Legal Case of the Week
On 13 April 2017 the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the case of Tagayeva and Others v. Russia that Russia had failed to protect the hostages of the Beslan school siege in which about 331 people died, including 186 children, and very many people were injured in September 2004, the BBC reported. School No. 1, the largest school in Beslan, was attacked by Chechen separatists on 1 September 2004. The attackers took 1128 people hostage, including 886 children. The siege was ended by an assault by Russian security forces, which included the use of tanks and flamethrowers. No Russian official has been held responsible for the high number of fatalities in the course of the security services' operation. The European Court of Human Rights awarded the applicants in the case [named Tagayeva and Others v. Russia] a total of €2,933,000. The BBC reports: "Russia said the ruling was 'utterly unacceptable' and that it would appeal. , which included 186 children."
In Tagayeva and Others v. Russia, 346 of the 409 victims of the tragedy were represented at the European Court of Human Rights by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), based at Middlesex University, and Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow). In a press release, the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre said that, in the case of Tagayeva and Others v. Russia:
"The Court’s strongly-worded judgment found that Russia had violated the right to life of the victims and their family members on several counts:
· the authorities failed to take preventative security measures given that there was prior knowledge that an attack was planned in the area at an educational institution;
· the investigation into the siege failed to establish whether the force used by the State was justified;
· there were serious shortcomings in the planning and control of the security operation; and
· the security forces used disproportionately powerful and indiscriminate weapons (including tank cannon, grenade launchers and flame-throwers), resulting in hundreds of fatalities and injuries."
Professor Philip Leach, Director of EHRAC, said after the judgment: “This ground-breaking judgment provides a significant measure of justice for the families, after so many years. It establishes the extent of the Russian authorities’ responsibility for severe loss of life during the Beslan School Siege, but also calls for important lessons to be learned, so that the mistakes made at Beslan are not repeated.”
The EHRAC press release also quoted Lord Frank Judd, a former Rapporteur on Chechnya for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, as saying: “The extreme nature of the attack on schoolchildren in Beslan is burnt into Russia's national consciousness. This case is just as relevant today given the continuing threat of terror attacks in Russia and across the world. The Russian state has refused to acknowledge its role in this terrible loss of life and today’s judgment is a pivotal moment in holding Russia to account.”
For more information about this case, contact: Sabrina Vashisht of the EHRAC by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on +44 208 411 4469
On 4 April 2014 in the case of V.K. v. Russia, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that the rights of a Russian national involuntarily placed in a psychiatric facility had been violated, and awarded €1,500 in compensation, RAPSI has reported. In the case, the European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention (right to liberty and security). The applicant (unnamed) was represented by Dmitry Bartenev, a lawyer practicising in St. Petersburg. According to the record of the case published in HUDOCS, "The applicant alleged that his involuntary placement in a psychiatric facility had been unlawful under Article 5 § 1 of the Convention due to the failure of the national authorities to meet the substantive requirements of that provision, and under Article 5 § 4 of the Convention because of procedural defects in the judicial authorisation of his admission to hospital." RAPSI reports that the applicant "was forcibly confined in a psychiatric hospital in April 2007 for numerous telephone calls to the police about the presence of explosives at an industrial facility, regular and allegedly groundless calls for emergency assistance at his home and aggressive behavior towards medical personnel." Subsequently, St Petersburg City Court dismissed an appeal brought by the person in question against the ruling that placed him in the psychiatric hostpital. The applicant was subsequently discharged from the hospital.
