ECHR upholds complaint about online abuse
Experts believe that a positive decision by the ECHR will send another message to Russian authorities on the need to amend domestic violence legislation as a matter of urgency.
The ECHR has for the first time upheld a complaint on the inability of law enforcement agencies to protect a victim from years of online abuse, reports Kommersant.
Valeriya Volodina, a Ulyanovsk resident, had received threats on social media from her ex-husband, an Azerbaijani citizen, Rashad Salaev, on social networks for a number of years. He continually stalked her and circulated intimate photographs and videos of her on the internet.
In her complaint to the ECHR, Valeriya stated that neither the police nor the Investigative Committee took her situation seriously which forced her to leave Russia and change her name for safety reasons. Her whereabouts were not disclosed in the submission.
“The ECHR invites the Russian Government to answer the question as to whether the authorities have carried out its assigned responsibilities to protect Valeriya from online abuse, including measures taken to prevent the further distribution of intimate photographs of her on the internet and undertaking the necessary investigations. The new digital age creates new forms of abuse which States are obliged to deal with properly and in a timely manner”, wrote Olga Gnezdilova, a lawyer working for the Justice Initiative project and whose colleague, Tatyana Savvina, is acting on behalf of Valeriya.
The first complaint
Volodina called the police repeatedly in 2015 to report constant beatings administered to her by Salaev. The police refused to initiate criminal proceedings against him so Volodina complained to the ECHR about the Russian law enforcement agencies’ inaction.
In July this year, the ECHR ruled that the Russian authorities were guilty of violating Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment and awarded Volodina €20,000 compensation and €5,875 in legal costs. An ECHR judge from the Russian Federation, Dmitry Dedov, believed that Volodina had actually been a victim of human torture, saying that the amount of compensation should have been higher.
Gnezdilova wrote “In 2018 following Volodina’s initial complaint to the ECHR, the Investigation Committee launched criminal proceedings under Article 137 of the Federation’s Criminal Code on violation of privacy in relation to an unidentified person. We all know how quick and easy it is for the authorities to find people who post extremist content online, but less so those who circulate intimate material”.
The second complaint and message to the Russian authorities
Volodina has filed a second complaint relating to psychological abuse perpetrated by Salaev who has been tracking her on the internet. She told Kommersant that in 2016 Salaev created a social network in her name, added relatives and girlfriends to it, then began circulating intimate photos and videos of her on the account.
“He continued to create new accounts posting photographs of me, as well as making threats via SMS and Messenger. I contacted social media technical support but as soon as one account was closed down, Salaev opened another”, reports Kommersant.
Volodina’s second complaint has been discussed by the ECHR in the three months since it was filed. This has been very quick, Tatyana Savvina told Kommersant. If the Court finds in favour of Volodina, it should send a message to the Russian authorities that current legislation to protect women has to be amended.
“There has to be a separate law on domestic violence which should be recognised as a criminal offence. Public rather than private charges should be brought so that initiating a criminal action does not rely solely on the initiative of a battered woman. In addition, protection orders for victims should be introduced in Russia and applied in cases of online abuse”, Savvina told Kommersant.