ПОСТАНОВЛЕНИЕ Европейского суда по правам человека от 13.10.2005<ДЕЛО ФЕДОРОВ И ФЕДОРОВА (fedorov and fedorova) ПРОТИВ РОССИИ> [англ.]


EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
FIRST SECTION
CASE OF FEDOROV AND FEDOROVA v. RUSSIA
(Application No. 31008/02)
JUDGMENT <*>
(Strasbourg, 13.X.2005)
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<*> This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Fedorov and Fedorova v. Russia,
The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Mr C.L. Rozakis, President,
Mrs S. Botoucharova,
Mr A. Kovler,
Mrs E. Steiner,
Mr K. Hajiyev,
Mr D. Spielmann,
Mr S.E. Jebens, judges,
and Mr S. Nielsen, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 22 September 2005,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
PROCEDURE
1. The case originated in an application (No. 31008/02) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") by two Russian nationals, Mr Nikolay Fedorovich Fedorov and Mrs Beviya Andreyevna Fedorova ("the applicants"), on 25 July 2002.
2. The Russian Government ("the Government") were represented by Mr Pavel Laptev, Representative of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights.
3. The applicants alleged, in particular, that the criminal proceedings against them had been unreasonably lengthy. They also complained about the obligation imposed on them not to leave their place of residence without permission.
4. The application was allocated to the First Section of the Court (Rule 52 § 1 of the Rules of Court). Within that Section, the Chamber that would consider the case (Article 27 § 1 of the Convention) was constituted as provided in Rule 26 § 1.
5. By a decision of 14 December 2004, the Court declared the application partly admissible.
6. The applicants and the Government each filed observations on the merits (Rule 59 § 1). The Chamber having decided, after consulting the parties, that no hearing on the merits was required (Rule 59 § 3 in fine), the parties replied in writing to each other"s observations.
THE FACTS
I. The circumstances of the case
7. The applicants were born in 1961 and 1962 respectively and live in the village of Kormilovka, Omsk Region.
8. The applicants, a married couple, used to live in Kargasok of the Tomsk Region where they worked as veterinarians. The first applicant held the position of Head Veterinarian of the Kargasok District.
9. On 26 September 1996 criminal proceedings for fraud were instituted against the first applicant and an obligation not to leave the place of his residence without permission was imposed on him as a preventive measure. On 22 October 1996 by an order of the investigator the first applicant was suspended from his employment.
10. In February 1998 criminal proceedings for fraud were instituted against the second applicant and an obligation not to leave the place of her residence without permission was imposed on her as a preventive measure.
11. The criminal proceedings against both applicants were joined on 17 August 1998. The applicants were accused of submitting false reports on business trips in order to obtain cash from the veterinary practice where the first applicant worked unlawfully.
12. On 17 July 2000 the applicants asked for the obligation not to leave their place of residence without permission to be cancelled. It appears that the application was not considered.
13. Over the course of six years the criminal case was several times remitted by the courts for additional investigation: in May 1997 and on 5 February 1998, 21 September 1999, 31 May 2000 and 31 October 2000.
14. In 2001 the applicants" minor son was invited to attend an interview for a place at the Omsk State Agrarian University. The applicants submitted that he did not attend the interview since neither of them was allowed to accompany him in the journey to Omsk. On an unspecified date the acting prosecutor of the Kargasok District provided the second applicant with the following letter:
"[The letter] is given to Ms Bevia Andreyevna Fedorova... in order to confirm that on 10 - 11 July 2001 she was summoned to the Prosecutor"s Office of the Kargasok District, as a result of which she could not leave for Omsk together with her son and be present at... the interview on 12 July.
[The letter] is to be presented to the examination panel of the Institute of Veterinary Medicine at the Omsk State Agrarian University."
The applicants" son, having passed general entry exams, was later admitted to the University.
15. On 13 August 2002 the Parabelskiy District Court of the Tomsk Region acquitted the applicants and cancelled the obligation not to leave their place of residence without permission. On appeal, on 16 December 2002 the Tomsk Regional Court quashed the judgment and remitted the case for a fresh examination by a different composition of judges.
16. On 8 May 2003 the Parabelskiy District Court of the Tomsk Region terminated the criminal proceedings against the applicants for lack of indication that a crime had been committed. The ruling was quashed on appeal on 30 June 2003 by the Tomsk Regional Court, which remitted the case for a fresh examination to the Molchanovskiy District Court of the Tomsk Region.
17. The Molchanovskiy District Court convicted the first applicant of misappropriation of property held in trust and sentenced him to one year"s imprisonment on 31 December 2003. He was not required to serve the sentence on account of the statutory time-bar. The second applicant was fully acquitted. The court also lifted the obligation not to leave the place of residence without permission in respect of both applicants, although it had already been cancelled by the Parabelskiy District Court of the Tomsk Region on 13 August 2002.
18. On appeal, on 15 April 2004 the Tomsk Regional Court reversed the judgment in the part relating to the conviction of the first applicant and remitted the case for a fresh examination. The court decided not to apply any measures of restraint in respect of the applicant.
19. The case was subsequently transmitted to the Sovetskiy District Court of the Tomsk Region. On 28 February 2005 the Sovetskiy District Court of the Tomsk Region convicted the first applicant of misappropriation of property held in trust and sentenced him conditionally to one year"s imprisonment. The court, however, released the applicant from the punishment because of the expiry of the statutory time-limit.
20. On 25 April 2005 the Tomsk Regional Court reversed the judgment on appeal. It held that the first instance court should not have first convicted the applicant of the offence and then released him from the punishment, but should have terminated the criminal proceedings. Accordingly, the appeal court discontinued the criminal proceedings against the applicant on account of expiry of the statutory time-limit.
