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‘Transdniestria’ military service deaths sparks parents’ European court complaints

Tomorrow, Strasbourg judges will reveal their decisions in two complaints brought by parents whose sons died during compulsory military service in the “Moldavian Republic of Transdniestria.”

Kolobychko v. the Republic of Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine (no. 36724/10)

The applicant, Ivan Kolobychko, is a Ukrainian national who was born in 1963 and lives in Tiraspol (Transdniestrian region of the Republic of Moldova).

The case concerns the death of the applicant’s son, Evgueni Kolobychko, while he was doing his compulsory military service. The events took place in an area that was under the exclusive control of the authorities of the “Moldavian Republic of Transdniestria” (“MRT”), self-proclaimed as such.

In July 2007 the “MRT” army conscripted Mr Kolobychko’s son into a military unit located in Tiraspol.

Some two months later, Evgueni Kolobychko left the unit of his own accord and went to live with his cousin for one month. According to statements by his parents and cousin, Evgueni Kolobychko had numerous bruises on his body at that time, and he explained to them that soldiers had bullied and ill-treated him.

In October 2007, Evgueni Kolobychko was taken back to the barracks from which he fled again one week later. His decomposing body was found on the bank of the Dniestr in January 2008.

The forensic medical report concluded that he had drowned.

The “MRT” military prosecutor’s office opened a criminal investigation but subsequently suspended it, as nobody who could be charged had been identified.

Kolobychko also filed a complaint for murder with the Moldovan authorities and the office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation. The investigation opened by the Moldovan Prosecutor General was suspended for the same reason as the MRT investigation.

Relying on Articles 2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment) and 13 (right to an effective remedy), Kolobychko complains about the death of his son during his military service and about the investigation into the circumstances of the death.

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 concerns 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 abullet 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 todeflect 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 on Articles 2 (right to life) and 13 (right to an effective remedy), Somatii complains about her son’s death and the investigation into the circumstances of his death.

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