The ECHR judgment of July 2, 2019 in the case of Gorlov and Others v. Russia (application N 27057/06 and others).
In 2006, the applicants were assisted in preparing applications. Subsequently, the applications were consolidated and communicated by the Russian Federation.
In the case, applications were successfully examined that, while the applicants were in the cell, they were under constant video surveillance, which was carried out by the prison guards using cameras. The case has violated the requirements of Articles 8 and 13 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Circumstances of the case
The applicants, who were prisoners, complained that while they were in the cell they were under constant surveillance by the prison guards using CCTV cameras. Video surveillance was usually carried out by women.
QUESTIONS OF LAW
Regarding compliance with article 8 of the Convention. Permanent video surveillance constituted an interference with the applicants ’right to respect for their personal lives.
The legislation of the Russian Federation established a general rule that allowed the administration of correctional institutions and pre-trial detention centers to use video surveillance. However, it was not specified whether the video surveillance should have applied to common areas and places of residence, during what time of day it should have been carried out, what were the conditions for its use, during what continuous period it should have been used, what were the relevant procedures and so on Further. The only statutory obligation was to inform the prisoners on receipt of the use of CCTV cameras. The relevant by-laws did not contain any special provisions on the conditions for applying this procedure or on its termination, or on the procedure for its revision.
With regard to criminal correctional institutions, the relevant provisions of the law did not specify whether the information on the actions of the convicts was limited to video surveillance, whether it was recorded, whether it was subsequently stored, and if so, what norms and guarantees governed the circumstances under which this data could be obtained, regarding the period of their storage, the grounds for their use and the circumstances in which they could be destroyed. The technical specifications provided for the possibility of storing CCTV system recordings for 30 days.
Unlike the case of Van der Graaf v. The Netherlands (Van der Graaf v. Netherlands) (European Court judgment of 1 June 2004, application N 8704/03) the ongoing monitoring of the applicants in the present case was not based on an individual decision, which would explain the reasons justifying the use of the impugned measure in the light of the legitimate goals pursued. In addition, the duration of this measure was not determined, and the administrations of the respective institutions did not have the obligation to regularly (if at all) review the validity of its application. The legislation of the Russian Federation lacked grounds for making such individual decisions.
In the circumstances of the present case, although the Court was ready to admit that there were certain grounds for applying the impugned measure in the legislation of the Russian Federation, he was not convinced that the existing legal framework at that time met the requirement of “quality of law”. Granting the right to use video surveillance to the administrations of correctional institutions and pre-trial detention centers, the legislation did not define with sufficient clarity the limits of these powers and the way they are exercised in order to provide individual protection against arbitrariness. The legislation, as interpreted by the courts of the Russian Federation, gave the administration of correctional institutions and pre-trial detention centers the unlimited right to apply to every person held in a correctional institution or pre-trial detention center a constant, that is, round-the-clock video surveillance without any conditions in any place, including in the cell, for an indefinite period of time without periodically reviewing this measure. As such, the legislation of the Russian Federation did not provide for virtually any guarantees against abuse by officials.
Despite the fact that the Court was ready to admit that there may be a need to monitor certain territories of correctional facilities and pre-trial detention facilities or some prisoners on an ongoing basis, including through the use of CCTV, it nevertheless acknowledged that the current legal framework could not be regarded as sufficiently clear, concise and specific in order to provide adequate protection against arbitrary interference by the authorities with the applicants' right to respect for their personal lives neither.
Thus, the impugned measure was not “prescribed by law”. Consequently, there was no need to verify whether it pursued one of the legitimate goals and whether it was “necessary in a democratic society” and commensurate with the goals pursued. In particular, the Court dismissed the issue of whether the fact that the video surveillance was carried out by female employees was compatible with the requirements of Article 8 § 2 of the Convention, since, in his opinion, this related to the proportionality of the alleged interference.
In the case there was a violation of the requirements of Article 8 of the Convention (adopted unanimously).
The Court also unanimously ruled that there was a violation of Article 13 of the Convention because the Russian Federation’s interpretation of the courts of the respondent State did not imply any verification of the proportionality of the interference and did not allow interested parties to obtain judicial review of the application of constant video surveillance to them, taking into account respect for their privacy.
In application of Article 41 of the Convention. The Court held that finding a violation of the Convention would in itself constitute sufficient just satisfaction.