Case Yevdokimov and Others v. Russia
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Yevdokimov and Others v. Russia - 27236/05
Detainees’ inability to attend hearings in civil proceedings to which they were parties: violation
The applicants complained in particular under Article 6§1 that they had been denied an opportunity to appear in person before the court in the civil proceedings to which they were parties on the ground that there was no domestic legal provisions for bringing detainees to courts. For seven applicants, these proceedings concerned the inhuman conditions of their detention for which they had sought compensation.
The Court recalled that no provision of domestic law should be interpreted and applied in a manner incompatible with the State’s obligation under the Convention. Accordingly, the mere fact that there was no domestic legal provision for bringing detainees to court could not be a justification for failing to give full force to the Convention standards. In using that justification, the domestic courts failed to properly assess the nature of the civil claims brought by the applicant, with a view to deciding whether their presence was necessary. The Court added that “the domestic courts must assess whether the nature of the dispute is such as to require the incarcerated litigant’s appearance before the bench” (§35); and that “if the domestic courts contemplate dispensing with the litigant’s presence, they must provide specific reasons why they believe that [his] absence from the hearing will not be prejudicial for the fairness of the proceedings as a whole” (§36). In the instant cases, the domestic courts did not go beyond a reference to deficiencies in the legal framework. The Court further declared that domestic courts should also consider “appropriate procedural arrangements enabling the applicants to be heard” in particular when the claim “involves his or her personal experience” (§41) – i.e. the use of videolinks or videoconferencing equipment (§43), the organization of a court session outside the courtroom (§44), the taking of evidence on commission (§45).
The Court found that domestic courts failed to properly assess the nature of the civil claims brought by the applicants, and to consider appropriate procedural arrangements enabling the applicant to be heard. The Court concluded that in doing so they had deprived the applicants of the opportunity to present their cases effectively and failed to meet their obligation to ensure respect of the principle of a fair trial – in breach of Article 6§1.