ECtHR: Russian police searches and seizures regarding lawyers and their clients in breach of privacy and property rights
In its judgment in Kruglov and Others v. Russia, released today, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has found that the right to respect for private and family life, the home, and the correspondence (Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, ECHR), as well as of the right of property (Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the ECHR) were violated.
The case concerns a group of 25 Russian nationals, practising lawyers or their clients, whose homes and offices were subject to several police searches between 2003 and 2016. Most of the searches were based on court warrants, and in some of them Russian authorities seized electronic data-storage devices containing personal information or documents covered by professional legal privilege.
According to the Strasbourg-based court, there were several reasons for finding that Article 8 ECHR was violated. For example, in most of the cases the persons subject to the searches were not officially suspected of having committed a criminal offence. The court warrants were couched in very broad terms, giving the investigators unrestricted discretion as to how to carry out the searches; and the searches impinged on professional confidentiality to an extent that was disproportionate to the legitimate aim being pursued.
Article 1 of Protocol No 1 ECHR was held to be violated because the data-storage devices seized were not in themselves an object, instrument or product of any criminal offence, so their continued retention had no apparent justification. According to the ECtHR, there was no reason in the case to explain why the investigating authorities did not copy the information sought and return the devices to the applicants.
The judgment is available here.