ECHR decision of 28 may 2020 in the case "Farzaliyev v. Azerbaijan" (aplication N 29620/07).
In 2007, the applicant was assisted in preparing the aplication. The aplication was subsequently communicated to Azerbaijan.
The case successfully considered an aplication about the obligation of the applicant, who was not charged and who did not know about the criminal investigation being conducted against him, to pay compensation in civil proceedings for the Commission of a crime in the form of criminal misappropriation of property. The case violated the requirements of article 6, paragraphs 1 and 2, of the Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The applicant, who was the Prime Minister of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic within Azerbaijan, was ordered to pay compensation in civil proceedings for committing a "crime" in the form of criminal misappropriation of property. The applicant was never charged and learned of the brief criminal proceedings.
POINT OF LAW
Regarding compliance with article 6, paragraph 2, of the Convention. (a) Applicability. The civil proceedings complained of were initiated after the criminal case against the applicant was terminated due to the expiration of the Statute of limitations. The applicant was not officially recognized as an "accused" in the case under Azerbaijani law and did not know about the criminal case until it was dismissed and representatives of the Prosecutor's office filed a civil claim. In these circumstances, the following questions had to be answered: first, did the applicant participate in the termination of the criminal proceedings as a person "charged with a criminal offence" within the meaning of the Convention, and if so, second, did the subsequent civil proceedings fall within the scope of article 6, paragraph 2, of the Convention?
Article 6, paragraph 2, of the Convention applies when a person is "criminally charged". Within the meaning of article 6, paragraph 2, of the Convention, this concept is Autonomous and should be interpreted in the light of three criteria established in the case-law of the European Court of justice, namely, the classification of proceedings under domestic law, the nature of the proceedings and the severity of the possible penalty. "Criminal charges" according to the Autonomous meaning of article 6 of the Convention exists from the moment a person is officially notified competent authorities on the assumption that it has committed a crime, or when the position the individual was significantly changed by the actions of the authorities due to suspicion of a person. It was the first of the above conditions, despite their chronological order in the case, that justified the application of article 6 of the Convention in its criminal law aspect.
In order to answer the question of whether the applicant was a person who was "criminally charged" within the Autonomous meaning of article 6, paragraph 2, of the Convention, the European Court must consider the essence of the events and the actual events that formed the basis of the contested situation. Indeed, the applicant's case did not contain an official document on criminal charges against him. However, in the decision to initiate criminal proceedings, the applicant was explicitly named as one of the main suspects in the embezzlement of property and abuse of office. The Azerbaijani authorities intended to question the applicant, although at that time only in the official status of a witness, but clearly in connection with the suspicion that the applicant had committed these crimes. The Azerbaijani authorities considered that the applicant should have been formally charged under the Criminal code of Azerbaijan, the relevant provisions of which provided for deprivation of liberty as a penalty if the accused was found guilty, but the authorities did not have time to do so due to the expiration of the statutory Statute of limitations. In conclusion, the Prosecutor's office filed a civil claim in accordance with the norms of the Criminal procedure code of Azerbaijan on "civil action in criminal proceedings". The procedure required, inter alia, a "criminal charge", since a claim could only be brought against the "accused" or a person who could be held liable for the criminal acts of the accused. The applicant became aware of the suspicions against him in the criminal proceedings only after the civil action was filed, less than a month after the termination of the said criminal case.
Taking into account the particular sequence of interrelated events considered in the present case as a whole, as well as the relatively short time interval between these events, in the exceptional circumstances of the applicant's case, the cumulative effect of the actions of the Azerbaijani authorities as a result of suspicion of the applicant led to the fact that the applicant's situation was "significantly affected" by the actions of the authorities, and therefore, for the purposes of considering this complaint, the applicant should be considered a person, who has been "criminally charged" within the Autonomous meaning of article 6, paragraph 2, of the Convention.
When the question of the applicability of article 6, paragraph 2, of the Convention arose in the subsequent proceedings, the applicant had to demonstrate that there was a link between the criminal proceedings that had already been completed and the new proceedings. Such a link, for example, could occur if the second trial required examination of the results of the first (criminal) case and, in particular, if it required the court to review the verdict in the criminal case, review or evaluate the evidence from the criminal case materials, assess the applicant's participation in some or all of the events that resulted in the presentation of criminal charges, or comment on existing signs of possible guilt of the applicant.
In the applicant's case, the second (civil) proceedings were related to the discontinued criminal case, and the contrary was not alleged. A civil claim for damages was filed against the applicant by the Prosecutor's office on behalf of the state in accordance with the provisions of the code of Criminal procedure on "civil action in criminal proceedings". Prosecutors relied on evidence gathered by investigators, alleging that defendants, including the applicant, had committed misappropriation of public funds, but could not be prosecuted in connection with the expiration of the limitation period, and asked the court to oblige these persons to compensate the state "has" means. Consequently, according to the current legislation and law enforcement practice, the civil claim resorted to by the authorities and courts of Azerbaijan was a "direct consequence" of the criminal process. Moreover, the statements made by the court, which allegedly contained indications of the applicant's criminal responsibility, also created a link to the criminal case.
Article 6, paragraph 2, of the Convention applies to the present case (adopted unanimously).
(b) the Substance of the complaint. The criminal case against the applicant was terminated due to the expiration of the statutory Statute of limitations for criminal prosecution. The applicant has never been tried for the crime in question by a court competent to determine guilt under criminal law. The Azerbaijani court's decision in the civil case noted that the funds were " embezzled "and that, although the defendants were released from criminal liability due to the termination of the criminal proceedings," the damage caused by the criminal offense " was not compensated. The expressions used indicated an unequivocal view that a criminal offence had been committed and that the applicant was guilty of it, despite the fact that the applicant had never been convicted of the crime in question and had not been able to exercise the right to a defence in criminal proceedings.
The case violated the requirements of article 6, paragraph 2, of the Convention (adopted unanimously).
The court also found that there had been a violation of article 6, paragraph 1, of the Convention, finding that the applicant's right to a reasoned judgment had been violated.
In the application of article 41 of the Convention. The European Court awarded the applicant 4,700 euros in compensation for non-pecuniary damage.