On 21 November 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (the Court) delivered its judgment on Z. A and Others v Russia, a case concerning the confinement of four men in the transit zone of the Sheremetyevo airport, Moscow. The court found the confinement a violation of Article 3 and 5 (1) ECHR.
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 while their asylum applications were assessed. The applicants complained they had been detained unlawfully and that the material conditions were degrading and humiliating.
The Court noted that the Russian authorities failed to acknowledge that they were responsible for the applications, leaving the applicants in a state of “legal limbo”. The detention had been prolonged by significant delays lasting between five months and one year and nine months because of the inaction of the Russian authorities. The Court observed that the deprivation of liberty in the transit zone was significant: the restricted liberty was involuntary; 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 that the detention was unlawful and violated the Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
While detained, the applicants were forced to sleep on a mattress on the floor in a permanently lit room with restricted access to health care, legal services and other facilities. The Court noted that such “appalling material conditions” violated Article 3 ECHR and were unsuitable for long term detention.
Photo: (CC) Lux Tonnerre, August 2015