ECtHR - Georgia v Russia, Application no 13255/07, 3 July 2014

Country of Applicant: 
Georgia
Date of Decision: 
03-07-2014
Citation: 
Georgia v Russia [2014], ECtHR Application no 13255/07
Court Name: 
European Court of Human Rights, Grand Chamber
Relevant Legislative Provisions: 
International Law > 1951 Refugee Convention
Council of Europe Instruments > ECHR (Frist Protocol) > Art 1
Council of Europe Instruments > ECHR (Frist Protocol) > Art 2
Council of Europe Instruments > ECHR (Fourth Protocol) > Art 4
Headnote: 

The ECtHR holds that Russia is in violation of Article 5 ECHR and of Article 4 of Protocol 4 through the implementation of an unlawful administrative practice against a large number of Georgian nationals as a means of identifying them. This led to the arrest, detention and collective expulsion of 4634 Georgians from the Russian Federation and further violations of Articles 3 and 13 of the Convention.

Facts: 

There is a dispute on the facts of this case between the applicant and respondent parties and the case concerns the targeting of a large number of Georgian nationals who were arrested, detained and expelled from Russia during the time period of September 2006 and January 2007. The Georgian Government (the applicants) argued that there was a drastic increase in the percentage of expulsions of Georgian nationals per month from Russia due to the grant of 4634 expulsion orders, 2380 of which led to the detention and forced expulsion of Georgian nationals. The applicant government submitted evidence to support the allegation that the Russian government was implementing an expulsion policy which was specifically targeting Georgians in Russia. Firstly they presented Instructions and administrative circulars issued by the main Directorate of International Affairs of St Petersburg which encouraged staff to identify Georgians who were residing unlawfully in Russia in order to instigate their detention and expulsion. Secondly they submitted two letters which were sent to Russian schools, by the Directorate, asking for the identification of Georgian children attending the school. Additionally the Georgian government submitted witness statements indicating that the conditions for arrest, such as absence of identity papers, were unlawful and that the procedures before the Russian courts were unofficial and unjust as witnesses were unable to read documents or have an awareness of the hearings taking place in addition to ‘unbearable’ conditions of detention.

The Russian government denied the allegations and claimed that the submitted letters had been falsified and that although the circulars did exist, they could not be released to the court in their true form as they were a ‘state secret’. Finally they claimed that the letters sent to schools was a case of human error and individuals had been reprimanded. They stated that no measures out of the ordinary had been taken specifically against Georgian nationals and that there was only standard implementation of immigration policy.

The denial by the Russian government was heavily disputed by international organisations, both governmental and non-governmental, such as the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary assembly pf the Council of Europe (PACE), Human Right Watch (HRW) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). They argued that there was clear indication that the expulsion orders against Georgian nationals were a result of collusive and coordinated action between the Russian Judiciary and administrative authorities and that there was an ‘intentional persecution campaign based on ethnic grounds’ (PACE).

As a result the Georgian government claimed a violation of Article 4 of Protocol 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the prohibition of the collective expulsion of aliens). They also claimed that Russia had violated the Convention under Article 3 (prohibition of torture), Article 5 (right to liberty and security), Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), Article 13 (right to an effective remedy), Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) and Article 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights). They also claimed that the Russian Federation breached Articles 1 and 2 of Protocol 1  (protection of property and right to education) and Article 1 of Protocol 7 (procedural safeguards relating to expulsion of aliens).

Decision & Reasoning: 

Firstly, the court considers the allegation of the applicant that the Russian Government has not given a sufficient explanation for the refusal to provide necessary documentation, thus violating Article 38. The Court cites case law (Janoweic v Others, Imakayeva v Russia, Nolan and K v Russia) to determine that a failure to submit evidence without reasonable explanation  could mean that the applicants allegations are well-founded. The Court declares that the Russian government has fallen short of this obligation by attempting to justify their failure to submit on the importance of preserving ‘state secrets’ without giving a specific explanation for this secrecy. Thus there is a violation of Article 38.

