EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
CASE OF DAVYDOV AND OTHERS v. RUSSIA
(Application no. 75947/11)
<*> This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Davydov and Others v. Russia,
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Helena , President,
Pere Pastor Vilanova,
Alena , judges,
and Stephen Phillips, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 9 May 2017,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
- The case originated in an application (no. 75947/11) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by eleven Russian nationals (for personal details see Appendix).
- The applicants were represented by Ms K. Moskalenko and Ms. Ye. Napara, lawyers practising in Russia. The Russian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr G. Matyushkin, Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Court of Human Rights.
- The applicants alleged that the organisation and conduct of the election process in several polling stations in St Petersburg in December 2011 did not comply with the requirements of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention and that they had had no effective domestic remedies against the violations alleged.
- On 18 March 2014 the application was communicated to the Government.
- The circumstances of the case
- General overview of the case
- The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicants, may be summarised as follows.
- All the applicants are Russian nationals living in St Petersburg. On 4 December 2011 they took part in elections which, on that date, took place simultaneously at city level and federal level: the election of deputies to the Legislative Assembly of St Petersburg (the legislative body of the City of St Petersburg, a constituent entity of the Russian Federation, hereinafter referred to as “the LA”) and the election of deputies to the State Duma of the Russian Federation (the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, hereinafter referred to as “the Duma”).
- The applicants participated in the elections in different capacities: all of them were registered voters; in addition, some of them stood as candidates for the LA, while others were members of electoral commissions or observers.
- The applicants alleged that the electoral commissions had falsified the results of the elections by systematically assigning more votes to the ruling Yedinaya Rossiya (ER) party and its candidates, and stripping the opposition parties and candidates of their votes. The allegations brought by applicants one to seven concern the results of voting in the Kolpino district of St Petersburg (electoral divisions (избирательный округ) nos. 18 and 19 of St Petersburg). Other applicants complained about the results in other electoral divisions in St Petersburg (see Appendix).
- After the announcement of the preliminary election results, some applicants complained to the St Petersburg City Electoral Commission alleging falsification of the results. Some of the applicants lodged criminal complaints and sued the respective electoral commissions in courts. For more details about their contesting the results of the elections, see sections “D” to “H” below.
- Organisation of the elections of 4 December 2011
- Elections at both levels (federal and city) were based on proportional representation by party list. That is, the electorate voted not for individual candidates but for lists of candidates proposed by political parties. The following parties took part in the elections:
- Yedinaya Rossiya (ER);
- Spraverdlivaya Rossiya (SR);
- Patrioty Rossii (PR);
- Pravoye Delo (PD);
- Kommunisticheskaya Partiya Rossiyskoy Federatsii (the KPRF);
- Liberalno-Demokraticheskaya Partiya Rossii (the LDPR);
- ER was the ruling party which already had an absolute majority in both legislatures. The other parties could be characterised as “opposition”, albeit to a varied extent.
- The number of seats each party could obtain in the LA and in the Duma depended on the number of votes received. The chances for each individual candidate of getting elected depended on what position he or she occupied on the list of his respective party. Those at the top had a higher chance of being elected. Even if a party obtained the number of votes required to pass the “minimum threshold” established by law to enter the LA or the Duma, a poor overall result for that party would deprive those in lower positions on the list of a mandate. Thus, the chances of each individual candidate of getting elected depended not on the results of the voting at a particular polling station, but on the average result of his or her political party in general, throughout the whole territory concerned.
- Vote counting at the 2011 elections was organised at three levels. Voters cast their votes at the polling stations managed by the Precinct Electoral Commissions (участковая избирательная комиссия (УИК)) (hereinafter the PECs). The PECs also collected the votes of those casting their votes at home. Each precinct usually had between 2,000 and 3,000 registered voters. Generally, the lists of voters registered for federal and city elections were identical, and each voter coming to the polling station received two separate ballot papers – one for the LA elections and another for the Duma elections.
- On election night the PECs, after opening the ballot boxes (stationary and mobile), counted the votes and drew up results sheets (“protocols”). Separate protocols were drawn up for the LA and Duma elections. All members of the electoral commissions had to sign the protocols and were entitled to receive a copy of them (see paragraphs 178 – 179 below for the formal requirements to copies of protocols).
