[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on Thursday ordered [judgment] Russia to pay damages in the amount of €16,000 (USD $22,000) within the next three months for placing defendants in metal cages during trial. This is the first case involving the use of cages in Russian trials to reach the Grand Chamber of the ECHR. The judgment does not compel the Russian judiciary to remove cages from the courtrooms but calls for damages to be paid to the two plaintiffs who were on trial for alleged crimes of extortion and violence. The ECHR found violations of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]; specifically Article 3, prohibition of torture, and Article 6, right to fair trial were committed during the hearing. In a statement from the ECHR, the court referred to the practice of keeping defendants in cages as inhuman and degrading treatment [Moscow Times report] that is incompatible with the standards of civilized behavior that are the hallmark of a democratic society. Almost all Russian courtrooms are equipped with cages [AP report] for defendants, a legacy from the Soviet era, but defendants who are not deemed too dangerous are usually permitted to sit on the bench instead.
As a member of the Council of Europe [official website], Russia is subject to judicial review in the ECHR for abuses of human rights. The Russian legislature and judiciary have received international criticism for actions in recent months which infringe upon democracy. In April Russia's upper house of parliament approved [JURIST report] a set of bills that apply new restrictions on the Internet and blogging, a move widely criticized by both pro-democracy activists and Russia's technology sector alike. Also in April a Russian judge found [JURIST report] opposition leader Alexei Navalny [JURIST news archive] guilty of slander. In March, the environmental advocacy organization Greenpeace International filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against Russia in the ECHR on behalf of the Arctic 30 [Greenpeace backgrounder], a group of Greenpeace activists who spent two months in a Russian jail following a peaceful protest against drilling in the Arctic. In late 2013 the Council of Europe urged [JURIST report] Russian President Vladimir Putin [BBC profile] to extend preliminary reforms of the judicial system of the Russian Federation in order to strengthen the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.