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April 2004
19 April 2004

The European Court of Human Rights is examining situation with right to a fair trial and right to association in Russia

The European Court of Human Rights has admitted the application of non-governmental organization Sutyajnik against Russia.

Sutyajnik has charged the Russian Federation with violation of the right to a fair trial set by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Sutyajnik v. Russia case is significant for Russian NGOs because of the 1995 law On Non-governmental Organizations which forced all NGOs in Russia to undergo re-registration process. “This case is not only about right to a fair trial. It's about right to association in Russia. The main purpose of the Law was to get rid of active human right organizations”, the President of Sutyajnik Sergey Beliaev said. “In those years if an NGO had a record of criticism of the Government policy it would have had a hard time when going though a re-registration process and ended up with nothing. We have been fighting this practice for 8 years in domestic courts. In the European Court the Government will not escape responsibility for what it has done to all active human rights NGOs in Russia”, he added.

The facts of the case.

The applicant association is a non-governmental organization, which was registered in 1994 by the Sverdlovsk Regional Department of Justice. In 1995 a new law on non-governmental organizations was adopted. The law required that all NGOs established before 1995 be re-registered before 1 July 1999. The applicant association applied twice for re-registration to the Regional Department of Justice. However, their applications were refused. 

The applicant association brought an action against the Department seeking its re-registration. On 17 June 1999 the Commercial Court of the Sverdlovsk Region satisfied the applicant association's claim and ordered the Department to register the applicant association. This decision was upheld by the Federal Commercial Court of the Ural Circuit on 18 October 1999. 

On an unspecified date the Vice-President of the Supreme Commercial Court brought an extraordinary appeal (nadzor) against the decisions of 17 June and 18 October 1999. 

On 26 September 2000 the Presidium of the Supreme Commercial Court of the Russian Federation quashed the lower courts' decisions by way of supervisory review on the ground that the dispute at issue was outside the competence of the commercial courts. The proceedings were discontinued. 

According to the applicant association, on several occasions it applied to the Commercial Court of the Sverdlovsk Region with a view to initiate enforcement proceedings against the Department, but to no avail. The applicant association submits that it was informed about the decision of the Presidium of the Supreme Commercial Court of the Russian Federation of 26 September 2000 only in November 2001.

Under Rule 54 § 2 (b) of the Rules of Court, the Court sent the application of Sutyajnik to the Government of Russia and invited it to submit the written observations on the case by 7 April 2004. 

Regarding the application of Sutyajnik, the Court requests the Government to give comments on the following question: was there a breach of the applicant association’s right to a court under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, as a result of the quashing of the judgment of 17 June 1999 by way of the supervisory review?

The Government’s observations will be sent to Sutyajnik to submit written observations in reply. What the Russian Government will declare about it, will be known some weeks after 7 April 2004.

It would be fair to mention that on 28 October 2003, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against the Russian Federation in Rakevich v Russia, the case litigated by Sutyajnik. The Court decided that Russian legislation and practice on psychiatric treatment, in particular regarding the placement of individuals against their will in psychiatric institutions, did not meet the required standards of the European Convention on Human Rights (Short comments, video, and audio reports on the case from the European Court of Human Rights are available at http://www.sutyajnik.ru/eng/news/2004/r_v_r.html )

To access the letter from the President of the Chamber about a preliminary examination of the admissibility of the application click on
in English http://www.sutyajnik.ru/rus/cases/sutyajnik_v_russia/communication_letter_eng.htm
in Russian http://www.sutyajnik.ru/rus/cases/sutyajnik_v_russia/communication_letter_rus.htm

Briefly about Sutyajnik. The human rights resource centre (NGO) Sutyajnik, founded in Yekaterinburg in 1994, defends the rights and interests of non-governmental public interest groups and provides free legal assistance to low income citizens. Sutyajnik’s main areas of activities are http://www.sutyajnik.ru/eng

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Rakevich v Russia Judgment in Russian >>> in English >>>
All press-relises on the case Rakevich v Russia  (zip 58 kb) >>>
Rakevich v Russia Admissibility Decision in Russian >>> in English >>>
Video and Audio Report on Rakevich v Russia from the Court >>>
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