View Adopted: 2021.10.20
The author is Evgeny Pirogov, a citizen of the Russian Federation. He claims that the State party violated his rights under articles 9 (1) and (5), 14 (1), (3) (d) and (e) and 15 (1) of the Covenant. The author alleges that he is a human rights defender and frequently organizes protests and demonstrations to criticize the actions of the Government, for which he has been prosecuted and physically attacked in the past. In 2015, an investigation was opened against the author for inciting hatred based on race, ethnicity or origin after he was accused of posting 12 pictures on a social media site with antisemitic comments and comments directed against ethnic groups from Central Asia and the Caucasus. After the Yoshkar-Ola City Court considered that the author violated the requirements of proper conduct while under investigation, it ordered his detention, and he was placed in a pretrial detention facility. After the author appealed the decision, in 2016 the Supreme Court of Mari-El Republic quashed the trial court’s ruling and ordered the author’s release. In 2016, the author was sentenced to two years of imprisonment and the Supreme Court upheld the author’s sentence.
The author claims that his pretrial detention was arbitrary since the Yoshkar-Ola City Court did not have the legal grounds to order it, and so violated his rights under article 9 (1) and (5). He states that, even though the ruling of Yoshkar-Ola City Court was later quashed, he continues to be a victim of this violation because the 13 days that he spent in detention were included in his final sentence. He also claims that by having him pay the costs of his two court-appointed lawyers and the forensic linguistic examination, despite his indigent status, the State party violated his rights under article 14 (3) (d). Moreover, he claims that the court proceedings against him were not conducted by an impartial tribunal, in violation of article 14 (1), and that the court violated his rights under article 14 (3) (e) because it did not allow the defense to call and cross-examine the experts who had carried out the forensic examinations. Lastly, the author claims that by charging him under a provision that was introduced after he posted the pictures and comments on the Internet, the State party violated his rights under article 15 (1).
In the absence of any other information or explanation of pertinence on file, the Committee considers that the author has not exhausted all available domestic remedies concerning his claims under article 9 (1) and (5) of the Covenant, that the author has failed to sufficiently substantiate, for the purposes of admissibility, how the trial court’s decision to hold him in contempt of the court violates his rights under article 14 (1). With regard to the author’s claim under article 14 (3) (d) and article 15 (1) of the Covenant, the Committee considers that this claim by the author has been insufficiently substantiated and considers it inadmissible. In the Committee’s view, however, the author has sufficiently substantiated, for the purposes of admissibility, his claims of the violation of his rights under article 14 (3) (e) of the Covenant. The Committee therefore declares them admissible and proceeds with its consideration of the merits.
The Committee found a violation by the State party of the author’s rights under article 14 (3) (e) of the Covenant. It notes that the Yoshkar-Ola City Court’s refusal to order expert testimony constitutes a violation of article 14 (3) (e) since the author was not able to fully exercise his right to call, obtain the attendance of and examine witnesses under the same conditions as the prosecutor, the results of which were the prosecution’s main evidence against him. In this regard, the purpose of the experts in the procedure may be assimilable by analogy to that of the witnesses expressly mentioned in article 14 (3) (e) in the sense that may both be required to testify to provide relevant information on the facts.
The State party is under an obligation to provide the author with an effective remedy. That requires it to make full reparation to individuals whose Covenant rights have been violated. In the present case, the State party is under an obligation, inter alia, to provide adequate compensation to the author for the violations suffered. The State party is also under an obligation to take all steps necessary to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future.
Committee member Gentian Zyberi does not agree with the finding of the Committee which concluded that there was a violation of article 14 (3) (e) of the Covenant. He states that the author did not demonstrate why the court’s refusal to call the experts to testify during the court hearing amounted to a manifest error or denial of justice. He did not provide a plausible explanation to the Committee as to why these experts were incompetent, or why their expert reports were incorrect or invalid. The Committee should have given due consideration to the assessment by the domestic authorities and found that the complaint was not substantiated.
20 March 2022