This article scrutinizes judgments of the European Court of Human Rights related to the issues of torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment applied by Russian law enforcement authorities to detainees. As established, such forms of treatment run counter to Article 3 of the 1950 Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and have a pre-disposition to encroach upon the core human rights values recognized in all democratic societies. Out of all ECtHR cases upon the subject, this article focuses on those of Barakhoev v. Russia, Maslova v. Russia, and Shmeleva v. Russia, adopted by the Court in 2017. Specifically, the Court has invoked the autonomous concept of torture and other forms of cruel treatment commensurate with the normative definition stipulated in the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane, or Degrading Treatment of Punishment (the “official capacity” clause as excluded), with the minimum threshold of severity rule and intensity criterion, which the Court elaborated in its case-law covered by this concept. The stable construction of the autonomous concept is corroborated by reference to the previous similar case-law, namely Mikheyev v. Russia and Kopylov v. Russia, with the congruence of corporum delicti, as well as animi nocendi, of the latter cases with those of 2017 being revealed. The approach of the Russian senior courts in regard to the concept of torture and other forms of cruel treatment is examined. It is argued, with reference to the explicit position of the Supreme Court of Russia, that the prohibition of torture has become part of customary international law and does not allow for margin of appreciation. This assumption is predicated upon the principle of non-derogation from international obligations springing from Article 3 that constitutes a customary norm, as is envisaged in the relevant ECtHR case-law. Hence, the judicial mechanism provided for in the Russian legislation, which authorizes the Russian Constitutional Court to hold the Court’s judgments unconstitutional and thus as not having legal force on the territory of the Russian Federation, can hardly be applied to cases where the ECtHR concludes that there has been a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention.
About the author
Ruslan Kantur – LL.M., Legal Advisor of the Department for New Challenges and Threats of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Moscow, Russia.
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