CASE OF VORONTSOV AND OTHERS v. RUSSIA
(Applications nos. 59655/14 and 2 others - see appended list)
31 January 2017
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 Vorontsov and Others v. Russia,
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Luis López Guerra,
Georgios A. Serghides, judges,
and Fatoş Aracı, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 10 January 2017,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in three applications (nos. 59655/14, 5771/15 and 7238/15) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by three Russian nationals, Mr Ruslan Vladimirovich Vorontsov, Mr Aleksandr Nikolayevich Susarin and Mr Yevgeniy Vladimirovich Belyayev (“the applicants”), on 3 October and 24 December 2014, and 26 January 2015 respectively.
2. The applicants in the first and third cases were granted leave to represent themselves. The applicant in the second case was represented by Mr S. Pavlov, a lawyer practising in Cheboksary, Russia. The Russian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr G. Matyushkin, Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Court of Human Rights.
3. The applicants complained, among other matters, under Article 3 of the Convention about their confinement in metal cages in courtrooms during criminal proceedings against them.
4. On 5 November 2015 the above complaints were communicated to the Government and the remainder of applications nos. 59655/14 and 5771/15 was declared inadmissible pursuant to Rule 54 § 3 of the Rules of Court.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
5. The applicants were born in 1977, 1972 and 1987 respectively and lived before their convictions in Krasnoyarsk, Cheboksary and Vologda Region.
6. The facts of the applications, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
A. The case of Mr Vorontsov
7. On 3 May 2013 the applicant was arrested on suspicion of having committed a crime.
8. On 4 May 2013 the Oktyabrskiy District Court of Krasnoyarsk (“the District Court”) remanded the applicant in custody.
9. On 11 June and 11 November 2013, and 14 February 2014 the District Court extended the applicant’s detention until 30 November 2013, 28 February and 28 May 2014 respectively.
10. On 4 April 2014 the District Court convicted the applicant of robbery and sentenced him to three years and six months’ imprisonment. The applicant appealed.
11. During the hearings before the District Court on 11 June, 26 July, 1 October, and 11 November 2013, and 14 February, 14, 21 and 27 March, and 2, 3 and 4 April 2014 the applicant was held in a metal cage.
12. On 23 June 2015 the Krasnoyarsk Regional Court upheld the judgment of 4 April 2014 on appeal.
B. The case of Mr Susarin
13. On 30 June 2011 the Novocheboksarsk Town Court of the Chuvash Republic convicted the applicant of embezzlement and the illegal acquisition, storage, transfer, transportation and possession of firearms and sentenced him to four years’ imprisonment.
14. On 11 February 2013 the Leninskiy District Court of Cheboksary (“the District Court”) convicted the applicant of fraud committed through abuse of position and sentenced him to a fine.
15. On 1 August 2013 the Supreme Court of the Chuvash Republic reduced the applicant’s fine.
16. However, on 18 October 2013 the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Chuvash Republic granted a cassation appeal lodged by the Prosecutor of the Chuvash Republic and quashed the judgment of 11 February 2013 and the appeal decision of 1 August 2013. The case was remitted to the District Court for fresh examination.
17. On 29 April 2014 the District Court convicted the applicant on nine counts of fraud, acquitted him of a further four counts of fraud and sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment, taking into account the fact that the applicant had not fully served the sentence imposed on him on 30 June 2011.
18. On 25 June 2014 the Supreme Court of the Chuvash Republic reclassified the nine counts of fraud on which the applicant had been convicted and sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment. As regards the four counts of fraud of which the applicant had been acquitted, the Supreme Court quashed the judgment on appeal and remitted the case for fresh examination. Those proceedings are still pending.
19. During the proceedings before the District Court and the Supreme Court of the Chuvash Republic the applicant was confined in a metal cage.
C. The case of Mr Belyayev
20. On 16 September 2014 the applicant was arrested on suspicion of having committed a crime.
21. On 17 September 2014 the Cherepovets Town Court of the Vologda Region (“the Town Court”) remanded the applicant in custody.
22. On 10 November 2014 the Town Court extended the applicant’s detention.
23. On 12 December 2014 the Town Court convicted the applicant of inflicting grievous bodily harm and sentenced him to three years’ imprisonment.
24. The applicant was confined in a metal cage when the custodial measure was applied to him, when it was subsequently extended and during the trial.