II. Relevant domestic law and practice
21. The RSFSR Code of Criminal Procedure of 1960 in force until 1 July 2002.
Article 89 (1). Application of measures of restraint
"When there are sufficient grounds for believing that an accused person may evade an inquiry, preliminary investigation or trial or will obstruct the establishment of the truth in a criminal case or will engage in criminal activity, or in order to secure the execution of a sentence, the inquirer, investigator, prosecutor or court may apply one of the following measures of restraint in respect of the accused: a written undertaking not to leave a specified place, a personal guarantee or a guarantee by a public organisation, or taking into custody. [...]"
Article 90. Application of a preventive measure to a suspect
"In exceptional instances, a preventive measure may be applied to a suspect who has not been charged. In such a case, charges must be brought against the suspect within ten days after a preventive measure is applied. If no charges are brought within the period specified, the preventive measure shall be cancelled."
Article 91. Circumstances to be considered in applying a preventive measure
"When the need for application of a preventive measure is being considered and the type of measure chosen... the circumstances to be taken into account shall include... the gravity of the charges brought and the personality of the suspect or the accused, occupation, age, health, family status and other circumstances."
Article 92. Order or decision to apply a preventive measure
"A preventive measure shall be applied under an order made by an inquirer, an investigator, or a prosecutor, or a reasoned decision given by a court, which shall specify the offence of which the person is suspected or accused and the grounds for application of the preventive measure. The person concerned shall be informed of the order or decision and at the same time the person shall be provided with explanations concerning the procedure for appealing against the preventive measure applied.
A copy of the order or the decision on the application of the preventive measure shall be immediately handed to the person concerned."
Article 93. Written undertaking not to leave a specified place
"A written undertaking not to leave a specified place consists in obtaining from the suspect or the accused an obligation not to leave the place of residence or of temporary stay without the permission of a person conducting an inquiry, an investigator, a prosecutor, or a court. In the event of breach by the suspect or the accused of the written undertaking given by him, a stricter preventive measure may be applied about which he should be informed when the obligation is withdrawn."
22. The RF Code of Criminal Procedure of 2001 in force from 1 July 2002.
Article 102. Written undertaking not to leave a specified place and to discharge particular obligations
"A written undertaking not to leave a specified place consists in obtaining from the suspect or the accused an obligation:
(1) not to leave the place of residence or of temporary stay without the permission of a person conducting an inquiry, an investigator, a prosecutor or a court;
(2) to appear before a person conducting an inquiry, an investigator, a prosecutor or a court at appointed terms;
(3) not to impede the criminal proceedings in any other way."
THE LAW
I. Alleged violation of Article 6 of the Convention
23. 1. The applicants complained that the criminal proceedings against them had been unreasonably lengthy. They relied on Articles 6 and 13 of the Convention. In the decision on admissibility of 14 December 2004 the Court decided to examine the complaint under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, which reads, in so far as relevant, as follows:
"In the determination of... any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair... hearing within a reasonable time by [a]... tribunal..."
24. The period to be taken into consideration in respect of the first applicant began on 26 September 1996, when the criminal proceedings against him were instituted, and ended on 25 April 2005, when the proceedings were discontinued by the Tomsk Regional Court. They lasted 8 years, 6 months and 29 days. The Court notes that after 5 May 1998, when the Convention entered into force in respect of the Russian Federation, the proceedings lasted for 6 years, 11 months and 20 days. The Court observes, however, that it may take into account the period preceding the entry into force of the Convention (see Ventura v. Italy, No. 7438/76, Commission decision of 9 March 1978, Decisions and Reports (DR) 12, p. 38).
25. The criminal proceedings against the second applicant were instituted in February 1998 and discontinued on 15 April 2004 with a final decision of the Tomsk Regional Court to acquit her. The proceedings lasted for approximately 6 years and 2 months. Out of this period, 5 years, 11 months and 10 days fall within the Court"s competence ratione temporis.
A. Arguments of the parties
1. The Government
26. In their observations submitted prior to the decision on admissibility of 14 December 2004 the Government stated that they were not in a position to comment on this complaint because the proceedings against the first applicant were still pending. The Government made no new submissions on the merits of the complaint.
2. The applicants
27. The applicants contended that the length of the criminal proceedings against them was in breach of the "reasonable time" requirement enshrined in Article 6 § 1.
B. The Court"s assessment
28. The Court recalls that the reasonableness of the length of proceedings must be assessed in the light of the circumstances of the case and with reference to the criteria established by its case-law, particularly the complexity of the case and the conduct of the applicant and of the relevant authorities (see, among many other authorities, {Kudla} <*> v. Poland [GC], No. 30210/96, § 124, ECHR 2000-XI).
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<*> Здесь и далее по тексту слова на национальном языке набраны латинским шрифтом и выделены фигурными скобками.
29. The Court considers that the present case, which concerned the alleged forgery of expense accounts, was not particularly complex. It further observes that nothing in the facts of the case suggests that the applicants" conduct contributed to delays in the proceedings.
30. The Court has frequently found violations of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention in cases raising similar issues to the one in the present application (see, for example, the judgments in {Pelissier} and Sassi v. France [GC], No. 25444/94, § 67, ECHR 1999-II, and {Sahiner} v. Turkey, No. 29279/95, ECHR 2001-IX).
31. Having examined all the material submitted to it, the Court considers that the Government have not put forward any fact or argument capable of persuading it to reach a different conclusion in the present case. Having regard to its case-law on the subject, the Court considers that in the instant case the length of the proceedings was excessive and failed to meet the "reasonable time" requirement. There has accordingly been a breach of Article 6 § 1.
II. Alleged violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 4
32. The applicants complained under Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 about having been subjected to an obligation not to leave their place of residence without permission. They argued that this constituted a disproportionate limitation of their freedom

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