Secondly the Court determines whether there was an administrative practice implemented by the Russian Government to target and collectively expel Georgian nationals . On establishing the existence of such a practice the Court then considers the allegation of the applicant that there had been a violation of Article 4 of Protocol 4, the prohibition of collective expulsion of aliens. Here, case law (Conka v Belgium) is used to establish that subjection to similar decisions does not constitute collective expulsion if each person concerned has been given the opportunity to put arguments against his expulsion to the competent authorities on an individual basis, rather on the facts, it is the implementation of a coordinated policy with a specific aim and which does not reasonably and objectively examine the particular case of each individual which determines the collective nature of the expulsion. The Court also highlights that the documentation proceeding the expulsions and the procedures of the expulsions themselves meant that a reasonable and objective examination could not take place and that such procedures cannot be justified as a necessary immigration policy as it is incompatible with the obligations under the Convention. Therefore, the Court declares the administrative practice by the Russian authorities a breach of Article 4 of Protocol 4.

Regarding the arrest and detention of Georgian nationals and an inability to challenge the lawfulness of their detention, the applicant alleges that Russia is in violation of Article 5 (1) and (4) of the Convention. It is emphasised that any deprivation of liberty must be in keeping with Article 5 in order to protect the individual from arbitrariness. The court uses the case law of Chahal v UK to illustrate that the term of ‘lawfulness’ regarding deprivation of liberty must be compatible with both national law and Convention.  On the facts, although Russia argues lawfulness in compatibility with national law, the Court declares that the detention and arrest and subsequent deprivation of liberty of the applicants cannot be lawful under Article 5 due to the collective nature of the arrests, which renders them arbitrary.

Concerning Article 3 of the Convention (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment), Georgia submits witness statements showing the conditions of detention, transport conditions and general treatment of Georgian nations to be a violation of the Convention. The Court cites Anayev and others v Russia to outline the ways in which a violation could occur noting the absolute nature of the right; the presence of physical or mental suffering, humiliation and the possibility of considering the cumulative effects of detention on the individual. On the facts, the Court determines that the witness statements, though sometimes contradictory, are more credible than the accounts of Russian officials who stress ‘good’ conditions of detention and that the ill-treatment aspect of the Article has been established. The described conditions which satisfied the ‘degrading’ element of the Article, are those of the prison cells within the detention centres. The Court also cites the CPT report on the Russian federation to highlight the degrading nature of the detention conditions. The Court therefore reasons that there is violation of Article 3 due to the undeniable suffering of the Georgian nationals.

On establishing a violation of Article 3 and the previous discussion of an established violation of Article 5 and Article 4 of Protocol 4, the court considers the alleged violation of Article 13 which it confirms does not need to be examined independently. This is due to the automatic violation of Article 13 on establishing that there was a lack of effective remedy under the previously violated Articles.

Similarly the applicants allegation of an Article 14 violation is considered by the Court to be taken in conjunction with Article 4 of Protocol 4 and Article 5(1) and (4) to be the same as those that it has already examined under those two Articles. Given the finding that those Articles had been breached the Court finds it unnecessary to find a violation of Article 14 read in conjunction with Article 4 Protocol 4 and Article 5(1) and (4).. Additionally, the Court declares it unnecessary to consider an Article 14 violation in conjunction with Article 3 due to the fact that the difficult conditions in the detention centres were for all the detainees, irrespective of their nationality.

Moreover, the Court declares that on establishing a breach of Article 4 of Protocol 4 and Articles 5 and 3 it is not necessary to consider an alleged Article 18 breach because the administrative practice was clearly applied for a purpose which was not prescribed.

