Unfair interventions in schools violated the basic rights of students, parents and teachers in education, privacy and personal freedom.
Iovcev and others v. the Republic of Moldova and Russia 17.09.2019 (no. 40942/14)
Teacher intimidation and illegal investigations of students by the “MRT”, directed by the Russian Federation.
The applicants are five students, three parents and 10 members of the Romanian / Moldavan language school in Moldova. The “MRT”, which is in economic and militarily support by Russia, in command of the Russian Federation, financed these schools with constant freezing of bank accounts and carried out unjustified student searches and illegal arrests.
The Court held that the measures taken by the “MRT” concerned the language policy of pupils by attending the school, was intended to enforce the “Russianization” of the language and culture and concluded that the interference with the rights of the pupils and parents guaranteed by Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 does not pursue any legitimate aim and that there has therefore been a breach of that provision by the Russian Federation.
The Court held that the intimidation measures imposed by the “MRT” authorities had a significant impact on privacy, so there was interference with the right of privacy under Article 8 by the Russian Federation.
The Court notice that the examination of the three applicants and the deprivation of their property was not based on any legal basis or reflected a convention compliant judicial tradition and therefore held that there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention in respect of these three applicants and violation of Article 8 due to the deprivation of their property by the Russian Federation.
Finally, the Court held that the Republic of Moldova had not failed in respect of these complaints in fulfilling its positive obligations. It therefore did not find any violation by the Republic of Moldova.
Article 2 of the First Additional Protocol
Article 5 par. 1,
The applicants are 18 Moldovan nationals: 5 pupils, 3 parents of pupils and 10 members of staff from
Romanian/Moldovan-speaking schools in an area under the control of the authorities of the selfproclaimed “Moldavian Republic of Transdniestria” (the “MRT”). The schools in question used the Latin script and followed a curriculum approved by the Moldovan Ministry of Education with which they were registered. Article 12 of the “MRT” Constitution provides that the official languages within the MRT are Moldovan, Russian and Ukrainian. Article 6 of the “MRT Law on languages” states that Moldovan must be written with the Cyrillic alphabet and that the use of the Latin alphabet may amount to an offence.
The applicants alleged that they had been subjected to pressure by the “MRT” authorities as part of
a campaign of harassment and intimidation against the schools in 2013-2014. They complained in
particular about tax and health inspections; the levying of duties; rent increases; the freezing of bank
accounts preventing them from pay teachers’ wages; stoppages in the electricity and gas supply;
arrests and customs searches of staff members from the schools when they tried to bring in cash in
order to pay wages and the seizure of some of their property. Two pupils said that they had been
subjected to searches and identity checks, of between 10 minutes and two hours every day, because
they went by bus to a school that had been moved to an area under the control of the Republic of
Moldova after the school premises had been taken over by the “MRT” police.
THE DECISION OF THE COURT…
Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education) – Five pupils and three parents of pupils had
complained that they had been harassed and intimidated because of their choice to pursue their or
their children’s education at Romanian/Moldovan-speaking schools.
1. The interference and whether there was a legitimate aim
The Court began by referring to its case-law from Catan and Others
It went on to find that there had been an interference with the rights of the applicant pupils and parents guaranteed by Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. Moreover, it pointed out that in the Catan and Others judgment
it had found that there was no evidence to suggest that the measures taken by the “MRT”
authorities in respect of the schools in question pursued a legitimate aim. Further, it had taken the
view that the “MRT”‘s language policy, as applied to those schools, was intended to enforce the
Russification of the language and culture of the Moldovan community living in the Transdniestria
Region, in accordance with the “MRT”‘s overall political objectives of uniting with Russia and
separating from Moldova. In the present case it did not see any reason to reach a different
conclusion. Accordingly, the Court found that the interference with the rights of the applicant pupils
and parents guaranteed by Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 pursued no legitimate aim and that there had
therefore been a violation of that provision in respect of those applicants.
2. The issue of State responsibility
As regards the Republic of Moldova, the Court referred to the principles set out in its Mozer4 caselaw. In this connection it noted in particular that the Moldovan authorities had made considerable
efforts to protect the applicants’ interests, by funding the Romanian/Moldovan-language schools in
Transdniestria to allow them to continue operating and so that the children could continue their
schooling. Consequently it took the view that the Republic of Moldova had not failed, in respect of
the applicants, to fulfil its positive obligations and had not breached Article 2 of Protocol No. 1.
As regards the Russian Federation the Court had established that this State exercised effective
control over the “MRT” in the period in question. Having regard to this conclusion, and in
accordance with its case-law , the Court took the view that there was no need to determine whether
Russia had been in specific control of the policies and acts of the local subordinated administration.
In view of its continuing military, economic and political support for the “MRT”, without which the
latter could not have survived, the responsibility of Russia was engaged under the Convention on
account of the interference with the applicants’ rights. Consequently there had been a violation of
Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 by the Russian Federation in respect of those applicants.
Article 8 (right to respect for private life) – 10 staff members of the schools had complained that
their right to cultural identity had been infringed.
The Court found that the harassment by the “MRT” against the schools of which the abovementioned applicants were staff members had given rise to well-founded feelings of fear and humiliation. It further took the view that the pressure on the schools was part of a broader campaign of intimidation against Romanian/Moldovan-speaking schools in the Transdniestrian Region and that this had necessarily affected the feelings of self-esteem and self-confidence of the staff of these schools, including the applicants. Thus, the harassment measures taken by the “MRT”
authorities had necessarily affected, in a particularly significant way, the private life, within the meaning of Article 8 of the Convention, of these 10 applicants through their ethnic identity and professional activities. Consequently, the Court held that there had been an interference with the right to respect for the private life of these 10 applicants and that such interference did not pursue any legitimate aim. There had thus been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention in respect of these 10 applicants by the Russian Federation.
The Court found, however, that there had been no violation of Article 8 of the Convention by the
Republic of Moldova.
Articles 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and 8 (right to respect for private and family life)
The Court first took the view that the three applicants in question, who had remained for several
hours under the control of the “MRT” authorities, which had arrested and searched them, had been
deprived of their liberty within the meaning of Article 5 of the Convention. The Court drew attention
to its Mozer case law, in which it had found that the Transdniestrian Region did not have a system
which reflected a Convention-compliant judicial tradition. Therefore, neither the courts of the
“MRT” nor, by implication, any other authority of the “MRT”, had been entitled to order that the
applicants should be “arrested and detained [lawfully]” within the meaning of Article 5 § 1 (c) of the
Convention. Consequently, there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention in respect of
these three applicants.
Further, the Court found that the searches imposed on these applicants and the seizure of their
personal property constituted an interference with the exercise of their right to respect for their
private life and home, as guaranteed by Article 8 § 1 of the Convention. It noted that there was no
evidence in the present case to suggest that the interference in question had a legal basis. There had
thus been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention in respect of these three applicants.
The Court lastly took the view that the Republic of Moldova had not failed in respect of these
complaints to fulfil its positive obligations. It found, however, that these provisions had been
breached by the Russian Federation.
Just satisfaction (Article 41)
The Court held that Russia was to pay 12,000 euros (EUR) each to three applicants in respect of nonpecuniary damage; EUR 6,000 each to 15 applicants in respect of non-pecuniary damage; and EUR
5,000 jointly to all the applicants in respect of costs and expenses. echrcaselaw.com.