Latvia: Court judgement on ‘Gozi Virus’ cyber-crime suspect’s human rights complaint

A Latvian suspect in cyber-crime related offences would not be exposed to a real risk of ill-treatment if he were extradited to the United States, Strasbourg judges declared today.

The European Court of Human Rights delivered today its chamber judgment in the case of Čalovskis v. Latvia (application no. 22205/13), which is not final.

The case concerned Deniss Čalovskis’ arrest and detention pending extradition, as well as authorisation of his extradition to the United States for prosecution on the allegation of his involvement in cybercrime-related offences.

The European Court of Human Rights held in particular, -unanimously, that there had been:

no violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights as concerned the granting of Čalovskis’ extradition to the United States;

a violation of Article 3 of the Convention on account of Čalovskis being placed in a metal cage during a court hearing;

a violation of Article 5 § 4 (right to have lawfulness of detention decided speedily by a court) as concerned the lack of judicial review of Čalovskis’ pre-extradition detention; and,

-by four votes to three, that there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) as concerned the authorisation of Čalovskis’ pre-extradition detention.

Just satisfaction (Article 41)

The court held that Latvia was to pay Čalovskis 5,000 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

On 23 August 2012, Čalovskis was indicted by an American court on five counts of conspiracy to violate the criminal laws of the United States, notably on account of his suspected involvement in the creation of the “Gozi Virus”, a software allegedly designed to steal usernames and passwords for internet-based accounts. The stolen data had supposedly been used to withdraw funds from victims’ accounts in the United States and Europe.

On 27 November 2012, the United States Department of Justice submitted a request to the Latvian authorities for Mr Čalovskis’ extradition, which the prosecution granted on 20 December 2012.

The court found that Čalovskis would not be exposed to a real risk of ill-treatment if he were extradited to the United States by virtue of his being indicted of cybercrime-related offences. Neither did that risk emerge from the statements of the United States officials relied upon by the applicant.

The applicant’s argument based on the comparison of penalties under the United States and Latvian law did not suffice to demonstrate that the prison sentence in the United States could be “grossly disproportionate.”

However, Čalovskis’ pre-extradition detention had not been effected “in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law” as the Latvian courts had not regarded whether the extradition request had included information providing a reasonable basis to believe that Čalovskis had committed the offense for which extradition had been sought.

Concerning the placement of the applicant in a metal cage during a court hearing, the Court considered that, given their cumulative effect, the security arrangements in the courtroom had been excessive, where also photographs of Čalovskis behind bars had been widely circulated.

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