- Press Release No. 39/1473
On May 10, the European Court of Human Rights passed a resolution on a complaint issued by the Mother's Right Foundation on behalf of the mother of a dead serviceman from the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area, Svetlana Valerievna Putintseva. Her son, Valery Putintsev (b. 1982), was called up to military service on June 8, 2001, and served in M.U. 39982, Uzhursky Garrison. In the army Valery experienced bullying and extortion. On February 9, 2002 he left the military unit without permission. In two days he was detained twenty kilometers away from the unit and sentenced to 10 days in a disciplinary cell in punishment for absence without leave. On February 15, 2002 while escorting Valery Putintsev from the military hospital back to the detention unit junior sergeant of M.U. 12440, S.V. Lugovoy, fired at the soldier and wounded him. On 27 February 2002, Valery died from the gunshot wound in hospital, Krasnoyarsk City. To read the story about the service and death of Valery Putintsev, see our press releases: No. 02/547 of January 13, 2003; No. 63/608 of August 27, 2003.
The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 3 September
2004. We complained that Russia had violated Valery Putintsev's right to life, provided by Article 2 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and demanded that the Russian federation should pay the mother of the deceased 45,000 euros (EUR) as just compensation for violation of her rights. Article 2 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms reads as follows, "Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law." Article 221 of the Statute of Garrison and Sentry Service reads as follows, "A sentinel has a duty to warn a fugitive escaping from a disciplinary cell by the words ‘Halt or I'll shoot'. He can use a firearm only if the latter does not obey the order." The Court found that such a legal framework was fundamentally deficient and fell short of the level of protection "by law" of the right to life required by the Convention. There was therefore a general failure by Russia to comply with its obligation under Article 2 to secure the right to life by putting in place an appropriate legal framework on the use of force and firearms by military sentries. Apart from requiring a general warning that a firearm would be used, the Statute did not contain any other safeguards to prevent the arbitrary deprivation of life, i.e. it's not clear whether the use of a gun against Putintsev was lawful.
The European Court observed that the junior sergeant had to have been aware of the fact that Mr. Putintsev had been unarmed and did not represent a danger to the convoy or third parties. Furthermore, there were other means available to prevent Mr. Putintsev's escape. Mr. Putintsev's superiors knew that he had psychological problems and had already left the unit without authorization and was prone to repeat his attempt. If they had taken into account all the circumstances, they would not have failed to minimise recourse to lethal force.
The European Court held that Russia was to pay the applicant 45,000 euros (over 1,755,000 rubles) in respect of non-pecuniary damage.
The case of Mrs. Putintseva is unique because it's the first case in which the European Court concluded that the Russian federation was guilty in the death of a conscript in the army.
Several more applications filed by the Mother's Right Foundation are in progress.