Court rules Russian rights activist held illegally

21st June 2011, Comments 0 comments

A top rights court condemned Russia on Tuesday over its treatment of a human rights activist arrested and detained on his way to a rally.

The personal details of Sergei Shimovolos were held on a database by the Interior Department of Transport, meaning the authorities were automatically notified everytime he bought a train or plane ticket, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said.

Shimovolos, head of the Nizhny Novgorod human rights union, was arrested in May 2007 as he got off a train in Samara where he was headed for a protest march related to an EU-Russia summit.

Police threatened him with force if he did not follow them to the station where they questioned him for 45 minutes about the purpose of his trip.

The ECHR said in its judgement: "The police had not suspected Mr Shivolos of having committed an offence.

"Instead, he had been arrested, according to the government submissions, in order to prevent him from commiting offences of an extremist nature.

"It appeared that he had been stopped, questioned and escorted to the police station in Samara because his name had been registered in the surveillance database.

"The only reason for that registration had been his involvement as a human rights activist."

The court ruled that Russian authorities had breached European law by detaining Shimovolos and interfering with his private life.

It said in its published judgement: "The court recalled that the Convention ... did not allow detention, as a general policy of prevention, of people who were perceived by the authorities, rightly or wrongly, to be dangerous or likely to offend.

"The Government's explanation that Mr Shimvolos could commit 'offences of an extremist nature' was not specific enough to be acceptable under the Convention."

The court also noted that "by collecting and storing data about the movements of Mr Shimvolos by train or air, the Russian authorities had interfered with his private life."

"The database in which Mr Shimvolos' name had been registered had been created on the basis of a ministerial order which had not been published and was not accessible to the public.

"As a result, the scope and manner of collecting and using the data in the surveillance database had been neither clear, nor foreseeable, contrary to the requirements of the Convention and in violation of Article 8."

© 2011 AFP

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