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High Commissioner’s initiative to ban cages from courtrooms

20 June 2019
High Commissioner’s initiative to ban cages from courtrooms

On June 18, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation has supported a legislative initiative to abolish cages in the courtrooms, and this issue is now widely discussed by supporters and opponents of this idea.

However, High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation Tatiana Moskalkova has expressed the need to abolish the practice of using metal cages in courtrooms in March, when she sent a communication to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe with regard to the issues relating to the execution of Svinarenko and Slyadnev v. Russia. The case addressed the issue of the applicants' confinement in metal cage in a courtroom during the proceedings.

The High Commissioner noted in the communication that "the practice of placing defendants in metal cages when they appear before courts within criminal proceedings and when remanded in custody was used as a standard security measure in Soviet Union and its Republics. Some of these countries have abandoned this measure in recent years. Nonetheless, some of the former Soviet states, like Russia, continue to retain that practice to some extent".

According to the document, the federal ombudswoman has received a number of complaints from citizens claiming compensation for moral damage for placing them in metal cages. In these applications, they insisted that their reputation and dignity had been damaged due to degrading treatment in courtrooms. According to these complaints, the confinement in metal cages violated their rights.

In addition, the applicants' arguments were confirmed by the monitoring of the judicial practice as well as the High Commissioner’s regular visits to detention facilities.

"In this regard, metal cages must be removed from all courtrooms to ensure that all defendants are treated properly and with respect; to ensure defendants’ proper behaviors during trials (e.g. to prevent escape or aggressive behavior; protect the defendant against aggression from outside, etc.) alternative measures must be used. Anyway, use of any preventive measure must be justified individually, based on the concrete case and all risks," Tatiana Moskalkova summed up the communication.

The document was included in the case file and used in preparing the case for the meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in June of this year.

The mandate to send the communication to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in response to ECHR decisions is granted to national human rights institutions under Article 46 § 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

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