International Case Law

O.G. v. Russian Federation CEDAW Committee (2017)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, International law

O.G. was in a civil partnership with K. who used drugs and alcohol and had a gambling addiction.  After O.G. left him, he sent her harassing texts, attempted to visit her, and when she refused to let him in her building, he hit her.  She reported the events to a Crisis Center for Women.  K. was sentenced to four months of labor which was suspended to a six-month probation and ordered to pay $50.  After his release, he continued to send texts to O.G. threatening to kill her.  She filed seven criminal complaints with the police, who took no action claiming there was nothing they could do because K. would not come to the police station and he was not acting on his threats.  O.G. filed a complaint with CEDAW alleging that the Russian Federation failed to fully implement the Convention by not introducing legislation on domestic violence, and that the authorities had violated her rights under the Convention by not responding adequately to her claims or implementing protective orders to ensure her safety, not providing any effective remedy or psychological support, not conducting meaningful investigation, and allowing prosecution to be time barred due to a two-year statute of limitation.  The Committee decided in O.G.’s favor, rejecting the Russian authority’s argument that O.G.’s claim to be a domestic violence victim was unsubstantiated because he was not a member of her family at the time of the alleged violence, finding that there is no statutory time limit on how long after the end of a relationship a partner can claim that violence falls within this definition.  The Committee determined that Russia had not adopted comprehensive legislation to prevent and address violence against women, and noted recent amendments to national legislation that decriminalized battery under which many domestic violence cases are prosecuted due to the absence of a definition of “domestic violence.”  This failure to amend legislation relating to domestic violence directly affected O.G.’s access to remedies and protection.  The Committee determined Russia violated O.G.’s rights under articles 1, 2 (b)-(g), 3 and 5 (a) of the Convention. It recommended that Russia provide financial compensation to O.G., adopt comprehensive legislation to prevent and address violence against women, including domestic violence, reinstate criminal prosecution of domestic violence, introduce a protocol for handling domestic violence complaints at the police station level to ensure adequate protection, renounce private prosecution in domestic violence cases, ratify the Istanbul Convention, provide mandatory training for judges, lawyers and law enforcement personnel on the Convention and related documents, investigate allegations of gender-based violence against women promptly and provide safe and prompt access to justice, provide rehabilitation programs to offenders, and develop and implement effective measures with relevant stakeholders such as women’s organizations, to address stereotypes and practices that condone or promote domestic violence.  A written response and report on actions taken was due to the Committee within six months. (Available in English, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish.)

M. and Nalbandov v. Russia European Court of Human Rights (2008)

Custodial violence, International law, Sexual violence and rape

M., a 19-year-old witness in a murder case, was called for questioning to the police station. After M. denied any involvement in the murder, the officers threatened her, repeatedly beat her, and raped her. Eventually M. confessed. She was subsequently handed over to the prosecution authorities. M.’s requests to be released were denied. After the interrogation, the prosecution officials repeatedly raped her. The case was passed to the district court but was subsequently closed due to lack of proof of the guilt of the accused as “genetic expertise gives the probability of 99.999999 and not 100%”. It also turned out that two of the rapists had support from their parents, who were judges of the regional courts. Nine years after the crime, the case was brought to the ECtHR. The Court found a violation of Article 3 as Russia failed to punish torture, inhuman, and humiliating treatment, by failing to provide effective investigation of the complaint.

Menesheva v. Russia European Court of Human Rights (2000)

Custodial violence, International law, Sexual violence and rape

The applicant was arrested and bundled into an unmarked car after refusing them entry into her flat. Without being given any reason for her arrest she was taken to the District Police Station where she was allegedly beaten, insulted, threatened with rape and violence against her family. Her requests for medical assistance and access to a lawyer were also refused. Later in the day she was taken home but then re-arrested and suffered more ill-treatment. No record of her detention was kept. She was then brought before a judge of the District Court who, without introducing himself or explaining his ruling, sentenced her to five days detention for resisting arrest (an administrative offence). In the meantime her keys were taken from her and her flat was searched. After her release she was examined by a medical expert who established that she had multiple bruises. The applicant brought proceedings against her ill-treatment by the police and her unlawful detention and lodged a claim for damages. Her claim and appeal all failed. She subsequently attempted to challenge her five days' detention before the Regional Court. In reply she was informed that no appeal against a decision on administrative detention was provided for by law. Her subsequent appeals were all rejected on the ground that the courts lacked jurisdiction over the subject matter. Later the decision was quashed on the grounds that the judge who had convicted the applicant had not examined the circumstances of the case and had not established whether she was guilty of any administrative offence. It was also held that the police had acted in violation of the procedural law. The Office of the Prosecutor General ordered the District Prosecutor's Office to complete a criminal investigation of the alleged ill-treatment and unlawful arrest and detention under the supervision of the Prosecutor General within 30 days. The parties have not provided any update concerning the criminal investigation since 2004. The ECtHR held that the ill-treatment at issue amounted to torture within the meaning of Article 3 and found that there had been a violation in this regard. On account of the lack of an effective investigation into the applicant's allegations of ill-treatment, the Court also found a violation of Article 3. There had been a violation of Article 13 as the applicant had been denied an effective domestic remedy in respect of the ill-treatment by the police. The Court concluded that the period of the applicant's detention until her appearance before a judge did not comply with the guarantees of Article 5 § 1 and that there had therefore been a violation of that provision. The ensuing detention order was inconsistent with the general protection from arbitrariness guaranteed by Article 5 thus there had been a violation. The applicant's allegations that there had been no adversarial proceedings as such, and that even the appearances of a trial had been neglected to the extent that she did not even have a chance to find out the purpose of her brief appearance before the judge, were corroborated in the court ruling quashing that judgment. It followed that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1. The Court therefore ordered the applicant pecuniary damages, non-pecuniary damages and costs and expenses.

