European Court of Human Rights
The case Sinkova v. Ukraine (application no. 39496/11) concerned the arrest, detention and
conviction of a 19-year-old student for frying eggs on the flame of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
in Kyiv in 2010. She later posted a video of the scene on the Internet, explaining that she had been
protesting against the waste of precious natural gas. She was arrested in 2011 and detained for
three months pending criminal proceedings on the charge of desecrating the tomb. She was
eventually convicted as charged, and given a suspended sentence.
In today’s Chamber judgment1
in the case the European Court of Human Rights held,
unanimously, that there had been no violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the
European Convention on Human Rights concerning Ms Sinkova’s arrest, which had been based on a
judicial order and had aimed to ensure her attendance at a hearing on her case as, despite the
police’s efforts, they had not been able to find her until March 2011;
unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 5 §§ 1, 3 and 5 of the European Convention
because Ms Sinkova’s detention from 29 May to 17 June 2011 had not been covered by any judicial
decision; the entirety of her detention from 29 March to 30 June 2011 had not been justified; and
Ukrainian law had not provided an enforceable right to compensation for that unlawfulness of her
by four votes to three, that there had been no violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression). The
Court found in particular that Ms Sinkova’s conviction for expressing contempt for the Tomb of the
Unknown Soldier had interfered with her freedom of speech, but that it had been a proportionate
restriction under domestic law.
Article 10 (freedom of expression)The Court found that Ms Sinkova had only been prosecuted on criminal charges and convicted for
frying eggs on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; that charge had not concerned either her posting
the video on the Internet or the accompanying explanation. She had therefore been convicted for a
particular type of conduct in a particular place, based on a general prohibition of expressing
contempt for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Indeed, she could have found more suitable ways to express her views or participate in protests
about the State’s use of natural gas or the needs of war veterans, without breaking the criminal law
or insulting the memory of soldiers who had given their lives defending their country.
Moreover, she has never served a single day of her suspended prison sentence.
Ms Sinkova’s conviction was therefore reconcilable with her freedom of expression and the Court
concluded that there had been no violation of Article 10.
Just satisfaction (Article 41)
The Court held that Ukraine was to pay Ms Sinkova 4,000 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage.https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#