ECHR questions freedom of speech in Russia after website on methadone treatment gets banned as inappropriate
The European Court of Human Rights has communicated a complaint from the Andrey Rylkov Foundation helping drug addicts. Six years ago, the Russian Federal Drug Control Service found appeals for drug use on their website and banned it.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has communicated a complaint from the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice about the ban on his website over materials on substitution (methadone) treatment posted by the website. RBC learnt this from Damir Gainutdinov, a legal analyst of the Agora International Human Rights Group representing the Foundation’s interests in the ECHR.
The communication procedure implies that the court formally notifies the government of the country the complaint was filed against about the complainants’ claims and asks questions concerning the statement. In this particular case, Strasbourg asked the Russian authorities whether they restricted the freedom of expression of the site's founders, whether the website ban was necessary for the national security, public order and health, and whether it caused any significant damage to the work of the Foundation.
In early 2012, the site of the Rylkov Foundation was banned "in connection with the posting of materials promoting the use of narcotic drugs, information on the sale and acquisition; incitement to consume narcotic drugs," reads the complaint, obtained by RBC. Then Vyacheslav Davydov, the head of the Federal Drug Control Service for Moscow, made a written demand to OOO Domain Registrar "to stop the delegation of rylkov-fond.ru domain in the shortest time possible." The fund was unable to challenge the blocking order: the Khoroshevsky court of Moscow and the Moscow City Court both found it had been done "to protect the rights and legitimate interests of citizens of the Russian Federation for protection of health, morality and welfare". Thus, Russia violated Art. 10 of the European Convention that concerns freedom of expression, the complaint alleges.
The Rylkov Foundation blocking was unprecedented, Damir Gainutdinov told RBC: in early 2012, the law on blacklisted websites was not in effect yet. That is why "the Drug Control Service used such an exotic way [of blocking] as partitioning of the domain name," said the Agora legal analyst.
This is the first time the ECHR has considered a case when a website gets banned for information on substitution treatment (allowed in many Council of Europe states). But as it follows from Strasbourg's decision on the complaint by German citizen Wolfgang Adam Werner, the ECHR believes the denial of access to methadone treatment to be a violation of human rights, Gainutdinov stated. Russian drug users also appealed against the methadone treatment ban: Strasbourg had communicated a complaint from three Russians a few years ago, but it is yet to be examined on the merits.