ECHR judgment of 18 July 2019 in the case of T.I. and Others v. Greece (application No. 40311/10).
In 2010, the applicants were assisted in preparing the application. Subsequently, the application was communicated to Greece.
In the case, an application was successfully examined regarding violation by the authorities of the obligation to conduct an effective investigation into the issuance by the state representatives of visas that made human trafficking possible. The case contained a violation of Article 4 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Circumstances of the case
The applicants, citizens of the Russian Federation, received visas issued by the Consulate General of Greece in Moscow. According to them, the consulate officers were bribed by Russian traffickers and issued visas to them so that the applicants could come to Greece for purposes of sexual slavery. At the end of 2003, the applicants were recognized as victims of human trafficking. The Greek authorities opened two criminal cases against persons who directly exploited the applicants, as well as criminal cases regarding the issuance of visas. The applicants pointed to a number of shortcomings in these proceedings, as well as to the complicity of the consular officers in their operation.
QUESTIONS OF LAW
Regarding compliance with article 4 of the Convention. In the period relevant to the circumstances of the case, trafficking in persons in the form of sexual exploitation was not a separate crime. Since a shorter period of prosecution was provided for an offense such as trafficking in persons, the court of prosecution closed the criminal case against the two accused in connection with the expiration of the statute of limitations. Consequently, the legal regulation of this production was ineffective and insufficient both to punish traffickers and to provide effective prevention of trafficking in persons.
As regards the visa proceedings, it was not opened until nine months after the applicants brought the relevant facts to the attention of the prosecutor authorized in the field of combating trafficking in persons. The Police Security Directorate sent the case files to the authorized prosecutor approximately two years and seven months after their receipt, and the preliminary investigation took more than three years. Of course, the present case was of some difficulty, since it was necessary to question several victims of human trafficking as witnesses. Nevertheless, such a length of proceedings appears excessive, in addition, it led to the expiration of the statute of limitations for part of the crimes related to forgery of documents and their use.
Turning to the question of the applicants ’participation in the disputed proceedings, all attempts to summon them all to court, with the exception of one, to testify were unsuccessful because the applicants did not live at the addresses to which the summons were sent. Although the investigating judge, who was trying to track down the applicants, was not inactive, nothing in the case file explains why the applicants were not searched at the addresses indicated in their applications for being recognized as civil plaintiffs.
Having regard, in particular, to the information available on trafficking in persons in the Russian Federation and Greece during the period relevant to the circumstances of the present case, as well as the gravity of the charges brought by the applicants and the fact that they accused the State agents of having committed trafficking in persons , the authorities were obliged to act with particular zeal to ensure that applications for visas were carefully examined before issuing them and thus eliminate any doubts about honesty state providers.
The competent authorities did not show zeal in the present case at the level required by Article 4 of the Convention, and the applicants were not allowed to participate in the case to the extent required by Article 4 of the Convention in its procedural and legal aspect.
In the case there was a violation of the requirements of Article 4 of the Convention (adopted unanimously).
In application of Article 41 of the Convention. The Court awards each of the applicants EUR 15,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.