(Application no. 34736/03)
8 January 2009
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Obukhova v. Russia,
The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Sverre Erik Jebens, judges,
and Søren Nielsen, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 4 December 2008,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
“On 22 September 2001 my husband... had a traffic accident. Ms Galina Borisovna Baskova, a judge of the [Yaroslavl] regional court, crashed into his car... The traffic police officers did not find us responsible and we calmed down. But the following year we received by registered mail a statement of claim, requesting that Ms Baskova be compensated for damage in the amount of 75,000 roubles, and an order for a charge on our property and our car issued by a judge. We had not been informed of the hearing and we consider that our civil rights were violated as we were convicted in our absence. We feel that Ms Galina Borisovna Baskova is taking advantage of her office and connections in the judiciary”.
“So far the Zavolzhskiy District Court [of Yaroslavl] has held three hearings... The date of the next hearing is not fixed yet. Mr and Ms P. remember menacing words that Galina Borisovna [Baskova] uttered immediately after the traffic accident ‘You will buy me a new car anyway!’; they shudder but they will defend themselves to the very end.”
“The plaintiff has referred to the following circumstances. The article ‘A year later they impounded the car’ (Zolotoye Koltso, no. 9, 17 January 2003) was published before a decision on the merits of her claim for damages against Mr P. had been issued, after the Zavolzhskiy District Court of Yaroslavl had suspended the proceedings on 9 December 2003 and commissioned a technical study at the defendant’s request. The article ends with the assertion that Mr and Ms P. ‘will defend themselves to the very end’. The plaintiff considers that further developments in the judicial proceedings – upon their resumption – may also be reported by the newspaper in such a manner as to confirm the damaging information and conclusion already disseminated by the author.
[The plaintiff] considers that under these circumstances a failure to indicate interim measures can impede the enforcement of the judgment [in the defamation claim]: otherwise, alongside with publication of a rectification of the information damaging to her, the newspaper would be entitled to continue publications stating the opposite view, which would undermine the judicial protection of her impaired rights.
Pursuant to Article 139 of the Civil [Procedure] Code of the Russian Federation, a court may, at a request of a party to the case, indicate interim measures if a failure to indicate them could impede the enforcement of a court judgment.
Having regard to the above, I consider that Ms Baskova’s request is to be granted.”
“To enjoin the editor’s office of the Zolotoye Koltso newspaper from publishing any articles, letters or other materials written by anyone, which relate the factual circumstances of the traffic accident on 22 September 2001 with the participation of Ms Galina Baskova, Mr P. and Mr K., or the circumstances of the judicial proceedings on Ms Galina Baskova’s claim for damages against Mr P. until such time as the present dispute has been resolved.
To serve a copy of the injunction on the bailiffs’ service of the Kirov District of Yaroslavl, Ms P., the editor’s office of the Zolotoye Koltso newspaper, the newspaper’s reporter Ms Yelena Obukhova, and Mrs Galina Baskova.”
“The regional court considers that in the instant case a failure to indicate interim measures would impede not only the enforcement of the court judgment but also the examination of the [defamation] action.
The arguments in the appeal to the effect that the [injunction] violated the defendant’s constitutional right to impart information cannot be taken into account as the prohibition only covers publication of materials concerning one specific traffic accident... Publication of materials about these facts before the judgment has been made would be contrary to the interests of the justice. The interim measures indicated by the court are proportionate”.
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW
Article 139. Grounds for application of interim measures
“At the request of a party to the case, a judge or a court may indicate interim measures. Such measures may be indicated at any stage of the proceedings if a failure to indicate them could impede or make impossible the enforcement of the court judgment.”
Article 140. Interim measures
“1. Interim measures may include:
(2) an injunction restraining the defendant from carrying out specific actions;
When necessary, a judge or a court may indicate any other interim measures that correspond to the purposes described in Article 139 of the Code...
3. Interim measures must be proportionate to the plaintiff’s claims.”
Article 144. Revocation of interim measures
“3. ...If the claim has been granted, interim measures remain effective until the judgment has been enforced.”
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 10 OF THE CONVENTION
“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”
A. Submissions by the parties
B. The Court’s assessment
II. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
B. Costs and expenses
C. Default interest
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, EUR 1,000 (one thousand euros) in respect of non-pecuniary damage, to be converted into Russian roubles at the rate applicable at the date of settlement, plus any tax that may be chargeable;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amount at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 8 January 2009, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Søren Nielsen Christos