'V.K. v. Russia,' HUDOCS, 4 April 2017'Rights of Russian citizen forcibly placed in psychiatric hospital violated - ECHR,' RAPSI, 4 April 2017
'European Convention on Human Rights,' European Court of Human Rights, website
On 30 March 2017, the banned Crimean Tatar Mejlis, a representative body of Crimean Tatars, submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights, the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre reports, contesting its designation as an ‘extremist’ organisation.. The Mejlis and its leaders are represented before the European Court by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC, London), the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (Kyiv) and Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow). As EHRAC notes: "In April 2016, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Crimea declared the Mejlis an ‘extremist’ organisation and the Crimean Prosecutor suspended the Mejlis’ activities." On 29 September 2016 Human Rights Watch reported that the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation that day confirmed the lower court's ruling declaring the Mejlis to be an extremist organization and banned its activities in Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea. Human Rights Watch called the decision of the Supreme Court "outrageous but not surprising." Human Rights Watch noted that it had documented "a steady curtailing of basic freedoms in Crimea since Russian forces began occupying the peninsula in February 2014."
Human Rights Watch also noted that since the Mejlis had been first banned, several Mejlis members have been threatened, harassed or are facing prosecution by the Russian authorities. EHRAC points out that to date ten members have been charged with administrative or criminal offenses for ‘illegal’ gatherings, and one is in prison. Moreover, "Mustafa Dzhemilev, former Chair of the Mejlis and a leading defender of Crimean Tatar rights, and Refat Chubarov, the current Head of the Mejlis, are forbidden from entering the peninsula, and several Crimean Tatar media outlets have either been banned or persecuted. Many Crimean Tatars have been forced to leave for mainland Ukraine or Russia."
EHRAC in its press release states: "The Mejlis argues before the European Court that its designation as an extremist organisation and the suspension of its activities is a violation of the right to freedom of association, under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR); and that it has been banned – and its members persecuted – to punish them for their political position (in violation of Article 18). They also complain that the Russian Courts disregarded their status as a representative body of the indigenous people of Crimea, violating the prohibition of discrimination (Article 14). They further allege that they did not have access to a fair trial (Article 6 ECHR), and they could not have anticipated that their activities would be in violation of anti-extremist legislation (Article 7 ECHR). Approximately 3,000 individual cases related to the events in Crimea or the hostilities in Eastern Ukraine are currently pending before the Court."
Photo: The Mejlis building in Simferopol, confiscated by the Russian authorities [Wikipedia]
'Banned Crimean Tatar Mejlis takes case to Strasbourg Court,' EHRAC, 30 March 2017
Tanya Cooper, 'Crimean Tatar Elected Body Banned in Russia. Shutdown of Mejlis Part of Repressive Measures Against Crimean Tatars,' Human Rights Watch, 29 September 2016
'Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People,' Wikipedia
On 20 March 2017 Khasan Zakayev was convicted of assisting in the attack on the Dubrovka theatre, during a performance of the musical Nord-Ost on 22 October 2002, and sentenced to 19 years in prison. In the 2002 act of terror, the attackers had taken the audience hostage, demanding that Russia withdraw its troops from Chechnya. All the hostage takers, together with 130 of the more than 900 hostages, died when Russian special forces launched an operation using a toxic gas to release the hostages on 26 October 2002. According to independent sources, the number of hostages who died is 174. Most of the victims reportedly died as a result of inadequate health care provided after they had breathed the gas. As RFE/RL reports, Zakayev had been detained in March 2015 and subsequently pleaded "partially" guilty to having transported guns to Moscow shortly before the assault. However, he stated that he had no idea what the guns were intended for.
As The Moscow Times reported, family members of the victims and survivors of the atrocity blame government officials for poor management of the hostage negotiations and have called for the officials who ordered the assault on the Dubrovka theatre to be prosecuted. In 2011, the European Court of Human Rights ruled the authorities had failed to provide adequate medical care to the hostages after the gas had been released into the theatre.
The Moscow Times quotes Karinna Moskalenko, a lawyer for the victims and their families, as saying: "Khasan Zakaev is not the only person we wanted to see in the dock. We are talking about the responsibility of government officials. We are interested in everyone who is responsible for the so-called rescue operation."