- After that one copy of the protocol was brought to the relevant Territorial Electoral Commission (территориальная избирательная комиссия (ТИК)) (hereinafter the TECs), which was responsible for preparing a consolidated table of results of the voting in the divisions under its jurisdiction. Each TEC covered several electoral divisions (избирательные округа, sometimes also called территории (“territories”)); and each division covered several dozen precincts. To give examples relevant to the applicants’ complaints, TEC no. 3 covered electoral division no. 17 (comprised of thirty-two precincts), TEC no. 7 covered electoral division no. 15 (comprised of thirty-three precincts), TEC no. 21 covered electoral divisions nos. 18 (thirty-two precincts) and 19 (thirty-four precincts) and TEC no. 27 covered electoral division no. 33 (forty precincts).
- Each TEC then sent their own protocols to the St Petersburg City Electoral Commission (Санкт-Петербургская избирательная комиссия) (hereinafter the City Electoral Commission), which made a final calculation at the City level. The results were published on the website of the City Electoral Commission. The overall system of elections in Russia was supervised by the Central Electoral Commission (Центральная избирательная комиссия (ЦИК)) (hereinafter the CEC).
- The applicants complain of various kinds of manipulation during the elections. The applicants all allege that the protocols with the results in the precincts were replaced with new ones at the territorial commissions. These new protocols contained different figures, inflating the results for ER and diminishing the results for other parties, notably SR and Yabloko.
- Nature of each applicant’s complaint
- The first applicant
- Mr Davydov (the first applicant) was born in 1987 in Leningrad. He stood as candidate for the LA for Spraverdlivaya Rossiya. His complaint concerns the results of elections to the LA in the Kolpino district, St Petersburg (electoral division no. 19).
(a) The difference in results
- In Mr Davydov’s words, the results of the elections as published on 5 December 2011 by the City Electoral Commission on their website did not correspond to the real figures obtained by the PECs as a result of the vote counting which had taken place on the evening of 4 December 2011. The official elections results at city level (including Kolpino district) were approved by a decision of the City Electoral Commission of 12 December 2011.
- In support of his allegation the applicant produced copies of the allegedly original protocols drawn up by PECs. The applicant, as a candidate and a member of SR, collected those protocols from the members of the electoral commissions who represented SR or other opposition parties, as well as from the observers who were dispatched to the polling stations by SR, KPRF and Yabloko. Under the law, after the votes had been counted, members of the electoral commissions and observers were entitled to receive a “certified copy” of the protocol. The applicant also produced a list of the names of observers and members of the electoral commissions who had given him copies of the protocols.
- Mr Davydov produced information concerning thirty-five precincts, all belonging to electoral division no. 19. He produced copies of the “original protocols” and of the “final results” published on the website of the City Electoral Commission. Some of the final results are identical to those in the “original” protocols. For example, the “original” protocol of PEC no. 640 contained results which were identical to the official final results.
- However, in the majority of the polling stations the number of votes cast in favour of ER was much lower than the figure which appeared in the official results. Polling station no. 639 could be taken as an example. According to the applicant’s copy of the protocol of PEC no. 639, 903 valid ballot papers were cast. The votes were distributed as follows:
– ER 218;
– LDPR 132;
– KPRF 137;
– SR 302;
– PR 12;
– Yabloko 89;
– PD 13.
- According to the final results published by the City Electoral Commission, the same 903 valid ballot papers were distributed as follows:
– ER 460;
– LDPR 210;
– KPRF 137;
– SR 28;
– PR 6;
– Yabloko 55;
– PD 7.
- In the applicant’s opinion, the difference between the published results and the “original” protocols showed that the votes were redistributed in favour of ER and, to a certain extent, LDPR.
- The applicant submitted “original” protocols in respect of the following twenty-one precincts where the results of ER, recorded in the original tables, were lower than the results officially published by the City Electoral Commission: nos. 638, 639, 641, 642, 643, 644, 646, 648, 649, 651, 652, 653, 654, 657, 661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667 and 668. From the documents submitted by the applicant it appears that the form of the “original” reports differs from one PEC to another. All the “original” reports contained certain pre-printed parts to be filled in; however, not all of the information fields were filled in and not all signatures were always in place. Thus, some of the reports submitted by the applicant did not have a third page, which should contain the signatures of the members of the electoral commissions (for example, precinct no. 638). Some of the reports contained a third page with the signatures of the head of the relevant PEC and/or his deputy, but not the signatures of the other members, and did not contain the official stamp or indicate the time when they had been drawn up (for example, no. 639). Some reports had no third page, but the first page bore the words “authentic copy”, the signature of the head of the electoral commission and an official stamp (for example, no. 642).
