Judgment of the ECHR of February 11, 2020 in the case Vovk and Bogdanov v. Russian Federation (application no. 15613/10).
In 2010, the applicants received assistance in preparing their application. The application was subsequently communicated to the Russian Federation.
The case successfully examined an application about the lack of effective judicial protection of the applicants, who, as a result of the explosion of a grenade they found, suffered serious harm to their health, which did not allow bringing the perpetrators to justice and providing appropriate compensation to the applicants. There has been a violation of Article 2 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in the case.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
In April 2008, children found a grenade at a construction site in a residential area. As a result of negligent treatment on the part of the applicants (who were 13 and 7 years old at the time), the grenade exploded, causing serious harm to their health.
A criminal case was opened over the explosion. The investigation revealed the following: (i) the grenade was brought to the construction site with sand; it was a VOG-17 grenade, which was lost after being fired from a grenade launcher, but did not explode; (ii) in an unidentified place, an unidentified person authorized to guard weapons and ammunition failed to perform his duties properly.
The investigation was suspended many times due to the impossibility of identifying the person who could be charged, and was subsequently dropped due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.
QUESTIONS OF LAW
Compliance with Article 2 of the Convention (procedural aspect). For the reasons set out below, the Court concluded that the criminal and civil remedies in the applicants' case together did not provide effective judicial protection and did not allow for a quick establishment of the facts, prosecution of those responsible and adequate redress for victims, that was critical to maintaining public confidence, ensuring the rule of law, and preventing perceptions of tolerance or collusion with misconduct.
(a) Criminal Prosecution. The Court has found no indication that the investigating authorities made every reasonable effort to gather relevant evidence to clarify the nature of any liability and to ascertain that there was no reason to continue the criminal investigation. Moreover, they failed to establish the degree of negligence by the military in taking “measures that were necessary and sufficient to prevent the risks associated with the hazardous activity”, which could be a circumstance in which effective implementation of the procedural obligation under Article 2 of the Convention was necessary. investigation.
The above version of the circumstances of the case, as well as the qualification of the act as criminal negligence on the part of the employees responsible for the protection of weapons and ammunition, remained unchanged until the end of the investigation. If the investigation assumed (and it was so) that the servicemen had been negligent in preventing the loss of ammunition, then the investigating authorities had to establish, for example, whether the VOG-17 grenade released but not exploded could have been left behind after the military exercises.
In particular, since ammunition such as VOG-17 grenades could only be lawfully used with the permission of the state by authorized bodies carrying out activities, inter alia, in the field of defense and public order, the investigation should have identified these bodies and their officials or employees, and to check whether they followed the procedure prescribed by law in cases of loss or damage to ammunition.
However, the case file does not contain information about what actions were carried out and what were their results, in order to conclude that the involvement of the servicemen in the loss of the grenade was not established. At the same time, there is no indication as to whether any investigative steps were taken to establish the place of storage of the grenade and the person responsible for its loss, and if so, which ones.
As regards the alleged non-exhaustion of domestic remedies, the Court dismissed the Government's preliminary argument on the grounds that (i) an appeal to a court against one or more of the orders to stay the investigation could only have the same consequences as the numerous submissions Prosecutors' offices, which were regularly followed by the cancellation of these orders, (ii) and also since it was impossible to appeal against the actions and inaction of the investigating authorities in court without access to the case file or proper information on the progress of the investigation.
(b) Civil proceedings. Despite the applicants' subsequent appeal to the court demanding compensation on the grounds that the State authorities should have been responsible for not preventing the loss of an unexploded grenade, if this was the case, as well as the failure to identify and prosecute those responsible, the effectiveness of this remedy The defense was diminished by the fact that the courts unconditionally referred to the results of the investigation, pointing out that there was no evidence that the grenade belonged to state authorities or was not properly guarded.
There was a violation of Article 2 of the Convention in the case (adopted unanimously).
Application of Article 41 of the Convention. The European Court awarded each applicant EUR 40,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.