On 14 March 2017 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled Russia was behind a 2007 attack in Ingushetia on human rights defender Oleg Orlov and three journalists from the Russian REN-TV channel. The four individuals were in Ingushetia to cover protests over the death of a child during a security operation. The ECtHR found Russia responsible for illegal detention, inhuman treatment and illegal taking of belongings (violations of the right to liberty and security of person [Article 5 of the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms], the ban on inhuman treatment and torture [Article 3 of the Convention], and of the right to property [Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 of the Convention]. Russia was also found responsible for there being no proper investigation of the crimes. As RFE/RL reported, the European Court of Human Rights also ordered Russia to pay 84,000 euros in compensation for "illegal freedom deprivation and torture."
Oleg Orlov and the three journalists (Artem Vysotsky, Stanislav Gorychikh, and Karen Sakhinov) were staying the night of 23-24 November 2007 in the Assa Hotel in Nazran, Ingushetia, when, as Memorial Human Rights Centre reports, they were hooded, carried off to an isolated place where they were threatened with being shot, savagely beaten and thrown into a snowy field. All documents, money, personal belongings and computers, and TV recording equipment belonging to the four were taken from them. The applicants were represented by Dokka Itslaev and Kirill Koroteyev, lawyers from the Memorial Human Rights Centre, and by Bill Bowring from the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), London.
'European Court Says Russian State Behind 2007 Attack On Rights Defender,' RFE/RL, 14 March 2017
'ЕСПЧ вынес решение о похищении в Ингушетии в 2007 году председателя Совета Правозащитного центра «Мемориал» Олега Орлова и журналистов телекомпании РЕН-ТВ,' Memorial Human Rights Centre, 14 March 2017
'European Court of Human Rights: Russian security services involved in abduction of rights activist and journalists,' HRO.org in English, 14 March 2017
On 3 March 2017 reports said the blogger Vladimir Luzgin, fined for stating that both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union had invaded Poland in 1939, has applied to the European Court of Human Rights against his conviction. Halya Coynash writing for Human Rights in Ukraine on 6 March said, Luzgin "was left no alternative after Russia’s Supreme Court agreed that this unpalatable truth constituted ‘rehabilitation of Nazism’." Luzgin, who is from Perm, was convicted on 30 June 2016 and fined 200,000 roubles for reposting on his social network page an article entitled, ‘15 facts about Bandera supporters, or what the Kremlin is silent about’."
Halya Coynash wrote: "The Ukrainian theme, especially with respect to the Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera, would have almost certainly attracted FSB [Russian security service] attention to Luzgin back in September 2015, however the criminal charges were brought over the following lines: 'The communists and Germany jointly invaded Poland, sparking off the Second World War. That is, communism and Nazism closely collaborated…' The first court considered this to be 'knowingly false information,' claiming as justification that the statement contradicted the facts set out in the Nuremberg Tribunal sentences. That verdict was upheld by Russia’s Supreme Court on September 16, 2016, the 77th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s s invasion of Poland, 17 days before the anniversary of the Soviet invasion from the east."
Luzgin became the first person to be convicted under Article 354.1 of the Russian Criminal Code. This law on ‘Rehabilitation of Nazism’, officially authored by Iryna Yarovaya, was signed into force on 5 May 2014. The law introduced a sentence of up to 3 years imprisonment for "public denial or approval of the facts established by the sentence of the Nuremberg Tribunal." As Coynash notes, "The same norm makes it possible to prosecute somebody for 'spreading knowingly false information about the activities of the USSR during the years of the Second World War'." In his application to the European Court of Human Rights, Luzgin alleges violations of Articles 10 (freedom of expression) and 7 (no punishment without law) of the European Convention. Luzgin is represented by Kirill Koroteev, senior lawyer at the Memorial Human Rights Centre.
