ECHR judgment of July 17, 2018 in the case of Mazepa and Others v.Russian Federation (application N 15086/07).
In 2007, complainants were assisted in preparing a application. Subsequently, the application was communicated to the Russian Federation.
The case was successfully examined by the applicants that the criminal investigation into the murder of their close relative was not effective. The case has violated the requirements of Article 2 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
The applicants are relatives of a well-known journalist who carried out investigative investigations relating, inter alia, to alleged violations of human rights in the Chechen Republic, and an implacable oppositionist regarding the policies of the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin's In 2006, she was shot dead in her apartment building in Moscow. On the same day, the prosecutor's office opened a criminal case. In 2014, five people were convicted in the case. The Moscow City Court qualified the crime as an act committed by an organized group for remuneration in connection with the victim’s fulfillment of her professional duties and civic duty. Convicted persons were sentenced to imprisonment for periods ranging from 12 years to life imprisonment. At the time of filing a complaint with the European Court, the investigation has not yet been completed.
QUESTIONS OF LAW
Regarding compliance with Article 2 of the Convention (procedural aspect). The main issue was the fulfillment by the authorities of the respondent state of the obligation to conduct an effective investigation into the fact of a contract killing of the person who conducted the journalistic investigation. In such cases, it was extremely important to check the possible connection between the crime and the professional activities of the journalist.
(a) The proper nature of the investigation. The investigation led to meaningful results, since it led to the conviction of five persons directly responsible for the murder. However, when investigating a case of contract killing, it is necessary within the framework of the investigation to make genuine and serious efforts to establish the customer of the crime, that is, the person or group of persons who organized the murder. Considering that the authorities of the respondent state did not provide copies of the criminal case materials, in the present case the ability of the European Court to assess the nature and degree of thoroughness of the investigation was extremely limited and reduced to an analysis of the written comments submitted by the parties.
The investigation focused on the version of the customer’s identity, namely, “a well-known Russian former politician who lived in London,” who died in 2013. However, the authorities of the respondent state did not explain why for many years the investigation preferred to work only on this version of the incident, which was not supported by reliable evidence. In addition, given the journalistic articles relating to the conflict in the Chechen Republic, the investigative authorities should, according to the European Court, investigate possible involvement in the incident by employees of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation or representatives of the administration of the Chechen Republic, even if the corresponding versions would have been unfounded. As a result, the investigation into the murder did not meet journalistic requirements of proper quality.
(b) Immediate and reasonable investigation. The criminal case was initiated on October 7, 2006, and the investigation into it has not yet been completed. The authorities of the respondent state did not indicate extremely valid and convincing reasons that would justify the length of the investigation of the case. In particular, the reference of the authorities of the respondent state to the volume of case materials and the number of interrogated witnesses seems insignificant given the lack of tangible results of the investigation on the issue of the organizers of the crime. Therefore, the nature of the investigation did not meet the requirement of promptness and reasonable speed.
(c) The involvement of relatives in the investigation. Although several requests from the victim’s relatives to conduct certain investigative actions were rejected, if the investigation was considered as a whole, the relatives were not excluded from the investigation process to the extent that they would be deprived of the opportunity to effectively participate in the proceedings.
In the case of a violation of the requirements of Article 2 of the Convention (it was adopted by five votes "for" with two - "against").
In application of Article 41 of the Convention. The Court awarded the applicants jointly EUR 20,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.