Radonjić and Romić against Serbia
On April 4, 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter: the Court) announced its judgment in the caseRadonjić and Romić against Serbiaby which he found a violation of Article 5 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (hereinafter: the Convention), namely Article 5, paragraph 3 (right to freedom and security) and Article 5, paragraph 4 (right to have the court quickly decide on the legality of detention).
The verdict was passed unanimouslyL o The evening from the7 judgeand it also became legally binding on July 4, 2023.
The case refers to the length of detention of the applicants (suspects of the murder of a well-known Serbian journalist and newspaper publisher) of three years and almost six months, as well as the length of the proceedings before the Constitutional Court regarding the decision on their constitutional appeal regarding detention.
The court agreed with the assessment of the Constitutional Court that the first year and two months of detention of the applicants was justified, among other things, due to the public's anxiety, which may threaten the smooth conduct of criminal proceedings in the circumstances of the specific case, but that over time - for the remaining two years and three month - that reason was no longer enough.
However, the Court still found that the applicants' right to freedom from Article 5, paragraph 3 of the Convention was violated, because the Constitutional Court did not award them any compensation for the established violation of the right to a limited period of detention and rejected the Government's objection that the applicants lost their victim status .
Also, the Court found that the applicants' right from Article 5, paragraph 4 of the Convention was violated, because assessed that the decision-making period of the Constitutional Court on the constitutional appeal on the legality of the detention of the applicants for more than two years cannot be considered "quick".
THE CIRCUMSTANCES CASES
The applicants, Mr. Milan Radonjić and Mr. Ratko Romić, are Serbian citizens, born in 1959 and 1963 respectively, and live in Belgrade. They are former officers of the State Security.
In the course of NATO bombing in 1999, Mr. Slavko Ćuruvija, an influential Serbian journalist and newspaper publisher, was killed. It was believed that one of the motives behind the murder of Mr. Slavko Ćuruvija was his public criticism of the policies of the then President Slobodan Milošević.
In January 2013, the Government of Serbia formed the Commission to Investigate Murders of Journalists, which attracted a lot of media attention with its campaign, reminding of unsolved cases, including the murder of journalist Slavko Ćuruvija.
In light of the previous circumstances, on January 14, 2014, the applicants were detained together with two other persons on suspicion of murdering Mr. Slavko Ćuruvija. The suspicion is based on extensive evidence obtained during the investigation, including intercepted communications and witness statements.
On January 15, 2014, the High Court in Belgrade - Special Division ordered the applicants to be detained due to the existence of circumstances that indicated the danger of escape, due to the existence of special circumstances that indicated the danger that they would interfere with the proceedings by influencing the witnesses, and because the way the execution and seriousness of the consequences of the criminal offense for which the defendants caused the public to be disturbed, which may jeopardize the smooth and fair conduct of the criminal proceedings.
In the period from June 19, 2014 to July 6, 2017, the detention of the applicants was extended only due to the nature and severity of the charges that caused public concern. On July 6, 2017, according to the applicants, the detention was terminated and they were ordered to "house arrest" (prohibition of leaving the apartment with the application of electronic surveillance).
The applicants filed constitutional appeals against the decision on the determination and all decisions on the extension of detention, which were decided by the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court, among others, made a decisionUž-3518/2015 by which he determined that the applicants' right to a limited duration of detention was violated after April 3, 2015, because the contested decisions did not state sufficient reasons for its extension, i.e. because "over time, the degree of public anxiety must be additionally explained and the reasons for detention under this to complete the basis". The Constitutional Court did not establish the right to compensation for non-material damages to the petitioners due to the established violation of the right guaranteed by the Constitution, judging that "just satisfaction in this case is achieved by the determination of the violation of the right, bearing in mind that the applicants of the constitutional appeal can exercise the right to compensation for damages in a special procedure, if the conditions for applying the provisions of Chapter XXV of the Code of Criminal Procedure are met".
The applicants were found guilty and sentenced to prison sentences of 30 (Mr. Radonjić) and 20 (Mr. Romić) years. The appeal procedure is ongoing.
COMPLAINTS APPLICANTS AND THE PROCEDURE BEFORE THE COURT
Referring to the provisions of Article 5, para. 3 and 4 of the Convention, the applicants complained that the determination, extension and duration of their detention were arbitrary, excessive and unfounded, as well as that the proceedings before the Constitutional Court did not meet the requirement of quick decision-making established by the Convention.
The application was submitted to the European Court of Human Rights on June 28, 2016.
DECISION OF THE COURT
- Article 5, paragraph 3 of the Convention
The court found that, in general, national courts (Higher and Court of Appeals in Belgrade - Special Divisions) carried out a detailed assessment of all relevant circumstances, at regular intervals, in connection with further detention of the applicants. Over time, they aligned their explanations with the development of the situation in the case, all for the purpose of checking whether all the reasons for which the detention was originally ordered still exist. In this sense, the Court accepted that the reasons for the detention of the applicants were givenApril 3, 2015 (in which they had been for one year and two months until then), and as the Constitutional Court found, they were justified.
Furthermore, the Court agreed with the Constitutional Court that after April 3, 2015, the reasons for extending the detention of the applicants due to public opinion were not sufficient.
However, although the Constitutional Court established a violation of the applicants' right to a limited period of detention (in the period from April 3, 2015 to July 6, 2017), the Court noted that the Constitutional Court did not award them any compensation.
Therefore, the Court rejected the Government's objection that the applicants no longer have victim status, and determined that there had been a violation of Article 5, Paragraph 3 of the Convention.
- Article 5, paragraph 4 of the Convention
The court noted that the decision-making process on the petitioners' constitutional appeal lasted more than two years (from May 28, 2015 - when they filed their constitutional appeal - to January 10, 2018 - when the decision of the Constitutional Court was delivered to them).
The court assessed that there were no special circumstances that would justify the Constitutional Court's two-year ruling on issues that were relatively simple. Also, the Court assessed that even the overload of the Constitutional Court cannot handle this period of time in the specific case.
Bearing in mind the above, the Court found that the period of deciding on the legality of detention of more than two years cannot be considered "quick" in the sense of Article 5, Paragraph 4 of the Convention, which is why it found a violation of this Article.
FAIRLY SATISFACTION (Article 41 of the Convention)
The court obliged the Republic of Serbia to pay the applicants 1,000.00 eachEUR in the name of non-material damage compensation.