Halya Coynash, 'Blogger fined for saying the USSR invaded Poland in 1939 takes Russia to Court in Strasbourg,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 6 March 2017
Анна Пушкарская, Евгений Хвостик, 'Страсбургский суд разберется с решениями Нюрнбергского трибунала,' Kommersant, 3 March 2017
'Legal Case of the Week: Vladimir Luzgin,' Rights in Russia, 4 July 2016German and Soviet officers in Brest, 1939, Wikipedia
On 26 February 2017 Ildar Dadin was released from prison in the Altai region, following the quashing of his conviction by the Supreme Court on 22 February 2017. As RFE/RL reported, Dadin was serving a 2 1/2 prison sentence as the first, and as yet only, person to have been convicted under a new law that introduced criminal liability for repeated violations of Russia's draconian laws on public assembly. While held in a prison in Karelia, Ildar Dadin alleged in a letter that he had been subjected to torture. As Dadin told The Moscow Times on his release. "Initially, he says, the prison authorities abused him verbally. Then, he was brought to the prison director's office, where he was hung by his wrists and threatened with rape. He was left hanging in his cell, he says, sure he would be raped. Dadin went to see the prison nurse, but she concluded there was no sign of abuse on his body. 'The problem is the sadists know how to beat [so nobody notices],' he says. Instead, the prison director beat him for appealing to the nurse and starting a hunger strike, Dadin alleges." Tom Balmforth, in an article published by Human Rights in Ukraine, reported that Dadin said he had been "broken" by the abuse he suffered in prison. Dadin says that he intends to take several months off to recover, but then intends to continue to campaign against torture in Russia.
In other news, on 3 March 2017 The Moscow Times reported that Russia had declined to fulfill recommendations by the European Court on Human Rights [ECtHR] on combating torture during police detention. In September 2016 the ECtHR had said that the Russian authorities should implement measures to combat police brutality after reviewing an application by Tatyana Shmelva, who alleges that her son, Denis Vyrzhikovsky was beaten to death in police custody in 2010. The Russian authorities have now stated they will not implement the proposed measures against torture.
On 2 March 2017 Caucasian Knot reported that Igor Kalyapin, prominent anti-torture campaigner and chair of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, has appealed to the head of the Grozny police department to open disciplinary proceedings against police officers who refused to initiate a criminal case with regard to an attack on him in the Chechen capital.
'Russian Activist Dadin Released From Prison,' RFE/RL, 26 February 2017‘ "Somebody Is Going to Be Beaten." Torture is still widespread in Russian prisons, released activist Ildar Dadin tells The Moscow Times,' The Moscow Times, 28 February 2017
Tom Balmforth, 'Freed from prison, Russian activist says he was ’broken’ by abuse,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 28 February 2017'Russia Rejects Rights Court's Recommendations for Combatting Police Torture,' The Moscow Times, 3 March 2017
'Igor Kalyapin challenges eighth refusal to institute criminal case on attack in Chechnya,' Caucasian Knot, 2 March 2017
Eva Hartog, 'Jailed Russian Dissident Pleads for His Life in Letter Home to Wife,' The Moscow Times, 6 November 2017
On 22 February 2017 the Supreme Court ordered the release of Ildar Dadin from prison, the BBC reported. Dadin has been serving a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence under the notorious Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code. As the BBC noted in its report, Dadin is the only person to have been prosecuted under the new Article 212.1 since its introduction. Article 212.1 penalises those found guilty of violating Russia's protest rules at least three times within 180 days. The sentence ranges from from a fine of 600,000 roubles to one million roubles and 'corrective labour' or up to five years in prison. Following a ruling on 10 February 2017 by the Constitutional Court in Dadin's case that Article 212.1 should not be applied where there was no threat to the public nor in cases where earlier court judgments concerning convictions had not entered into force, the Supreme Court decided that the criminal case against Dadin should be dismissed and he had a 'right to rehabilitation'.
However, on 24 February 2017 lawyers acting for Ildar Dadin appealed to the European Court of Human Rights for assistance in freeing Dadin, RFE/RL reported. Dadin continued to be held in a prison colony in the Altai region despite his sentence being annulled. RFE/RL reported: 'Officials in the penal colony in Altai Krai region in southern Siberia say they cannot free Dadin before they receive the original release order from the Supreme Court.'
On 26 February 2017, Ildar Dadin was finally released. On his release, as RFE/RL reported, Dadin told the independent online Dozhd channel: 'I will continue to fight against Putin's fascist regime. I will fight so that human rights are respected in Russia.'