- A number of the “original” protocols had all the necessary entries, signatures, indicated the date and time they had been drawn up, and bore an official stamp on the third page (for example, station no. 654, which reported that ER received 261 votes whereas the official final results reported 748; the protocols from precincts nos. 657, 661, 665 and others show a similar pattern) or even on every page (for example, that of station no. 643, which listed ER as having obtained 253 votes, in contrast to the 498 votes it received according to the final results).
- Generally speaking, most of the “original” protocols are photocopies containing the handwritten inscription “authentic copy”, the PEC stamp and the handwritten signature of the head of the commission, his deputy and, occasionally, the secretary.
(b) Overall effect of the changes
- According to the “original” protocols presented by the first applicant, in division no. 19 ER received 8,695 votes, whereas the City Electoral Commission reported a figure which was almost twice as high: 17,265 votes. The same “original” copies indicated that SR had obtained 10,031 votes, while the official result was only 4,538 votes. Votes for other parties (except for LDPR) were also redistributed in favour of ER.
- The second applicant
- The second applicant (Ms Andronova) was born in 1953 in Leningrad. Her complaint concerned the right to vote both in the LA and State Duma elections. She was a voter registered in electoral precinct no. 652 in Kolpino (electoral division no. 19). She was also a voting member of PEC no. 652. She was affiliated to SR. She voted for SR at both levels and monitored both elections – to the City LA and to the State Duma – at that polling station.
- The first result of SR at the LA elections in precinct no. 652, reflected in the copy of the protocol which the second applicant received as a PEC member, was 299 votes; the official result was 19 votes. As to the Duma elections, SR received 315 votes in the first count and 115 votes according to the official results.
- Other parties also saw their votes redistributed in favour of ER. Thus, according to the protocols, KPRF obtained 174 votes at the Duma elections and 164 at the LA elections; however, the City Electoral Commission reported 74 and 14 votes respectively. The official results of ER at that polling station were 574 in the Duma elections, while the initial figure stood at 274; and 599 votes in the LA elections, compared to 259 in the initial protocols.
- The third applicant
- The third applicant (Mr Andronov) was born in 1986 in Leningrad. His complaint concerned the right to vote both in LA and State Duma elections. He was a voter registered in electoral precinct no. 651 in Kolpino (electoral division no. 19), and was a voting member of the same PEC. He was affiliated to SR. The official results of SR at that station were 125 votes (Duma elections) and nine votes (LA elections), whereas according to the “original” returns SR received 345 and 328 votes correspondingly. The official results of ER were 640 (Duma) and 807 (LA), compared to the initially recorded 310 (Duma) and 299 (LA).
- The fourth applicant
- The fourth applicant (Ms Nikolayeva) was born in 1988 in Leningrad. Her complaint concerned the right to vote in both LA and State Duma elections. She was a voter registered in electoral precinct no. 654 in Kolpino (electoral division no. 19), and was a voting member of the same PEC. She was affiliated to SR. In that precinct at the Duma elections SR received 307 votes according to the “original” protocol and 157 according to the official published results; 287 and 14 accordingly at the LA elections. The official results of ER were 748 (LA) and 424 (Duma), compared to initial results of 261 (LA) and 274 (Duma).
- The fifth applicant
- The fifth applicant (Mr Sizenov) was born in 1972 in Leningrad. His complaint concerned the right to vote in both LA and State Duma elections. He was a voter registered in electoral precinct no. 661 in Kolpino (electoral division no. 19) and was a voting member of the same PEC. He was affiliated to Yabloko. In that precinct at the Duma elections Yabloko received 90 votes originally and 40 votes officially, and in the LA elections 103 and eight, respectively. In the same vein, SR received 358 votes according to the “original” protocols and 138 according to the official results in the Duma elections, and 360 and 13, respectively, in the LA elections. The official results of ER were 667 (Duma) and 861 (LA), with 296 (Duma) and 281 (LA) being recorded initially.
- The sixth applicant
- The sixth applicant (Mr Belyakov) was born in 1948 in Leningrad. He was a voter registered in electoral precinct no. 637 in Kolpino (electoral division no. 18); his complaint only concerned the elections to the LA. According to him, as a result of the redistribution of votes, the result of ER had grown from 380 to 804 votes, to the detriment of other parties. The sixth applicant received the relevant protocols from Mr M., who was the head of the local branch of the KPRF and had received the protocols from the KPRF observer at that polling station.