Rantsev v. Cyprus and Russia European Court of Human Rights (2010)

Trafficking in persons

R arrived in Cyprus on an "artiste" visa. She started work as an artiste in a cabaret in Cyprus only to leave work three days later. After finding her, the manager of the cabaret where she had worked took her to the police asking them to declare her illegal in the country and to detain her. The police concluded that R did not appear to be illegal and refused to detain her. They asked the cabaret manager to collect her from the police station and to return with her later that morning to make further inquiries into her immigration status. The cabaret manager collected R and took her to the house of another employee of the cabaret, where the cabaret manager also remained. Later R fell from the window and was found dead in the street below the apartment. Following R’s death, interviews were conducted so was an autopsy. An inquest hearing was finally held nine months later in the applicant, R’s father's absence. The court decided that R died out of an accident and there was no evidence to suggest criminal liability for her death. Upon a request by the applicant, after the body was repatriated from Cyprus to Russia. Forensic medical experts in Russia carried out a separate autopsy and the findings of the Russian authorities, which concluded that R had died in strange and unestablished circumstances requiring additional investigation, were forwarded to the Cypriot authorities in the form of a request for mutual legal assistance under treaties in which Cyprus and Russia were parties. The request asked, inter alia, that further investigation be carried out, that the institution of criminal proceedings in respect of R's death be considered and that the applicant be allowed to participate effectively in the proceedings. Cyprus subsequently confirmed to the Russian Prosecution Service that the inquest into R's death was completed and that the verdict delivered by the court was final. The applicant has continued to press for an effective investigation into his daughter's death. The Cypriot Ombudsman, the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner and the United States State Department have published reports which refer to the prevalence of trafficking in human beings for commercial sexual exploitation in Cyprus and the role of the cabaret industry and "artiste" visas in facilitating trafficking in Cyprus. The ECtHR found a violation of Article 2 as a result of the failure of the Cypriot authorities to investigate effectively R’s death. As regards Russia, the Court concluded that there it had not violated Article 2 as the Russian authorities were not obliged themselves to investigate R's death, which had occurred outside their jurisdiction. With respect to Article 3, the Court held that any ill-treatment which R may have suffered before her death had been inherently linked to her alleged trafficking and exploitation and that it would consider this complaint under Article 4. The Court noted that, like slavery, trafficking in human beings, by its very nature and aim of exploitation, was based on the exercise of powers attaching to the right of ownership; it treated human beings as commodities to be bought and sold and put to forced labor; it implied close surveillance of the activities of victims, whose movements were often circumscribed; and it involved the use of violence and threats against victims. Accordingly the Court held that trafficking itself was prohibited by Article 4. It concluded that there had been a violation by Cyprus of its positive obligations arising under that Article on two counts: first, its failure to put in place an appropriate legal and administrative framework to combat trafficking as a result of the existing regime of artiste visas, and, second, the failure of the police to take operational measures to protect R from trafficking, despite circumstances which had given rise to a credible suspicion that she might have been a victim of trafficking. In light of its findings as to the inadequacy of the Cypriot police investigation under Article 2, the Court did not consider it necessary to examine the effectiveness of the police investigation separately under Article 4. There had also been a violation of Article 4 by Russia on account of its failure to investigate how and where R had been recruited and, in particular, to take steps to identify those involved in R's recruitment or the methods of recruitment used. The Court held that the detention by the police following the confirmation that R was not illegal had no basis in domestic law. It further held that her subsequent detention in the apartment had been both arbitrary and unlawful. There was therefore a violation of Article 5 § 1 by Cyprus. The Court rejected the applicant's other complaints. As important as this case is for taking aim at the exploitive nature of the sex industry and the willingness of States to turn a blind eye to it, Rantsev brings with it questions regarding the very ability of the Court to adjudicate over issues emanating from Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). With the determination of the Court that obligations emanating from Article 4 of the ECHR come into play because trafficking is based on slavery, the Court reveals itself as not having truly engaged with the legal distinctions that exist between these two concepts. As a result, the Court has further muddied the waters as to where legal distinction should be made regarding various types of human exploitation, be it the forced labor, servitude or slavery.

Domestic Case Law

E.V. Gavrilov vs. Public Prosecutor The Court of the City of Moscow (2010)

Trafficking in persons

E.V. Gavrilov and his associates ran a brothel. He offered a well-paid job in a night club in Moscow to three girls, who, to the best knowledge of Gavrilov, were minors. Later he and other associate bought tickets for the girls and carried them to Moscow. On the way to Moscow the girls asked several times whether the job was related to prostitution, but Gavrilov always said that it was not. Upon arrival, the victims were moved to a private apartment. There they were threatened by Gavrilov and forced to engage in prostitution. Gavrilov organized the brothel, and his associates carried girls to clients and guarded them. Gavrilov pled not guilty, claiming that he did not use violence against the victims and did not run a brothel. The Moscow district court of Chuvashia found Gavrilov guilty of the following crimes: involvement in and enforcement to prostitution connected with use of force or threat of using force performed by a group of individuals by previous concert with knowledge that victims were minors.  The court of the City of Moscow confirmed the decision of the court of first instance.