European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights

Ukraine: Court delivers judgement in ‘cooking eggs on war memorial’ complaint

Judges have delivered their judgement on a human rights complaint from a Ukraine student, arrested and detained after frying eggs on the flame of Kyiv’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Two of Anna Sinkova’s friends joined her and fried sausages over the flame. Another filmed. At the time, Sinkova belonged to an artistic group known for its provocative public performances.

Sinkova later posted a video of the scene on the Internet, with the explanation that she had been protesting against the waste of precious natural gas.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Sinkova’s conviction for frying eggs on a war memorial did not breach her freedom of expression but her detention pending trial was unlawful.

As Just satisfaction (Article 41), the court held that Ukraine was to pay Sinkova 4,000 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

The case Sinkova v. Ukraine (application no. 39496/11) was brought by Anna Sinkova, a Ukrainian national who was born in 1991 and lives in Kyiv.

The case concerned her arrest, detention and conviction for frying eggs on the flame of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Kyiv in December 2010.

Sinkova was found guilty in 2012 of desecrating the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and given a three-year suspended prison sentence.

She did not serve any of this sentence, however, before her conviction, she had spent three months in pre-trial detention, notably from 29 March 2011 to 30 June 2011.

Remanding her in custody had essentially been justified on the grounds of the seriousness of the charge against her and the hypothetical risk of her absconding as the police had not been able to find her at the initial stage of the proceedings.

These reasons were used in refusals to release her, despite letters by members of parliament and other prominent figures, pledging to be her personal guarantors.

In the 27 February Chamber judgment in the case, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been no violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning Sinkova’s arrest, which had been based on a judicial order and had aimed to ensure her attendance at a hearing on her case as, despite the police’s efforts, they had not been able to find her until March 2011;

unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 5 §§ 1, 3 and 5 of the European Convention because Sinkova’s detention from 29 May to 17 June 2011 had not been covered by any judicial decision; the entirety of her detention from 29 March to 30 June 2011 had not been justified; andUkrainian law had not provided an enforceable right to compensation for that unlawfulness of her detention;

and, by four votes to three, that there had been no violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression).

The court found in particular that Sinkova’s conviction for expressing contempt for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier had interfered with her freedom of speech, but that it had been a proportionate restriction under domestic law.

 

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