In November 2016 Dadin alleged he had been tortured in prison in Karelia. BBC correspondent Sarah Rainsford comments on the case that 'The imprisonment of Ildar Dadin had come to symbolise Russia's growing intolerance of dissent, and the fact that his sentence has been quashed does not change that. The rules on street protests are extremely strict here. People are routinely detained simply for standing in the street, as Ildar Dadin did, with a placard.'
'Ildar Dadin: Russian activist jail term quashed,' BBC, 22 February 2017'Russian Activist Ildar Dadin Released From Prison,' RFE/RL, 26 February 2017
'Dadin's Lawyers Ask European Court To Help Free Him After Sentence Revoked,' RFE/RL, 24 February 2017
Legal Case of the Week: Investigation into March 2016 attack on journalists and human rights defenders in Chechnya suspended
On 15 February 2017 Investigative Committee suspended its investigation into the March 2016 attack on a group of journalists and human rights activists in Chechnya, The Moscow Times reported. The Moscow Times quoted the lawyer acting for the victims of the attack, Andrei Sabinin, as saying that the case had instead been closed due to a lack of leads. The incident happened on 9 March 2016 when a gang of masked men attacked the minibus in which the group of journalists - Russian, Swedish and Norwegian - and members of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture were travelling near the Chechnya-Ingushetia border. They group were travelling in order to interview victims of torture and their families. Many had reported being followed by cars with Chechen number plates. The attack, which prompted international outrage and was condemned by the Kremlin, resulted in members of the group being hospitalized with broken bones. Their vehicle was torched. The Moscow Times quoted Tanya Lokshina, Russia's programme director at Human Rights Watch, as saying of the attack: "It is supposed to be a signal to journalists, including international reporters, asking them to think twice about whether it's really worth working with this organization, and going to Chechnya."
The day after the attack, as The Moscow Times reported, 'Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the country's Interior Ministry to take the case under control. He asked the ministry to probe into the circumstances of the incident and report on what happened. His statement came several hours after presidential aide Dmitry Peskov called an attack on the journalists “absolute hooliganism,” expressing “hope” Ingush law enforcement agencies would take “effective measures” to find those responsible.' For their part, Chechen authorities denied involvement in the attack, describing it as a 'publicity move' to promote the work of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture. In August 2016 Human Rights Watch issued a report on Chechnya which described journalism as 'the most dangerous profession' in the region.
Photo: Logo of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation
Source:'Russian Police Abandon Investigation Into Attack on Journalists in Chechnya,' The Moscow Times, 15 February 2017
On 10 February 2017 the Constitutional Court ruled Ildar Dadin’s case must be reviewed and the Criminal Code amended. As RFE/RL reports, Ildar Dadin was the first person convicted under 'a controversial new statute authorizing criminal prosecution of Russians who take part in more than one unsanctioned protest in a 180-day period.' Dadin is currently serving a 2.5 year sentence in a prison in Altai region, having been transferred there from a prison in Karelia where he alleged he had been the victim of torture. In its ruling, as RFE?RL reports, the Constitutional Court 'confirmed the government has the right to prosecute people for repeated noncriminal offences', however it also ruled that 'the authorities should base their application of the statue decisions on "the real scale of public danger" and only jail protesters after rallies that were not peaceful.' The Constitutional Court went on to propose that the legislation be amended accordingly.
Amnesty International issued a statement stating that the ruling of the Constitutional Court 'offers a rare glimmer of hope for the right to peaceful assembly' and called for the immediate release of Dadin, whom it has recognized as a prisoner of conscience. The same statement by Amnesty International reiterated that Dadin had been 'detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his rights.'
'Russian Constitutional Court Orders Review Of Jailed Activist Dadin's Case,' RFE/RL, 10 February 2017'Russia: Court offers "chink of light" in case brought by jailed protester Ildar Dadin,' Amnesty International, 10 February 2017
'Ildar Dadin,' Wikipedia
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