- The seventh and eighth applicants
- The seventh applicant (Mr Yakushenko) was born in 1954 in the Leningrad Region. He was a voter registered in electoral precinct no. 623 in Kolpino (electoral division no. 18); his complaint concerned the elections to the LA. According to him, as a result of the redistribution of votes, ER’s vote had grown from 731 to 798 votes, to the detriment of other parties. The seventh applicant also received the protocols from Mr M.
- The eighth applicant (Mr Payalin) was born in 1968 in Leningrad. He stood as a candidate at the elections to the LA for SR. His complaint concerned the results in electoral division no. 22 of St Petersburg in the elections to the LA. In particular, he challenged the official figures of twenty-two electoral precincts (nos. 721, 722, 723, 724, 725, 726, 727, 728, 729, 731, 733, 734, 735, 736, 739, 740, 741, 742, 743, 744, 745 and 794). According to the initial calculation, in electoral division no. 22 SR had obtained 9,616 votes, whereas the official result stood at 6,415. He claimed that as a result of the falsification of the results SR was deprived of a number of seats in the LA and he did not receive a mandate.
- The seventh and eighth applicants later withdrew their complaints to the Court (see paragraphs 202 and 203 below).
- The ninth applicant
- The ninth applicant (Mr Truskanov) was born in 1946 in Leningrad. He stood as a candidate at the elections to the LA for SR. His complaint concerns the results of the elections to the LA in electoral division no. 17 of St Petersburg. In particular, he challenged the official figures concerning the results in ten electoral precincts (nos. 486, 489, 495, 496, 497, 498, 500, 501, 508 and 509). According to the applicant’s calculations based on the initial protocols collected by him and by other political parties concerned, in this electoral division SR had obtained 7,530 votes, while the official result indicated 5,765 votes. At the same time, ER’s results changed from 5,677 to 12,598 votes.
- The ninth applicant’s complaint has another limb. He claimed that in division no. 17 two “closed” electoral precincts, nos. 1852 and 1853, had been formed on a site with special security status – a heavy machinery plant. Observers, candidates and media were not allowed to access those “closed” precincts; ER’s results in those precincts were particularly high, if compared with other precincts where observers and candidates were able to monitor the process of voting and counting.
- The tenth applicant
- The tenth applicant (Ms Pushkareva) was born in 1957 in the Donetsk Region. She stood as a candidate in the elections to the LA for SR. Her complaint concerned the results of the elections to the LA in electoral division no. 33 of St Petersburg. In particular, she challenged the official figures concerning the results in 18 electoral precincts (nos. 1070, 1084, 1089, 1090, 1093, 1097, 1098, 1103, 1104, 1107, 1108, 1109, 1111, 1114, 1115, 1118, 1126 and 1127). Thus, according to the initial protocols obtained by the applicant as a candidate in this circuit, SR had obtained 9,794 votes, while the official result was announced as 7,131.
- Furthermore, the tenth applicant indicated that the official results in electoral precincts nos. 1071, 1091, 1099 and 1113 were declared void by the higher electoral commission. On 5 December 2011 TEC no. 27 decided, first, to conduct an independent recount in the four precincts owing to “complaints about breaches of law and doubts about the correctness of the protocols”. The TEC then decided as follows:
“Having conducted an independent recount in electoral precincts nos. 1071, 1091, 1099 and 1113… and having concluded that the violations of the law… were such that the results could not be determined (the number of ballot papers found in the ballot boxes significantly exceeds the number of papers issued at the voting stations) TEC no. 27 decided… to declare the results of the election void.”
No new election was organised, and as a result voters living in those four precincts were deprived of their right to vote, and the applicant’s party (SR) was deprived of a number of votes.
- The eleventh applicant
- The eleventh applicant (Mr Shestakov) was born in 1982 in Leningrad. He stood as a candidate at the elections to the LA for SR. His complaint concerned the results in electoral division no. 15 of St Petersburg, only in respect of the elections to the LA. In particular, he challenged the official figures concerning the results in thirteen electoral precincts (nos. 554, 555, 557, 592, 593, 597, 598, 600, 601, 605, 606, 610 and 611). According to the initial copies of the protocols collected by the applicant from the observers and PEC members, SR had obtained 6,629 votes in this electoral division; the official result stood at 3,894 votes.
