Case of European Court of Human Rights, January 09, 2020 (case SARGSYAN AND OTHERS v. UKRAINE)

Defense:UKRAINE
Resolution Date:January 09, 2020
SUMMARY

Violation of Article 3 - Prohibition of torture (Article 3 - Degrading treatment;Inhuman treatment) (Substantive aspect);Violation of Article 3 - Prohibition of torture (Article 3 - Effective investigation) (Procedural aspect);Violation of Article 5 - Right to liberty and security (Article 5-1 - Lawful arrest or detention);Violation of Article 5 - Right to liberty and security (Article 5-3 -... (see full summary)

 
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FIFTH SECTION

CASE OF SARGSYAN AND OTHERS v. UKRAINE

(Applications nos. 54012/07 and 2 others)

JUDGMENT

STRASBOURG

9 January 2020

This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Sargsyan and others v. Ukraine,

The European Court of Human Rights (Fifth Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:

Gabriele Kucsko-Stadlmayer, President,Yonko Grozev,Lado Chanturia, judges,and Milan Blaško, Deputy Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 3 December 2019,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

PROCEDURE

  1. The case originated in three applications against Ukraine lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”).

  2. The applicants’ details are set out in the appended tables.

  3. Notice of the complaints raised by the applicants concerning their alleged ill-treatment and the ineffective investigation of their respective allegations was given to the Ukrainian Government together with notice of several other complaints raised by the applicants under the Court’s well‑established case-law (see appended tables).

  4. The remainder of applications nos. 54012/07 and 25697/08 was declared inadmissible pursuant to Rule 54 § 3 of the Rules of Court.

  5. The Government did not object to the examination of the applications by a Committee.

    THE FACTS

  6. The applicants complained that they had been subjected to police ill‑treatment and that the State authorities had failed to carry out an effective investigation into their respective allegations.

  7. They also raised other complaints under the provisions of the Convention subject to the Court’s well-established case-law.

  8. Relevant details are set out in the appended tables.

    THE LAW

  9. Having regard to the similar subject matter of the applications, the Court finds it appropriate to examine them jointly in a single judgment.

  10. The applicants complained that they had been ill-treated by the police and that their respective complaints had not been properly investigated. They referred to Articles 3 and 13 of the Convention.

  11. The Court, which is master of the characterisation to be given in law to the facts of a case, finds that the complaints at issue fall to be examined under Article 3 of the Convention only (see, among other authorities, Barysheva v. Ukraine, no. 9505/12, § 45, 14 March 2017). That provision reads as follows:

    “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

  12. The Government filed no objections to the admissibility of the applicants’ complaints under Article 3.

  13. 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.

  14. The applicants alleged that there had been violations of Article 3 of the Convention under both its substantive and procedural limbs in each of their respective cases.

  15. The Government contested this view.

  16. Reviewing the facts of the present cases in the light of the general principles established in its case-law (see, as a recent authority, Bouyid v. Belgium [GC], no. 23380/09, §§ 81-90 and 114-23, ECHR 2015), the Court considers that the applicants raised credible ill-treatment claims at the domestic level. Those claims triggered an obligation on the part of the national authorities to carry out an effective and thorough investigation with a view to establishing the origin of the applicants’ physical injuries and, where appropriate, emotional trauma, and identifying and punishing those responsible, should the applicants’ allegations concerning ill-treatment prove to be true.

  17. From the documents before the Court it appears that the domestic investigations did not reflect a serious effort to determine the relevant facts (see the appended tables for individual details).

  18. The Court notes that in the case of Kaverzin v. Ukraine (no. 23893/03, §§ 173-80, 15 May 2012) it found that the reluctance of the authorities to ensure a prompt and thorough investigation of ill-treatment complaints lodged against police authorities constituted a systemic problem within the meaning of Article 46 of the Convention. In view of the circumstances of the present applications and its earlier case-law, the Court considers that they constitute another example of such a failure to ensure prompt and thorough investigation.

  19. The Court further finds that the applicants’ accounts as to the circumstances of their alleged ill-treatment are detailed and coherent, and the results of the investigations, given their numerous shortcomings, did not disprove those allegations. In these circumstances, and given the onus on the State to provide a satisfactory and convincing explanation for injuries sustained by persons under the control of the police (see Bouyid, cited above, § 83 and also, by way of example, Adnaralov v. Ukraine, no. 10493/12, § 45, 27 November 2014; Kulik v. Ukraine, no. 10397/10, § 59, 19 March 2015; and Yaroshovets and Others v. Ukraine, nos. 74820/10 and 4 others, § 85, 3 December 2015), the Court concludes that the State’s responsibility for the applicants’ ill‑treatment is engaged.

  20. At the same time, the Court observes that in the present cases there is no conclusive evidence concerning the circumstances in which the applicants were injured and in particular concerning the exact nature and degree of force used against them. Accordingly, there are no elements in the case files which would enable the Court to find “beyond reasonable doubt” that the treatment the applicants suffered reached the level of “torture”.

  21. For these reasons the Court finds it established that the applicants were subjected to ill-treatment which must be classified as inhuman and degrading.

  22. There has, accordingly, been a breach of Article 3 of the Convention under both its procedural and substantive limbs.

  23. Mr Sargsyan also complained under Article 5 § 1 of the Convention that his arrest and detention in April and July 2007 had been arbitrary and that they had been effected with an ulterior motive, namely to force him to give false self-incriminating statements concerning the murder of O. He also complained under Article 13 of the Convention that the investigation of his complaint concerning the arbitrariness of his detention in April 2007, which had been lodged together with his ill-treatment complaint, had been ineffective.

  24. The Court considers that the above complaint falls to be examined under Article 5 § 1 only (see Lopatin and Medvedskiy v. Ukraine, nos. 2278/03 and 6222/03, § 90, 20 May 2010).

  25. Mr Sargsyan also complained under Article 5 § 5 of the Convention that he was unable to obtain an award of compensation for his unlawful arrest in July 2007.

  26. The relevant Convention provisions read as follows:

    “1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:

    ...

    (c) the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so;

    ...

  27. Everyone who has been the victim of arrest or detention in contravention of the provisions of this Article shall have an enforceable right to compensation.”

  28. The Government filed no objections concerning admissibility of the above complaints.

  29. The Court notes that these complaints are not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention. It also notes that they are not inadmissible on any other grounds. They must therefore be declared admissible.

  30. Reviewing the facts of the present case in the light of the general principles established in its case-law (see Creangă v. Romania [GC], no. 29226/03, §§ 84 and 88-92, 23 February 2012), the Court considers that the file contains sufficient material to conclude that in April 2007 Mr Sargsyan was placed under administrative arrest to ensure his availability for questioning as a criminal suspect in connection with O.’s murder (see appended table 1(C (a)) for details). This practice has been condemned by the Court as an arbitrary deprivation of liberty in numerous cases (see, for instance, Kvashko v. Ukraine, no. 40939/05, 26 September 2013, § 68, with further references, and Livada v. Ukraine [Committee], no. 21262/06, §§ 45‑46, 26 June 2014).

  31. As regards the second occasion on which the applicant was arrested and detained (in July 2007) – on suspicion of possession of drugs – the Court has not been provided with any evidence that the applicant was even questioned about O.’s murder during this period of detention, much less that he gave any relevant statements, unlike in respect of the previous arrest and detention (see appended table 1(C (b)) for details). The Court is therefore not convinced that Mr Sargsyan was in fact once again detained in connection with O.’s murder. However, it appears from the available material that his arrest and detention during this period were not...

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