Rantsev v. Cyprus and Russia

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.



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