Z. A and Others v Russia: Confinement to airport transit zone amounts to violation of Article 3 and 5 § 1 ECHR

Thursday, November 21, 2019

On 21 November 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (the Court) delivered its judgment on a case concerning the lengthy confinement of four men in the transit zone of the Sheremetyevo airport, Moscow.

The men detained were Iraqi, Palestinian, Somalian and Syrian nationals who had arrived in Russia under different circumstances. Upon their respective arrivals, the applicants were refused entry at the Russian border, their passports were seized and they were subsequently detained in the airport transit zone pending the examination of their asylum applications. The applicants complained under Article 5 § 1 ECHR that they had been detained unlawfully while their applications were processed and that the material conditions of detention were contrary to Article 3 ECHR.

In respect of the lawfulness of detention, the applicants primarily argued that their detention had been ordered in the absence of an official legal decision and was for an unforeseeable length of time. Indeed, the Grand Chamber noted that the Russian authorities failed to acknowledge that they were responsible for the applications, leaving the applicants in a state of “legal limbo”. Moreover, the detention had been impacted by significant delays and inaction, resulting in the length of detention ranging from five months to one year and nine months. The Court observed that the deprivation of liberty in the transit zone was significant: the area was under permanent control and there existed no practical possibility for the men to leave the area of detention. In concluding, the Court held there was no statutory basis justifying detention, resulting in the finding of a violation of Article 5 § 1.

Regarding the complaints under Article 3, the applicants submitted that while detained that they were forced to sleep on a mattress on the floor in a permanently lit room, and had restricted access to health care, legal services, and hygiene facilities. The Court noted that such conditions were clearly unsuitable for long term detention. The Court held that the appalling detention conditions and the failure of authorities to care for the applicants amounted to a violation under Article 3 ECHR.

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the ELENA Weekly Legal Update. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is pusexblished but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE.



Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment