Homeless Person Wins Case against Russia at Strasbourg

Source: HRO.org

Created 28/12/2009 - 15:16

· Social Rights · European Court of Human Rights · Legal Protection 

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ruled in favour of a petition by a Russian citizen denied access to justice on the basis of the absence of residence registration (Sergey Smirnov v Russia, 22 December 2009). Sixty-year-old Sergey Smirnov complained that without an official residence registration [‘propiska’] he was not able to bring a case to court or to use a mobile phone. The Court ruled that Russia should pay Sergei Smirnov €2,000 in compensation.

Sergey Smirnov has lived in Moscow since 1982. In 1986 he was convicted of the charge of “speculation” in an Omsk court. On his release in 1991 he was given an internal passport, but this no longer had a stamp showing his residence registration in Moscow. Nonetheless, Sergey Smirnov returned to Moscow and in January 2002 applied for a new passport to the police department of the North-West Administrative District of the capital. The police department refused Sergey Smirnov’s application on the grounds that he must prove he had lived permanently on the territory of Russia since February 1992. Only then they could it be certified that he had Russian citizenship.

Sergey Smirnov appealed against the refusal to give him a passport in Moscow’s Khoroshevsky district court. However, the court ruled that the actions of the passport officials were lawful, since the applicant had never been registered on the territory of the North-West Administrative District. In order to prove that he had lived permanently in Russia since February 1992, Sergey Smirnov turned to Moscow’s Tushinsky district court. But this court refused to consider his petition since it did not believe that Sergey Smirnov was permanently resident on the territory for which it had responsibility. 

The absence of permanent registration did not allow Sergey Smirnov, for example, to enter into consumer contracts of hire. When he brought a complaint against the Morion company in the Khoroshevsky district court, the court again refused to accept Sergey Smirnov’s petition precisely on these grounds. Moscow city court confirmed this decision on appeal. When the mobile phone company MTS refused to enter into a contract with Sergey Smirnov to allow him to acquire a mobile phone number, the Tagansky district court also refused to accept Sergey Smirnov’s complaint. 

Finally, Sergey Smirnov made an application to the European Court of Human Rights. He asked the Court to recognize that the arbitrary behaviour of the officials had constituted “inhuman treatment”, and as such is prohibited under Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. He also accused the State of violating the right of access to justice. The applicant demanded €20m in compensation, as reported by http://www.grani.ru/

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the accusation of “torture and other forms of inhuman or degrading treatment” regarding the Russian authorities was insufficiently serious. Also the Court refused to consider the application of Sergey Smirnov with regard to determining the legal fact of his residence in Russia and the restoration of his citizenship, since such issues lie outside the competence of the Court on the basis of the Convention.

However, the Court recognized that the right of Sergey Smirnov to access to justice was violated. “An address for correspondence indicated by the applicant was obviously sufficient to enable the courts to keep contact with him,” the Strasbourg Court ruled, “The Russian courts demonstrated excessive and unjustified formalism by insisting that the applicant indicate his place of residence, a requirement that was known to be impossible in the applicant's situation.”

Source URL: http://hro.org/node/7113
Rights in Russia,
23 Sep 2011, 06:45