ECHR Judgment of August 04, 2020 in the case "Political Party Patria and Others v. Republic of Moldova "(Political Party Patria and Others v. Republic of Moldova)" (aplication No. 5113/15 and other aplications).
In 2015, the applicant party was assisted in the preparation of aplications. Subsequently, the aplications were consolidated and communicated to the Republic of Moldova.
The case successfully examined aplications about the unjustified disqualification of a political party three days before the parliamentary elections in connection with the alleged use of undeclared foreign funds. The case involved a violation of the requirements of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
The applicant party was a political party of the Republic of Moldova, which at the time of the events in the case was not represented in the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova. The other applicants were candidates of the said party in the legislative elections in November 2014. The party leader, one of the applicants, was a businessman from the Russian Federation. The complaint concerned the fact that, three days before the election, the applicant party had been excluded from the list of parties that had participated in the election on the grounds that, in violation of the electoral law, it had used undeclared funds, including those received from abroad.
Regarding compliance with Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. The cancellation of the registration of the applicant party was an interference with the rights of both the party and the individual applicants guaranteed by Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. The intervention was based on predictable legal consequences and had the legitimate aim of complying with the law and ensuring the proper functioning of democratic mechanisms, which meant ensuring equal and fair conditions for all candidates of the election campaign and protecting the right to freedom of expression of the electors.
The decision to disqualify the applicant party was based primarily on the assumption that the party had used foreign - origin funds belonging to the applicant, the party leader, for its campaign. However, the law enforcement authorities of the Republic of Moldova did not provide any evidence for this claim, and the relevant evidence was not requested by the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Moldova or the courts of the Republic of Moldova, which accepted this assumption unconditionally and, obviously, in the absence of any evidence.
Another argument for the disqualification of the applicant party, which was accepted by the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Moldova and the courts of the Republic of Moldova, was that the party had spent undeclared funds on the purchase of 11 cars in May 2014, as well as on the purchase of fuel and mobile communication equipment. Again, the police did not provide evidence for these allegations, and the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Moldova and the courts of the Republic of Moldova did not request relevant evidence. Nevertheless, the applicant, the leader of the applicant party, admitted during the proceedings that he had financed the purchase of 11 cars, but the purchase was made before the disputed amount of foreign currency arrived in the Republic of Moldova and before the start of the election campaign, not to mention that this fact took place before the creation of the applicant party.
In addition to the lack of evidence of the allegations against the applicant party, the said party was also not provided with sufficient procedural guarantees of protection against arbitrariness. In particular, the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Moldova notified the applicant party of its meeting only 15 minutes before it began, instead of at least 12 hours required by the regulations, thus catching the applicant party by surprise and leaving it unprepared for the hearing of its case by the commission. Moreover, the courts of the Republic of Moldova ignored all the arguments of the applicant party on the merits of the case and, without a doubt, accepted what appeared to be unfounded accusations against the applicant party.
As a result, the suspension of the applicant party from participating in the elections was not based on sufficient and relevant evidence, the procedure of consideration of the case by the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Moldova and the courts of the Republic of Moldova did not provide the applicant party with sufficient guarantees of protection against arbitrariness, and the decisions of the courts of the Republic of Moldova in the case were insufficiently substantiated and, consequently, arbitrary.
The case involved a violation of the requirements of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention (adopted unanimously).
In the application of article 41 of the Convention. The Court awarded the applicant party EUR 7,500 in respect of non-pecuniary damage, the finding of a violation of the Convention in itself constitutes sufficient just compensation for non-pecuniary damage for the other applicants, in addition to the applicant party, the claim for pecuniary damage was rejected.