European Court of Human Rights: Ukraine and Netherlands cases against Russia are partly admissible News
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European Court of Human Rights: Ukraine and Netherlands cases against Russia are partly admissible

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Wednesday ruled that applications made by Ukraine and the Netherlands against Russia alleging multiple violations of the European Convention on Human Rights(ECHR) are partly admissible. The three applications pertain to the ongoing conflict in the Donbas region of Ukraine and the downing of Flight MH17. Two complaints were brought by Ukraine and one was brought by the Netherlands.

The court declared that all complaints in Ukraine v. Russia (I) and the application brought by the Netherlands are admissible in full. However, the court unanimously ruled that the complaints in Ukraine v. Russia (II) are only partially admissible because the Ukrainian government has not fully exhausted the domestic legal remedies at its disposal in some instances.

Ukraine brought its first case against Russia in 2014, in the aftermath of the invasion of Crimea and the emergence of pro-Russian separatist movements in Donbas. It alleges that Russia is responsible for unlawful military attacks against civilians; the shooting down of flight MH17;  and the summary execution, beating, and torture of civilians and Ukrainian soldiers.

Ukraine alleged that Russia violated ECHR Articles 2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment), 4 (prohibition of forced labor), 5 (right to liberty and security), 9 (freedom of thought, conscience, and religion), 10 (freedom of expression), 11 (freedom of assembly and association) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination). Ukraine also said that Russia violated Articles 1 (protection of property), 2 (right to education), and 3 (right to free elections) of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. The court previously ruled that the complaint was admissible in 2021. Further, it called upon Ukraine and Russia to refrain from military action as an interim measure.

Ukraine brought its second case in June 2014. Ukraine alleged three groups of children, who were mostly orphans and children placed in foster care, had been forcibly transferred to Russia against their will and without proper paperwork, in violation of Articles 3, 5, and 8 (right to respect for private life) of the Convention and Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 (freedom of movement).

The Netherlands also brought a case concerning the downing of flight MH17. The Malaysia Airlines flight was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in July 2014 when it was struck by a missile, allegedly fired by pro-Russian separatists, while flying over Ukraine. All 298 people on board perished, including 193 Dutch citizens. The Dutch government accused the Russians of not conducting an effective investigation, seeking redress under articles 2, 3 and 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the ECHR.

In Thursday’s ruling, the court observed that Russia had “effective control” over the Donbas region on account of its military presence and military, political and economic support to the separatists. It found that the separatists were “managed and coordinated” by the Russian government. Therefore, the court reasoned that Russia had jurisdiction over the disputed area and could be a party in the case. 

The Council of Europe previously voted to suspend Russia in March 2022 following the invasion of Ukraine. But under Article 58 of the ECHR, a State that is no longer a member of the council is “not released from the obligations contained in the Convention in respect of any act performed by that State before the date on which it is no longer a Party to the Convention.”

The current decision only pertains to the admissibility of the applications. The court will convene next to decide if Russia has violated the articles of the ECHR mentioned in the applications. There are four other inter-state applications and 8,500 individual applications concerning the Russo-Ukrainian conflict pending in the court.