- In addition, the eleventh applicant also contested data appearing in some of the “original” protocols. In particular, he claimed that the protocols from sixteen PECs (nos. 549, 552, 553, 554, 444, 446, 558, 592, 594, 598, 601, 605, 606, 607, 608 and 611) did not reflect the actual results.
- He referred to the following breaches of procedure which had been reported by observers and some members of electoral commissions and which were, in his opinion, indicative of manipulation:
– observers were removed from polling stations under different pretexts, such as that they had been “filming the lists of registered voters and the process of voting” or “using dictaphones” (nos. 549 and 554); “displaying written materials bearing the symbol of one of the parties” (no. 549); or “making offensive comments in respect of the head of the electoral commission” (no. 552);
– observers were positioned so that they were unable to see the voting booths and the head of the PEC refused to relocate the ballot boxes, the voting booths or the observers’ seating area, or to let the observers move to better positions (nos. 549, 552, 554, 592, 605, 608 and 611);
– during the voting unidentified individuals blocked the view of the booths or ballot boxes so as to prevent observers from seeing what was happening there (no. 549);
– some people voted without having received ballot papers from the electoral commission (no. 549) or stuffed several ballot papers into the boxes at once (no. 553); observers reported that the number of people who had turned up to vote was, according to their calculations, much lower than the number of ballot papers deposited in the boxes (nos. 549 and 594); compact wads of dozens of identical ballot papers filled in for ER were found in certain boxes (nos. 598 and 608);
– the observers were ordered to stay at a certain distance from the tables where the ballot papers were counted, and could not therefore see what was happening and what was written on the papers (nos. 552 and 558);
– some people who should normally have been among the registered voters did not find their names on the lists (nos. 558 and 607);
– the “mobile ballot boxes” used for voting at home were not shown to the observers (no. 558);
– the members of the electoral commission who took the “mobile ballot boxes” to home voters discovered that the people concerned had already voted in person at the voting station and claimed that they had never applied to vote at home (nos. 601 and 607).
- The observers referred to other problems and anomalies in the voting and counting process (insufficient number of blank ballot papers, lists of registered voters not stapled together and sealed, inexplicable interruptions to the process of counting the votes, third parties entering the premises of the City Electoral Commission and talking to the head of the commission, agitation for ER, and so on).
- To confirm his allegations the eleventh applicant submitted copies of complaints lodged by individual observers and members of the electoral commissions at the electoral precincts concerned.
- Complaints to the City Electoral
Commission and the judicial review thereof (second, third and fourth applicants)
- On 6 December 2011 the third and fourth applicants (Mr Andronov and Ms Nikolayeva) lodged an administrative complaint with the City Electoral Commission indicating that the official results of the voting (in LA and Duma elections) in precincts nos. 651 and 654 of Kolpino district were wrong and did not correspond to those recorded in the protocols.
- As regards polling station no. 651, the third applicant (Mr Andronov) described the process of transporting the protocols to TEC no. 21. He indicated that the protocols had been taken by the PEC chairman to the TEC on 5 December 2011. However, when, at about 7.15 p.m., Mr Andronov spoke to the chairman on the telephone, the latter informed him that the document had not yet been handed to the TEC and that he was waiting in the corridor to be called. Nevertheless, by that time information about precinct no. 651 had already appeared on the website of the City Electoral Commission. In other words, the City Electoral Commission had published the precinct results before TEC no. 21 had received the protocols from the chairman of the precinct commission. The figures published by the City Electoral Commission were different, and the result of ER higher, than the result recorded in the “original” protocol. The PEC chairman later informed Mr Andronov that he had handed in the protocols and received a receipt from the TEC; according to the third applicant, the receipt bore the original results, and not those which were published later. A copy of that receipt was later added to the case file of the TEC. The third applicant recorded all his conversations with the PEC chairman and submitted a CD with those recordings. He also indicated that he would be prepared to request a print-out of his telephone call history during the period concerned from the mobile operator.
- As regards polling station no. 654, the fourth applicant (Ms Nikolayeva) gave fewer details about the process of transport of protocols and tabulation of results at the TEC; she simply indicated that as a voting member of the precinct commission she had received a copy of the protocols, and that this copy did not correspond to the official results published by the City Electoral Commission.