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND PRACTICE AND RELEVANT INTERNATIONAL MATERIAL AND PRACTICE
25. For a summary of relevant domestic law and practice and relevant international material and practice see Svinarenko and Slyadnev v. Russia [GC], nos. 32541/08 and 43441/08, §§ 53-76, ECHR 2014 (extracts).
I. JOINDER OF THE APPLICATIONS
26. Having regard to the similar subject matter of the applications, the Court finds it appropriate to examine them jointly in a single judgment.
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 3 OF THE CONVENTION
27. The applicants complained that their confinement in metal cages in courtrooms during the criminal proceedings against them had amounted to treatment proscribed by Article 3 of the Convention, which reads as follows:
“No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
In particular, the applicant in the first case complained about his confinement in the metal cage at the Oktyabrskiy District Court of Krasnoyarsk between 11 June and 11 November 2013 and between 14 February and 4 April 2014. The applicant in the second case complained about his confinement in the metal cage at the Leninskiy District Court of Cheboksary and the Supreme Court of the Chuvash Republic during the proceedings against him in 2014. The applicant in the third case complained about his confinement in the metal cage when appearing before the Cherepovets Town Court of the Vologda Region when the custodial measure was applied to him, when it was subsequently extended and during the trial.
28. The Court notes that these complaints are not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention. It further notes that they are not inadmissible on any other grounds. They must therefore be declared admissible.
1. The parties’ submissions
29. The Government noted that the Court had already dealt with the issue of the use of metal cages in courtrooms in Svinarenko and Slyadnev (cited above) and found that such a practice constituted in itself an affront to human dignity and amounted to degrading treatment prohibited by Article 3 of the Convention. In view of the Court’s position on the matter, the Government acknowledged that there had been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in the present three applications.
30. The applicants maintained their complaints and took note of the Government’s admission.
2. The Court’s assessment
31. The Court takes note of the Government’s acknowledgment of a violation of Article 3 of the Convention. In those circumstances, and having regard to its case-law (see Svinarenko and Slyadnev, cited above, §§ 122-39, and Urazov v. Russia, no. 42147/05, §§ 81-83, 14 June 2016), the Court finds no reason to hold otherwise. It therefore concludes that the applicants’ confinement in metal cages in courtrooms amounted to degrading treatment prohibited by Article 3 of the Convention. There has accordingly been a violation of that provision.
III. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
32. Article 41 of the Convention provides:
“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.”
33. The applicant in the first case claimed 3,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage, while the applicants in the second and third cases claimed EUR 20,000 under the same head. The applicant in the second case also claimed EUR 4,000 in legal fees for his representation by Mr Pavlov in the proceedings before the Court.
34. The Government submitted that the applicants’ claims under Article 41 of the Convention were to be considered and determined in accordance with the Court’s established case-law.
35. As to non-pecuniary damage, having regard to the violation of the Convention found and making its assessment on an equitable basis, the Court awards the first applicant EUR 3,000 and the second and third applicants EUR 7,500 each in respect of non-pecuniary damage, plus any tax that may be chargeable on those amounts.
36. As regards the claim by the applicant in the second case for costs and expenses, the Court reiterates that, according to its case-law, an applicant is entitled to the reimbursement of costs and expenses only in so far as it has been shown that these have been actually and necessarily incurred and are reasonable as to quantum. In the present case, regard being had to the documents in its possession and the above criteria, the Court considers it reasonable to award the second applicant the sum of EUR 1,000 for costs and expenses in the proceedings before the Court, plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicant on that amount.
37. The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest rate should be based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which should be added three percentage points.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,
1. Decides to join the applications;
2. Declares the complaints concerning the applicants’ confinement in metal cages during the criminal proceedings against them admissible;
3. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicants, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, the following amounts, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:
(i) EUR 3,000 (three thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage, to be paid to Mr Vorontsov;
(ii) EUR 7,500 (seven thousand five hundred euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage, to be paid to Mr Susarin;
(iii) EUR 7,500 (seven thousand five hundred euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage, to be paid to Mr Belyayev;
(iv) EUR 1,000 (one thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicant, in respect of costs and expenses, to be paid to Mr Susarin;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
5. Dismisses the remainder of the applicants’ in second and third cases claims for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 31 January 2017, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Fatoş Aracı Luis López Guerra
Deputy Registrar President
1. 59655/14 Vorontsov v. Russia
2. 25771/15 Susarin v. Russia
3. 7238/15 Belyayev v. Russia