Statistics and Overview

The European Court Protects Privacy in the Case of Jehovah's Witnesses


On Thursday, June 6, 2013, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered Russia to pay V. Zhukova and E. Avilkina 5,000 euros (215,000 rubles) each in damages. Russian law enforcement agencies requested the medical records of V. Zhukova and E. Avilkina without their permission. The Court held that this violated the fundamental right to respect for private life, which the Court described as a "particularly important principle" protected by the European Convention.

The Court's decision put an end to the litigation, which lasted 5 years. In 2007, the deputy prosecutor of St. Petersburg demanded that all medical institutions in the city report to the prosecutor's office "every fact that Jehovah's Witnesses refuse transfusions of blood and its components" without notifying and consenting patients. As a result, on March 9, 2009, the Witnesses filed a complaint with the ECHR "Avilkina and Others v. Russian Federation". The Court held that the actions of the Russian authorities in relation to the applicants were of an unjustifiably "severe nature" and confirmed that there were no "relevant and sufficient motives" for disclosing confidential information about the applicants to prosecutors.

Noting the significance of the case, Grigory Martynov, a spokesman for Russia's Jehovah's Witnesses, said: "This judgment will contribute to the protection of the fundamental rights of both Russian citizens and citizens of all member states of the Council of Europe."