- On 8 December 2011 the City Electoral Commission forwarded the third applicant’s complaint to the Kolpino District Prosecutor for further action. It appears that the fourth applicant’s complaint was also sent there.
- On 12 December 2011 the City Electoral Commission officially approved the results of the elections in St Petersburg, including precincts nos. 651 and 654.
- On 19 December 2011 the Kolpino District Prosecutor informed the third applicant that as the election results had been officially approved the complaint had to be lodged with the courts.
- On 28 December 2011 the City Electoral Commission informed the third applicant, by letter, that after the official approval of the election results those could only be contested in court. The fourth applicant did not receive any reply to her complaint.
- On 2 and 8 February 2012 the third and fourth applicants lodged complaints before the Oktyabrskiy District Court contesting the refusal of the City Electoral Commission to examine their complaints.
- On 9 and 15 February 2012 the Oktyabrskiy District Court rejected the applicants’ complaints. The relevant part of the court’s reasoning in both decisions reads as follows:
“In her complaint [the applicant] pointed to a possible falsification of the results of the voting, which is a crime under Article 141-1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation [; however,] the City Electoral Commission of St Petersburg has no power to establish, investigate or ascertain circumstances, events or actions which may trigger criminal liability, [and therefore] the court considers that it was justified in forwarding the complaint to the Kolpino District Prosecutor’s office”.
- The two applicants appealed; on 16 April and 10 May 2012 the St Petersburg City Court upheld the lower court’s decisions.
- The second applicant (Ms Andronova) also complained to the City Electoral Commission about a discrepancy between the numbers of votes recorded by her at PEC no. 652 and those announced by the City Commission. On 9 December 2011 the City Electoral Commission informed her that her complaint had been forwarded to the St Petersburg City Prosecutor.
- The second applicant also applied to the Oktyabrskiy District Court, contesting the City Electoral Commission’s refusal to examine her complaint. On 5 March 2012 her complaint was dismissed, on similar grounds (see paragraph 56 above). The St Petersburg City Court upheld the decision on appeal on 2 May 2012.
- Attempts to start a criminal investigation into the alleged falsification
- The first applicant (LA elections in precinct no. 646)
- On 20 December 2011 the Kolpino District Prosecutor received a complaint alleging falsification of results in precinct no. 646 (challenged by the first applicant, see paragraphs 18 et seq. above).
- On 18 January 2012 the Kolpino District Prosecutor decided not to open an investigation into this allegation. The investigator noted that, indeed, according to the “original” protocols produced by the unnamed claimant, the number of votes received by ER had been only one-third of the total officially reported. However, the investigator received from the City Electoral Commission another protocol, in which the number of votes recorded was identical to that reported on the website. Having examined it, the investigator continued as follows:
“…In this connection it is necessary to conduct a graphological examination of the signatures of the members of PEC no. 646 [on the protocols] submitted by the applicant and by the CEC. On the basis of the above [the investigator] has decided not to open a criminal case under Article 142.1 of the Criminal Code, as there is no evidence of a crime.”
- It appears that at some point the decision of 18 January 2012 was quashed by a supervising prosecutor. On 21 February 2012 the same investigator again decided not to open a case. The new decision by the investigator read as follows:
“…In this connection it is necessary to conduct a graphological examination of the signatures of the members of PEC no. 646 [on the protocols] submitted by the applicant and by the City Electoral Commission; without [such an examination] it is impossible to establish whether there are elements of a crime as provided for by Article 142.1 of the Criminal Code. Such an examination was ordered on 15 February 2012, but so far it has not been completed. On the basis of the above… [the investigator] decided not to open a criminal case under Article 142.1 of the Criminal Code, as there is no evidence of a crime.”
- According to the applicants, in the following months that decision by the investigator was set aside and the case was reopened and then closed again at least once. The applicants did not have more detailed information about all the reopenings and closures of the case.
- Complaint by the second applicant (LA elections and Duma elections in precinct no. 652)
- On 5 December 2011 the second applicant (Ms Andronova) lodged a complaint with the St Petersburg Department of the Investigative Committee. She wrote that, as a voting member of PEC no. 652, she had seen the results of the election and had participated in the transfer of the signed protocol to TEC no. 21. In a telephone conversation the head of TEC had confirmed that he had received the protocols. According to that document, SR had received 315 votes; however, the official results reported 115 votes. The second applicant attached a copy of the “original” protocol and the final results as published on the website of the City Electoral Commission, and asked the Investigative Committee to open a criminal investigation into the matter. In her opinion, the circumstances of the case were indicative of falsification of the results of the elections – a crime under the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (see paragraphs 29 et seq. above).
