Human rights judges have made an award of more than €25,000 to a Russian woman who was subject to violent attacks by her former partner.
Today’s award follows a ruling against Russia which declared that the authorities’ response to the serious domestic abuse of the woman was “manifestly inadequate.”
In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Volodina v. Russia (application no. 41261/17) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and
a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken in conjunction with Article 3 of the European Convention.
As Just satisfaction (Article 41), the court held, by five votes to two, that Russia had to pay the applicant 20,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 5,875.69 in respect of costs and expenses.
The case concerned the applicant’s complaint that the Russian authorities had failed to protect her from repeated domestic violence, including assaults, kidnapping, stalking and threats.
She also alleged that the current legal regime in Russia was inadequate for dealing with such violence and discriminatory against women.
The court found that the applicant had been both physically and psychologically ill-treated by her former partner and that the authorities had failed to comply with their obligations under the convention to protect her from his abuse.
It noted in particular that domestic violence was not recognised in Russian law and that there was no such thing as restraining or protection orders. Those failings clearly demonstrated that the authorities were reluctant to acknowledge the gravity of the problem of domestic violence in Russia and its discriminatory effect on women.
The applicant, previously known as Valeriya Igorevna Volodina, is a Russian national who was born in 1985 and lives in Ulyanovsk (Russia). She changed her name in 2018, and her new name is not disclosed for security reasons.
Volodina started a relationship with S. in 2014 and they lived together in Ulyanovsk. When she moved out in May 2015, he became abusive and threatened to kill her if she refused to go back to live with him.
Between January 2016 and March 2018, she reported seven episodes of serious violence or threats of violence by her former partner, making emergency calls to the police or lodging formal criminal complaints. Each time she went to the police or the hospital, injuries including bruising and abrasions were recorded.
In particular, in the first half of 2016 she reported repeated physical attacks, kidnapping and assault, and then in March 2018 a series of stalking incidents and death threats. One of the assaults, involving S. punching her in the face and stomach when she was pregnant, resulted in her having to undergo an abortion. Other incidents included S. cutting the brake hose of her car and stealing her bag with her identity papers and two mobile telephones.
She made repeated attempts to move away, seeking refuge in Moscow. Although she had not left S. with her new address, in January 2016 he tracked her down via her CV which she had published on job-hunting websites, set up a false interview and took her back to Ulyanovsk against her will.
On another occasion, in September 2016, she found a GPS tracker in the lining of her bag. He subsequently started stalking her outside her house, and attempted to kidnap her again by dragging her out of a taxi.
No criminal investigation was ever opened into the use or threat of violence against her. A series of pre-investigation enquiries were carried out, and the police interviewed S.
However, they refused to institute criminal proceedings because no publicly prosecutable offence had been committed. S. was told to repair any damage he had caused and to return Volodina’s personal effects.
In March 2018, the police began a criminal investigation into interference with Volodina’s private life after S. shared photographs of her on a social network without her consent. The proceedings allowed the applicant to apply for State protection measures but she has not received any formal decision on her request.
The regional police considered that State intervention was not necessary as the domestic violence was due to “ill feelings” between the applicant and S.