that several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated and agreed that foreign nationals and people without citizenship were being held in the temporary detention center in inhuman and degrading conditions. It was also admitted that Article 5 Section 4 of the Convention was violated because it was impossible to end detention at the Center for detention of foreign nationals even in case it became clear that they could not be extradited from Russia. Russian authorities agreed to pay the claimants 30,000 euros each as compensation for their troubles. But since an agreement on pre-court settlement of the dispute was reached, ECtHR hasn’t called upon Russia to take necessary measures and stop the practice of detention of people without reason in de facto torturous conditions.
In case of Kim v. Russia it was possible to not only get yet another judgment about the violation of rights of people detained in the Centers for foreign nationals, but also to principally change the practice of fierce prosecution of people without citizenship and foreign nationals.
A week before that, on July 10, 2014, European Court on Human Rights had also made a positive ruling in the case of a HIV-infected claimant, Russian citizen M.S. (№8589/08), who had appealed against inhuman conditions during transportation of the accused people to interrogations and then back to prison. M. S. was detained in the temporary detention center for investigations, from where he was taken for interrogations on numerous occasions, as well as to court hearings. According to M. S., transportation took between 3.5 and 6.5 hours and he was held in a section of a police van, which measured just 0.7 by 0.7 m, while it was only 1.6 m high. While awaiting transportation, the engine of the van was shut down and as a result of that light and heating were not provided. Besides that the claimant also complained that symptoms of HIV also became stronger when he was held in the investigative detention center because he was not provided with adequate medical care. The claimant stated that he had asked for medical assistance on numerous occasions, but that the staff and the administration of the detention center had refused to provide it, ignoring his appeals and only providing him medical assistance on the same basis as for the rest of the detained.
ECtHR has stated that the conditions for transportation of the claimant from the detention center to the court and back were not up to the norms indicated in the Convention and considered this practice to be inhuman treatment, degrading the human dignity of the accused and detained, that is a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. As a result of consideration of this case by the court, ECtHR has obliged the Russian Federation to pay M. S. 17.500 euros as a compensation for moral damage.
On July 17, 2014 ECtHR also made a ruling in favor of claimants Svinarenko and Slyadnev v. Russia (applications №32541/08 and 43441/08) and confirmed that the practice of keeping the accused behind metal bars in courtroom is illegal. The practice of keeping the suspects and accused behind metal bars in court room was put into effect in Russia back in 1994. In 2008 the claimants appealed to ECtHR because for almost 6 years courts of various levels made judgments against them on various criminal charges, which were later overruled by courts of higher level and sent back for re-consideration. In the end Svinarenko was judged “not guilty” on all charges and Slyadnev, who had been detained for 3.5 years, was judged guilty only on charges of arbitrary action involving violence. But during all the years that court consideration of their cases was going on, Svinarenko and Slyadnev were continuously placed behind metal bars in court room, while armed guards were also placed next to them.
By this judgment the court ruled that during the court procedures against the claimants violations described in Article 3 (ban on torture and inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment) and 13 (absence of effective means for legal defense) of the Convention were made. The court arrived at the conclusion that putting people behind bars during the court procedures violated the right of the prosecuted for dignified treatment and was unacceptable.
All three of these judgments made by ECtHR in July 2014 deal with various violations of rights not only of these particular prisoners or former prisoners, but of all the thousands, tens or even hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens, who suffer from the conditions of detention and imprisonment, conditions of transportation, conditions of placement in courts and even the very mechanisms for court control over the fundamental right of a person, the right for personal freedom.