Khamidov v. Russia
The ECHR case of Khamidov v. Russia (application no. 72118/01).
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Press release issued by the Registrar
KHAMIDOV v. RUSSIA
The Court held unanimously that there had been:
· two violations of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and two violations of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the temporary occupation of and damage caused to the applicant’s estate by Russian police units;
· four violations of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing) of the Convention concerning: access to a court between October 1999 and January 2001; non-enforcement of a judgment of 14 February 2001 in the applicant’s favour; and access to a court and right to a fair hearing in proceedings of 2002.
Under Article 41 (just satisfaction), the Court awarded Mr Khamidov 157,000 euros (EUR) in respect of pecuniary damage, EUR 15,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 3,385 for costs and expenses. (The judgment is available only in English.)
1. Principal facts
The applicant, Khanbatay Abulkhanovich Khamidov, is a Russian national who was born in 1954 and lives in the village of Bratskoye (Chechnya).
Mr Khamidov and his brother, Dzhabrail Abulkhanovich Khamidov, own land in Bratskoye on which they each have a house and on which their family business (a bakery) is located, including industrial buildings, a mill and storage facilities.
In early October 1999 the Russian Government launched a counter-terrorist operation in the Chechen Republic and, fearing possible attacks, the applicant and his relatives left the village. On 13 October 1999 police units from Tambov moved onto the applicant’s property.
The applicant and his family spent the winter of 1999 to 2000 in tents in a refugee camp in Znamenskoye (Chechnya), where living conditions were very poor. The applicant’s 19-month-old nephew died of pneumonia while at that camp.
At the relevant time, the Chechen courts were inoperative so the applicant could not bring legal proceedings. From November 1999 to December 2000 he did, however, lodge numerous complaints with State bodies, including the military, prosecutors and other law-enforcement agencies, and administrative authorities, in which he sought eviction of the police units. He mainly received replies to inform him that his complaints had been forwarded on to other bodies. No effective measures were taken.
On 25 May 2000 a military commander of the Nadterechny District, at the applicant’s request, ordered the police units to ensure that no damage would be caused to the applicant’s property.
In January 2001, when the courts in Chechnya became operational again, the applicant brought proceedings in which he sought eviction of the police units. The Nadterechny District Court of Chechnya found in his favour in a judgment of 14 February 2001. That judgment came into force on 24 February 2001. Attempts to enforce that judgment were unsuccessful: when the Tula police units moved out, other police units from Kaluga moved in and the applicant was prevented from entering his property by trenches, check-points and barbed wire. The police units finally vacated the applicant’s property on 14 June 2002.
In the meantime, the applicant brought proceedings against the Russian Ministry of the Interior, complaining that police units refused to comply with the judgment of 14 February 2001. He further sought compensation for the damage caused to his property and for non-pecuniary damage in respect of the appalling conditions in which he and his family had had to live in the refugee camp. In support of his claims he submitted evidence including documents which certified his title to the estate and the value of its industrial equipment, a copy of the judgment of 14 February 2001, copies from various public bodies acknowledging the occupation, evaluation reports confirming the damage to his property, bailiffs’ reports and estimates for the repair work needed.
On 23 January 2002 Zamoskvoretskiy District Court of Moscow rejected the applicant’s claims for compensation as groundless. It found, in particular, that the applicant had failed to provide sufficient proof that the damage to his property had been the fault of the Ministry of the Interior. The applicant’s subsequent appeal and requests for supervisory review were also dismissed.
2. Procedure and composition of the Court
The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 28 June 2001 and declared partly admissible on 23 October 2006.
Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows:
Peer Lorenzen (Danish), President,
Karel Jungwiert (Czech),
Volodymyr Butkevych (Ukrainian),
Margarita Tsatsa-Nikolovska (citizen of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”),
Anatoli Kovler (Russian),
Javier Borrego Borrego (Spanish),
Renate Jaeger (German), judges,
and also Claudia Westerdiek, Section Registrar.
Mr Khamidov complained, in particular, that his family’s estate was occupied and damaged by federal police and that he was unable to obtain compensation. He further complained about his inability to bring the eviction claim before a court for a prolonged period of time, the delayed enforcement of the judgment in his favour, the unfairness of the proceedings for compensation and the absence of effective remedies. He relied on Articles 6, 8 and 13, and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
Decision of the Court
Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1
The Court found that the applicant’s house and that of his brother should be considered as his home.
The applicant had provided the Court with extensive evidence (certificates and reports) to prove that his estate had been damaged by police units whereas the Government had only submitted certain unofficial written statements by police officers and a Bratskoye local councillor. The Court therefore found that it had sufficient grounds to consider it established that the applicant’s estate had been damaged by police units and that there had therefore been an interference with the applicant’s right to respect for his home and peaceful enjoyment of his possessions.
The Court found that that interference had been unlawful.
Concerning the period between 13 October 1999 and 23 February 2001, the Government had not submitted any document which had specifically authorised the police units’ temporary occupation of the applicant’s estate. The Court considered that sections 13 and 21 of the Law on Suppression of Terrorism, relied on by the Government, had not been a sufficient legal basis for such a drastic interference as occupation for a prolonged period of time of an individual’s housing and property.
In the period between 24 February 2001 and 14 June 2002, the interference was manifestly in breach of Russian law, given the judgment of 14 February 2001.
The Court further considered that the damage caused to the applicant’s estate had had no basis in domestic law: the Government had not submitted any decision, order or instruction which had authorised the police units to cause any such damage. Indeed, on 25 May 2000 a military commander had issued an order to preserve the applicant’s property.
Accordingly, the Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 as a result of the temporary occupation of the applicant’s estate by police units of the Russian Ministry of the Interior, and a further violation of the same articles as a result of the damage caused to his estate.
Article 6 § 1
The Court noted that it was clear under domestic law, notably Article 119 of the Code of Civil Procedure, that the applicant had only been allowed to file his eviction claim in the place where his estate was located, i.e. Chechnya. Furthermore, the Russian authorities had not made any effort to authorise the applicant to file a claim in another region of Russia. The applicant had therefore effectively been deprived, between October 1999 and January 2001 when the Chechen courts had been out of operation, of an opportunity to seek eviction of the police units. The Court therefore found that that had clearly constituted a limitation on the applicant’s right of access to a court and held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1.
The Court held unanimously that there had been another violation of Article 6 § 1 on account of the non-enforcement for over 15 months of the judgment of 14 February 2001 in the applicant’s favour.
The Court also held unanimously that there had been a further two violations of Article 6 § 1 concerning the proceedings in 2002. Firstly, the domestic courts had only considered the applicant’s compensation claim in respect of damage to his property and had failed to examine his claims in respect of compensation for occupation of his property and for non-pecuniary damage. The courts had referred to the claims as “groundless” but had given no explanation as to how they had come to that conclusion. The applicant had therefore been denied access to a court. Secondly, in those same proceedings, the courts had considered that it had not been proven that the applicant’s estate had been occupied by police units, despite abundant evidence to the contrary and the findings in the judgment of 14 February 2001. In the Court’s view, the unreasonableness of that conclusion was so striking that the decisions of the domestic courts in 2002 could only be described as grossly arbitrary. The applicant had therefore been denied a fair hearing concerning his claim for compensation in respect of damage caused to his estate.
The Court observed that the applicant’s complaints under Article 13 were essentially the same as those under Article 6 § 1. Therefore, the Court did not consider it necessary to examine the complaints under Article 13.