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Greek, Russian and Ukrainian cases presented at latest EIN briefing on implementation

EIN briefing on 24 November 2017

EIN briefing on 24 November 2017

On 24 November 2017, the European Implementation Network convened a quarterly civil society briefing on cases of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) scheduled for review at the 1302nd Human Rights Meeting (DH) of the Committee of Ministers’ (CM) Deputies on 5-7 December 2017.

The meeting was held at the Palais de l’Europe and attended by representatives of over twenty delegations, the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

This was the fourth briefing undertaken in 2017, following previous briefings on different cases held in February, May and September respectively.

The following cases were discussed at the briefing: Bekir-Ousta and others group v Greece, OAO Neftyanaya Kompaniya Yukos v Russian Federation, Kaverzin, Afanasyev groups, Karabet and Others, and Belousov v Ukraine, and Nevmerzhitsky, Yakovenko, Logvinenko, Isayev and Melnik groups v Ukraine.

A summary of points in the form of 3-5 recommendations made by all presenters on their respective cases can be found here and further information on the discussions at the briefing is provided below.

Bekir-Ousta and others group v Greece (Appl. No. 35151/05)

This group of cases concern the refusal by domestic courts to register associations on the grounds that their aim was to promote the idea that an ethnic Turkish minority existed in Greece. In 2008 the ECtHR found a violation of Article 11 of the Convention; however, none of the applicant organisations have been registered or re-registered to date. A similar judgment was made in 2015 in the case of a Macedonian minority organisation in Greece House of Macedonian Civilization and others v Greece.

Panayote Dimitras, Spokesperson of the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), provided an overview of the recent developments related to the recognition of Turkish and Macedonian minorities in Greece. He drew the CM’s attention to the fact that Greek courts continue to refuse registration of the associations. As stated by the Greek courts in 2017 in the cases of the Cultural Association of Turkish Women in the Prefecture of Xanthi and the House of Macedonian Civilization, there is no “structured Turkish minority” and no Macedonian nation, no Macedonian culture, no Macedonian language, and no Macedonian minority”. Mr. Dimitras also gave his assessment of the recent legislative amendments allowing the reopening of the cases adjudicated by the ECtHR and adopted by Parliament on 13 October 2017.

The GHM memo can be found here. The four submissions of the GHM to the Department for Execution of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights pursuant to Rule 9.2 of the CM’s Rules for the Supervision of the Execution of Judgments can be found here, here, here and here.

OAO Neftyanaya Kompaniya Yukos v Russian Federation (Appl. No. 14902/04)

The case concerns violations concerning tax and enforcement proceedings brought against the applicant oil company, leading to its liquidation in 2007. In its judgment of 2012, the ECtHR ruled that it led to violations of a right to fair trial (Article 6) and a right to property (Article 1 of Protocol 1) and awarded the applicant a total of EUR 1,866,104,634 as pecuniary damages to be paid to Yukos shareholders.

The judgment requires the Russian Federation to prepare a distribution plan for paying the just satisfaction, but it has not done so. On 19 January 2017 the Russian Constitutional Court held that the judgment was incompatible with the Russian Constitution.

At the briefing, Piers Gardner, Barrister at Monckton Chambers and legal representative of Yukos, reiterated the immediate, mandatory and unconditional obligation of the Russian Federation to pay just satisfaction. He urged the Committee to actively engage in developing a plan for the distribution of the just satisfaction, as a cooperative undertaking between the Russian Federation and the CM, as indicated in the Court’s judgment. The briefing stressed how the various facets associated with the preparation of a distribution plan were essentially of a technical and practical nature.

Mr. Gardner’s memo as shared with the briefing participants can be found here.

Kaverzin, Afanasyev groups, Karabet and Others, and Belousov v Ukraine (Appl. Nos. 23893/03, 38722/02, 38906/07 and 4494/07)

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This group of cases relates to torture and/or ill-treatment by police, the lack of effective investigations into such complaints and the absence of an effective remedy in this respect, in violation of Article 3 of the Convention. In some of the cases, the Court also found violations of Articles 5, 6, 13 and Article 1 of Protocol 1.

Vitalia Lebid, Attorney at the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, provided the CM with a comprehensive overview of the existing problems related to implementation of these judgments. She alerted the CM that ill-treatment still remains a widespread problem and is often used as a disciplinary method by police in Ukraine. Highlighting the lack of any effective remedies against ill-treatment by police, Ms. Lebid noted the need to speed up the establishment of the State Bureau of Investigation. This is because current investigations being conducted by the Prosecutor’s Office remain ineffective due to the lack of independence of the office and the current response to reported allegations, which results in the lose of evidence and more generally yields inadequate investigations. Additionally, there is still no effective mechanism in place to provide compensation for ill-treatment/torture.

Ms. Lebid provided the participants with a memo identifying key problems and recommendations, which can be found here. The latest action plan of the Ukrainian authorities submitted to the CM on 31 October 2017 can be found here.

Nevmerzhitsky, Yakovenko, Logvinenko, Isayev and Melnik groups v Ukraine (Appl. No. 54825/00)

These cases concern inhuman and/or degrading treatment (Article 3) suffered by the applicants because of overcrowding and the poor conditions of prison and detention facilities; the unacceptable conditions for detainees during transfer by road and rail; and the inadequacy of medical care. In the Nevmerzhitsky case, the Court concluded that the force-feeding of the applicant amounted to torture. In some of the cases, the Court also found a lack of effective remedies (Article 13).

Vitalia Lebid, as above, provided the briefing participants with information on the current situation in pre-trial detention facilities, where overcrowding still remains a problem – as noted in the November 2016 report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – and material conditions remain inadequate in most penitentiary facilities in Ukraine. She also highlighted the need to adopt several legislative amendments that would pave the way for improvements in these areas. Finally, Ms. Lebid drew the CM’s attention to the fact that there is no effective mechanism to protect the rights of prisoners, including a mechanism to obtain compensation for inadequate conditions.

Ms. Lebid’s memo disseminated during the briefing can be found here. The latest action report of the Ukrainian authorities submitted in 26 October 2017 can be found here.