- It appears that the second applicant’s complaint was forwarded to the Kolpino District Prosecutor’s Office for consideration.
- On 14 February 2012 the Kolpino District Prosecutor informed the second applicant that he had decided not to take any action in connection with her complaint. The prosecutor informed the second applicant, without giving any specific details or answering the allegations raised in the complaint, that having considered the situation he had not detected any breaches of electoral law. She was entitled to challenge the official results of the elections before a court that had jurisdiction over the relevant electoral commissions.
- The third and fourth applicants (LA and Duma elections in precincts nos. 651 and 654)
- On 6 December 2011 the third and fourth applicants lodged a complaint with the St Petersburg Department of the Investigative Committee, seeking the opening of a criminal investigation into the alleged falsification of the results of the elections in precincts nos. 651 and 654 (see paragraphs 32 and 33 above). The third applicant, in particular, referred to the conversation he had had with the chairman of PEC no. 651, and insisted that the results of the elections in that precinct had been published before the relevant protocols had been transported to TEC no. 21 (see paragraph 49 above). He also attached a transcript of that conversation. This complaint was forwarded to the Kolpino District Prosecutor.
- On 18 January 2012 a decision was taken not to open a criminal investigation. The documents submitted after the communication indicate that on 23 January 2012 the decision of 18 January 2012 was set aside by the Kolpino District Prosecutor.
- On 14 February 2012 the Kolpino District Prosecutor informed the third applicant that he had decided to take no action in respect of the complaint for want of any breach of legislation (a letter identical to the letter of the same date sent to the second applicant – see paragraph 66 above). On the same day the Kolpino District Prosecutor informed the fourth applicant that her complaint was being examined.
- On 12 June 2102 an investigator of the Kolpino District Investigative Committee ruled that a criminal investigation was not to be opened into allegations of fraud in precinct no. 654 in view of the absence of elements of a crime (he referred to another claimant, not the fourth applicant). The decision was based principally on the Kolpino District Court judgment of 22 March 2012, which confirmed the results of elections in Kolpino, including in precinct no. 654 (see paragraph 143 below). The investigator, in line with the judgment of 22 March 2012, found that what the claimant had presented as a “copy of the PEC original protocol” did not constitute valid evidence, as it was incompatible with the requirements of the St Petersburg Elections Act. Thus, the recount ordered and conducted by TEC no. 21 was lawful and the results of this recount were correctly reflected on the City Electoral Commission’s site.
- The sixth applicant (LA elections in precinct no. 637)
- The sixth applicant (Mr Belyakov) lodged a complaint with the Investigative Committee concerning falsification of the results in precinct no. 637 (see paragraph 35 above). The Investigative Committee forwarded it to the City Electoral Commission. On 30 December 2011 the City Electoral Commission informed the sixth applicant that after official approval of the results any complaint should be lodged with a court.
- On 10 January 2012 the Kolpino District Court found that forwarding the applicant’s criminal-law complaint to the City Electoral Commission had been unlawful. However, the court did not indicate what sort of action should have been taken by the Investigative Committee in response to the applicant’s complaint.
- The documents submitted by the parties indicate that two other individuals who had acted as observers in PECs nos. 644 and 648 lodged similar complaints in December 2011. At some point these complaints were joined to the sixth applicant’s complaint concerning falsification of the voting results in precinct no. 637.
- On 21 May 2013 an investigator of the Kolpino District Department of the Investigative Committee ruled that a criminal investigation was not to be opened, in view of the absence of elements of a crime. This decision covered complaints lodged by various individuals about precincts nos. 637, 644, 648 and 651. He referred, principally, to the Kolpino District Court judgments of 22 March and 24 May 2012 (see paragraphs 143 and 117 – 121 below). Along the same lines, he found that what the applicants had presented as a “copy of the original protocol” of PEC no. 637 did not constitute valid evidence, as it failed to meet the requirements of the St Petersburg Elections Act. In respect of PECs nos. 637 and 651, the investigator noted that the decision of TEC no. 21 to conduct recounts had been lawful. The results of the recounts had not been declared void, and were correctly reflected on the City Electoral Commission’s site.