Finally, the Court does not establish a breach of Article 1 of Protocol 7 which expressly refers to aliens ‘lawfully residing in the territory’. On the facts, the Court declares that it is not clear whether there was the unlawful detention of Georgian nationals who were lawfully residing in Russia thus the applicant claim is deemed as unsubstantiated. Similarly, the Court declares that there has not been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention nor Articles 1 and 2 of Protocol 1. This lack of violation is established due to insufficient and unsubstantiated evidence on the family life of the Georgian nationals and specific deprivation of their right to property and enjoyment of property. 

Outcome: 

The Court found a violation of Article 4 of Protocol 4.

The Court found a violation of Article 5 (1) and Article 3 of the Convention.

The Court found a violation of Article 13 of the Convention in conjunction with Article 5(1) and Article 3.

The Court did not find a violation of Article 1 of Protocol 7 nor of Articles 1 and 2 of Protocol 1 or Article 8, 14 and 18 of the Convention. 

Subsequent Proceedings : 

This execution of this judgment is still open. In their meeting on the 8-10 March 2016 the Committee of Ministers requested the Russian authorities to submit further information on the implementation of their action plan and to supplement it with an analysis of how the measures referred to will prevent a similar administrative practice in the future. Moreover, they invited the Russian authorities to provide information on the measures taken or proposed to ensure their compliance in the future with their obligation under Article 38 to furnish all necessary facilities to the European Court.

Observations/Comments: 

This case was written by Tazkia Rahman, GDL student at BPP University. 

Case Law Cited: 

ECtHR - Davydov and Others v. Ukraine, Application nos. 17674/02 and 39081/02, 1 July 2010

ECtHR - Idalov v. Russia [GC], no. 5826/03

ECtHR - Shamayev v Georgia (April 2005) (Application no. 36378/02)

ECtHR - Conka v Belgium (Application no. 51564/99)

ECtHR - Ilascu and Others v Moldova and Russia [GC], Application No. 48787/99

ECtHR - Stanev v. Bulgaria [GC], Application No. 36760/06

ECtHR - Akdivar v Turkey, Application No. 21893/93

ECtHR - Niyazov v. Russia, Application No. 27843/11, UP

ECtHR - Lutsenko v. Ukraine, Application no. 6492/11, 3 July 2012

ECtHR - Nachova and Others v. Bulgaria [GC], Application nos. 43577/98 and 43579/98, 6 July 2005

ECtHR - Mathew v. the Netherlands, Application no. 24919/03, 29 September 2005

ECtHR - Janowiec and Others v. Russia [GC], Application nos. 55508/07 and 29520/09, 21 October 2013

ECtHR - Imakayeva v. Russia, Application no. 7615/02, 9 November 2006

ECtHR - Imakayeva v. Russia, Application no. 7615/02, 9 November 2006

ECtHR - Solovyevy v. Russia, Application no. 918/02, 24 April 2012

ECtHR - Gusinskiy v. Russia, Application no. 70276/01, 19 May 2004

ECtHR - Mudayevy v. Russia, Application no. 33105/05, 8 April 2010

ECtHR - Tymoshenko v. Ukraine, Application no. 49872/11, 30 April 2013
Attachment(s): 
Other sources cited: 

Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), “Current tensions between Georgia and Russia” AS/Mon(2006)

Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) report of April 2007 “Migrants in Russia”, no. 472

Human Rights Watch (HRW) report “Singled Out. Russia’s detention and expulsion of Georgians”, Volume 19 No. (5)

ECRI, third report of 16 December 2005 on the Russian Federation

CERD – CERD/C/62C0/7

Authentic Language: 
English
State Party: 
Russia
National / Other Legislative Provisions: 
Russia - Code of Criminal Procedure
Russia - Code of Administrative Offences
Russia - Federal Law No. 115-FZ 25 July 2002 on Legal Status of Foreign Nationals in the Russian Federation
Russia - Federal Law No. 109-FZ 18 July 2006 on Registration in the Russian Federation of Migrants who are Foreign Nationals or Stateless persons