Judgment of the ECHR of February 25, 2020 in the case "Y.I. (Y.I.) v. Russian Federation" (application no. 68868/14).
In 2014, the applicant received assistance in preparing an application. The application was subsequently communicated to the Russian Federation.
The case successfully examined the application of the deprivation of the applicant's parental rights in relation to children and the placement of some of them in an orphanage. There has been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in the case.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
The applicant was deprived of parental rights in respect of her three children, and her two younger children were placed in an orphanage. The courts of the Russian Federation referred to the fact that the mother was a drug addict and unemployed and decided that it was dangerous to leave the children under her supervision. Her complaints about this decision were unsuccessful.
QUESTIONS OF LAW
Compliance with Article 8 of the Convention. The applicant's deprivation of parental rights in respect of her children amounted to an interference with her right to respect for family life. This interference was prescribed by law and pursued the legitimate aim of protecting the rights of the applicant's children.
The removal of the children and their placement in an orphanage at the beginning of the criminal proceedings against the applicant on drug trafficking charges was justified, since at that time she was under the influence of toxic substances, then suffered from "withdrawal" and was clearly unable to take care of her children ... However, it did not follow from this that this fact in itself was a sufficient reason for taking such a far-reaching measure as deprivation of parental rights.
Prior to the initiation of criminal proceedings against the applicant, she was not registered with the social security authorities, and she was not given a warning regarding her behavior or the consequences it could lead to. When the applicant's situation attracted the attention of the authorities, the authorities made no attempt to provide her with adequate assistance. Also, no evidence was presented that the courts of the Russian Federation took into account any of these factors in their decisions.
Moreover, the domestic courts did not mention any situations or events in which the applicant left the children unattended, did not care for them or otherwise left them unattended, let alone endanger their life or health as a result of it. action or inaction. The courts of the Russian Federation only referred to the applicant's testimony in the context of the criminal case that she had allowed her acquaintances to use her apartment for taking drugs, as well as to the oral testimony of a police officer who alleged that the applicant had allowed her acquaintances to take drugs in her kitchen in the presence of children.
However, firstly, it did not follow from the applicant's statements that she or her acquaintances had ever taken drugs in the presence of children. The domestic courts did not verify the basis of the police officer's respective testimony. Secondly, the applicant, her eldest son and her mother consistently argued that the applicant had not shown her dependence towards family members. The courts of the Russian Federation made no attempt to obtain more information in order to clarify an important contradiction with the testimony of the police officer.
The applicant consistently asserted her intention to solve the drug addiction problem and, moreover, took steps in this direction. However, the Russian courts did not obtain any independent evidence, such as a psychologist's opinion, to assess the applicant's emotional maturity and her motivation to behave like a responsible parent and solve the drug addiction problem. Moreover, the arguments and evidence presented by the applicant indicating that she had begun treatment were ignored by the domestic courts. This is especially striking in a situation where the applicant's drug addiction appears to be the main, if not the only, ground for depriving her of her parental rights.
The Russian courts relied on the fact that the applicant was unemployed, but their decisions did not explain how this affected her ability and ability to take care of children. The report referred to by the domestic courts did not mention any significant shortcomings in the living conditions of the applicant's family, the children had separate sleeping places, and they ate well. In addition, another report clearly indicated the subsequent improvements, in particular that the apartment was clean, comfortable and well ventilated. However, the domestic courts did not assess these changes, in particular whether they could be considered a sincere attempt by the applicant to improve her situation after the removal of her children.
The Government did not consider an alternative to a less drastic measure - restricting the applicant's parental rights rather than depriving her of those rights. They did not issue any warnings to the applicant about the possible consequences of her allegedly negligent behavior towards children.
The applicant consistently expressed her affection for the children and her desire to maintain a relationship with them. The children were also deeply attached to their mother and maternal grandmother, and the latter expressed a desire to keep the children with her. However, the domestic courts did not adequately address any of these aspects. In particular, when choosing the measure to be applied in the applicant's case, they did not assess the consequences for the well-being of the children that separation from their mother and grandmother could have led.
As a result of the contested measure, the children were not only separated from the applicant, their mother, but also separated from each other, since the eldest son was placed in the care of the father, and the younger children were placed in an orphanage.
On the whole, the grounds relied on by the domestic courts were not sufficient to justify the deprivation of the applicant's parental rights in respect of her three children and the placement of her two younger children in an orphanage. The Government did not conclusively prove that, despite the possibility of adopting less radical decisions, the impugned measure represented the most appropriate option in the interests of children. Despite the State's margin of appreciation in this area, the interference with the applicant's right to respect for family life was thus not proportionate to the aim pursued.
There was a violation of Article 8 of the Convention in the case (adopted unanimously).
Application of Article 41 of the Convention. The European Court awarded the applicant EUR 20,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.