RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Author)
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered Russia to pay compensation to four victims of domestic violence, including Margarita Grachyova, whose husband used an ax to cut off her hands four years ago.
According to the ECHR's December 14 decision, the Russian government must pay more than 370,660 euros ($418,000) to Grachyova to cover her past and future medical expenses and moral and physical sufferings.
The judgment also said that three other victims of domestic violence -- Russian women Natalya Tunikova, Yelena Gershman, and Irina Petrakova -- must receive compensation of 25,000 euros ($28,200) each.
“The case concerned acts of domestic violence, including death threats, bodily injuries and one case of severe mutilation, which the applicants sustained at the hands of their former partners or husbands, and the domestic authorities’ alleged failure to establish a legal framework for combating acts of domestic violence and bringing the perpetrators to account,” the ECHR's judgment said.
The ECHR unanimously held that there had been violations of Article 3 (prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment) and Article 14 (prohibition on discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to the victims.
Grachyova told RFE/RL on December 15 that the most important thing for her in the ECHR's ruling was that the court ordered Russia to adopt laws against domestic violence.
"I cannot celebrate yet because Russia may appeal the ruling,” Grachyova said. “I am happier over ECHR's other decision. I hope our country will hear the European court and the measures to protect domestic violence victims will be implemented."
In December 2017, Grachyova's husband, Dmitry Grachyov, from whom she was separated at the time, took her to a forest near the city of Serpukhov in the Moscow region, where they lived, used an ax to cut off her hands, and brought her to a hospital. Doctors managed to surgically reattach her left hand after finding it in the forest, while her right hand was replaced by a bionic prosthesis.
Dmitry Grachyov was later sentenced to 14 years in prison, and a police officer who ignored Grachyova's previous complaints of attacks by her husband was fired.
Grachyova divorced Dmitry Grachyov and remarried. She now lives with her new husband in St. Petersburg. They have three children -- two from the marriage with her previous husband, and one with her new husband.
Her ordeal sparked a public outcry across Russia and a new wave of calls to criminalize domestic violence.
The ECHR declared in its December 14 judgment that women in Russia are in a situation of de facto discrimination when it comes to protection against the risk of domestic violence.
In February 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that decriminalized some forms of domestic violence.
The law now categorizes as administrative offenses -- instead of criminal acts -- cases of domestic violence that result in pain but not bodily harm.
In the event of any danger to the victim’s health or in the case of repeat offenses, the perpetrator would face criminal charges.
A bill on preventing domestic abuse has been pending on the website of the Russian parliament's upper chamber, the Federation Council, since November 2019.
The extremely influential Russian Orthodox Church has campaigned against adopting the bill, claiming that it is “anti-family.”
With reporting by Meduza
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