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Russia: Court makes €53,000 award to mum after son’s military service death

In a ruling today, Russia will have to pay a mother €53,000 after European Court judges decided the country breached human rights law.

Stomatii v. the Republic of Moldova and Russia (no. 69528/10)*

The applicant, Svetlana Somatii, is a Ukrainian national who was born in 1963 and lives in Vărăncău (Transdniestrian region of the Republic of Moldova).

The case concerned the death of the applicant’s son, Alexander Stomatii, while he was on guard duty during his compulsory military service in the army of the “Moldavian Republic of Transdniestria” (“MRT”).

In May 2010 Alexander Stomatii was found lying on the ground, on his back, around 10 p.m., about five metres from the barracks. The forensic medical examiner concluded that he had died from a bullet wound to the head – the bullet probably having been fired from a Kalashnikov – and another bullet wound in the back.

One month later the “MRT” military prosecutor informed Somatii that the investigation had revealed that her son’s death had been the result of imprudent actions by conscript F., who had confessed.

According to F., Alexander Somatii had been drunk while on guard duty and in the presence of other soldiers had pointed his weapon at his chin. F. had then tried to deflect the gun but accidentally pressed the trigger, thus causing the death of Alexander Somatii.

Two to three minutes later, F. had decided to move the gun, which was on the ground, but in mishandling it he had fired another bullet which struck the victim in the back.

In March 2011, F., on trial for manslaughter, was found guilty of that charge and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. The sentence was upheld by the “MRT” Supreme Court in May 2011. F. was, however, discharged from serving it under an amnesty law.

The complaints filed by Somatii with the Moldovan and Russian authorities were unsuccessful.

The Russian authorities did not reply and the Moldovans suspended the proceedings a number of times on the ground that nobody who could be charged had been identified.

Relying in particular on Article 2 (right to life), Somatii complained about her son’s death and the investigation into the circumstances of his death.

No violation of Article 2 by the Republic of Moldova

Violation of Article 2 (investigation) by Russia

Violation of Article 2 (right to life) by Russia

Just satisfaction: The court held that Russia was to pay Somatii EUR 50,000 for non-pecuniary damage and EUR 3,000 for costs and expenses.

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