Published: 4 Oct 2007

Goncharuk v Russia

Case Summary

Case No. 58643/00
Judgment date: 4 October 2007 

Facts

On 19 January 2000 Ms Goncharuk was in Staropromyslovskiy and was caught up in heavy shelling by the Russian forces. She was injured and hid with others in a cellar. She claimed that soldiers threw tear gas into the cellar, ordered everyone to come out and shot them. Five people died. The applicant, the only survivor, was wounded in the chest and lost consciousness. She left the area that night and was taken to a hospital in Ingushetia with gunshot and shrapnel wounds to the knee joints and chest, suffering concussion and neurotic asthenia. She had to undergo an operation on her wounds. Ms Goncharuk claimed that she, her family and friends were subjected to intimidation and that she was afraid to contact the authorities to lodge an official complaint. On 26 April 2005 – after Ms Goncharuk’s case before the European Court of Human Rights was communicated to the Russian Government – a criminal investigation was opened into her case, confirming that she had been shot and injured.

At the time of judgment the investigation was still pending. Those responsible had not been identified.

Judgment

The Court held that the Russian Federation breached Article 2 by virtue of the inadequacy of its investigation into the life-threatening attack on the applicant. Despite knowledge of the attack, the authorities failed to commence a criminal investigation for several years. Following its opening in 2004, the investigation was inadequate as it failed to attempt to establish a comprehensive picture of the events.

The Court found a further breach of Article 2 in respect of the nature of the attack on the applicant. It was held that the attack was within the scope of Article 2 in using lethal force which put the applicant’s life at risk. It was not disputed that the attack was carried out by Russian servicemen operating in the Staropromyslovskiy district and was thus attributable to the Russian Federation.

Finally, the Court found a violation of Article 13 in respect of the failure of the Russian Federation to provide an effective remedy in respect of the violations of Article 2. The absence of a thorough and effective investigation denied the applicant the opportunity to seek identification and punishment of those responsible, placing the Russian Federation in breach of Article 13.

The applicant was awarded EUR 50,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damages.