CASE OF NABOKIKH AND OTHERS v. RUSSIA (European Court of Human Rights) 19428/11 and 6 others

Last Updated on January 31, 2023 by LawEuro

The cases concern the disruption of Jehovah’s Witnesses religious meetings.

(Applications nos. 19428/11 and 6 others – see appended list)
31 January 2023

This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Nabokikh and Others v. Russia,

The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:
Georgios A. Serghides, President,
Jolien Schukking,
Darian Pavli, judges,
and Olga Chernishova, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having regard to:
the seven applications 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 Russian nationals whose details are listed in the appendices (“the applicants”) and who were represented by a team of lawyers led by Mr Petr Muzny, a lawyer practising in Geneva;

the decision to give notice of the applications to the Russian Government (“the Government”), represented by Mr G. Matyushkin, the Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Court of Human Rights, and lately by Mr M. Vinogradov, his successor in that office;
the parties’ observations;
the decision to reject the Government’s objection to the examination of the case by a Committee;

Having deliberated in private on 10 January 2023,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:


1. The cases concern the disruption of Jehovah’s Witnesses religious meetings. The applicants are Jehovah’s Witnesses who organised or participated in religious assemblies held on the premises – buildings or plots of land – which they owned or rented specifically for that purpose, whether in their own name or on behalf of the Administrative Centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, a national organisation of Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses.

2. In all cases, the religious assemblies were disrupted by the police who arrived at the premises during the events. In some cases, the police disrupted the religious meetings on the basis that the meetings were conducted without prior notification. The police ordered the meetings to stop or stayed on the premises to take photos and make video recording of the events, checked the documents and questioned the organisers and participants. The applicants in applications nos. 19428/11 and 73036/11 were found liable for breaching the established procedure for conducting public events, an offence under Article 20.2(1) of the Code of Administrative Offences. They had allegedly failed to notify the authorities of a religious event being held on the premises which were not specifically allocated for holding religious events.

3. In other cases, the police disrupted the religious assemblies in order to search the premises where they were being held. The searches had been ordered in the framework of criminal proceedings against unidentified individuals suspected of involvement in extremist activities. The warrants did not explain why the prayer halls were to be searched and stated that “evidence relevant to the criminal case” might be found there. In the case of Mr Khilyuta and eight other applicants from Dubna, the police searched the premises allegedly because they had received information about missing persons or fugitives from justice who could be present among the attendees.

4. When the police arrived to carry out the searches, the applicants unsuccessfully pleaded with them to postpone the search until after the end of the religious services. During the searches the police seized the religious literature belonging to the applicants and checked their identity documents. The searches lasted for several hours. According to the applicants in applications nos. 44363/11, 78114/11 and 5571/12 the police were violent against some of the applicants and kept them on the premises throughout the night.

5. All applicants complained to the domestic courts about the insufficient grounds and intrusive nature of the searches. The courts dismissed the complaints, finding that the searches were conducted in accordance with the applicable requirements of domestic law (see Appendix I for the dates of final decisions).

6. Relying on Articles 9 and 11, taken alone and in conjunction with Article 14 of the Convention, the applicants complained that the disruption of their religious meetings by the authorities, the investigative measures, and the administrative convictions had had no basis in the Russian law and had not been necessary in a democratic society. Some of the applicants also referred to Articles 3, 8 and 10 of the Convention.



7. Having regard to the similar subject matter of the applications, the Court finds it appropriate to examine them jointly in a single judgment.


8. The Court notes that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention or inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.

9. The disruption of a religious assembly by the authorities and sanctioning of the applicants for holding “unauthorised” religious events amounts to “interference by a public authority” with the applicants’ right to manifest their religion. The Court will consider these complaints from the standpoint of Article 9 of the Convention (see Kuznetsov and Others v. Russia, no. 184/02, § 53, 11 January 2007, and Boychev and Others v. Bulgaria, no. 77185/01, §§ 45-47, 27 January 2011).

10. On the allegedly unlawful nature of events which had not been notified to the authorities, the Court has previously noted the consistent case‑law of Russia’s Supreme Court that religious meetings, even those conducted on rented premises, did not require any prior authorisation from, or notice to, the authorities (see Kuznetsov and Others, cited above, § 70, and Krupko and Others v. Russia, no. 26587/07, § 54, 26 June 2014). Accordingly, to the extent that the applicants in applications nos. 19428/11 and 73036/11 were sanctioned for failure to submit such a notification, their conviction did not have a clear and foreseeable legal basis and was not “prescribed by law”.

11. Furthermore, it is undisputed that all religious assemblies were peaceful in their nature and were not likely to cause any disturbance or danger to the public order. Their disruption by the police, even if the authorities genuinely believed that lack of advance notice rendered them illegal, did not pursue a “pressing social need” and therefore not “necessary in a democratic society” (see Krupko and Others, cited above, § 56).

12. On the second justification relating to the necessity to search the premises where meetings were being held, the Court finds that the search warrants had been couched in extremely broad terms (see, mutatis mutandis, Kruglov and Others v. Russia, nos. 11264/04 and 15 others, § 127, 4 February 2020, with further references). They did not specify why the particular premises were targeted, what it was that the police expected to find there and what relevant and sufficient reasons justified the need to conduct the search. Similarly, in the Dubna case concerning an alleged fugitive from justice, the police report did not identify the person or persons the police were looking for or the nature of that person’s or those persons’ connection with the applicants’ religious groups and did not give any relevant and sufficient reasons for believing that that person or those persons would be present during the assembly.

13. Furthermore, the excessively broad terms of the search warrants also gave the police unrestricted discretion in scheduling the searches, allowing them to interrupt the religious events. The Government did not explain what considerations of urgency prevented the police from waiting until a service of worship had been finished. The domestic courts considering the applicants’ complaints about the intrusive nature of the searches examined solely the authorities’ formal compliance with the applicable procedural requirements of the domestic law, without addressing in any way the requirements of necessity and proportionality (see Boychev and Others, cited above, §§ 48‑53, and, mutatis mutandis, Kruglov and Others, cited above, § 130).

14. The above considerations are sufficient to conclude that there was no “pressing social need” to disrupt the religious gatherings, and the interference with the applicants’ right to manifest their religion was not “necessary in a democratic society”.

15. There has been a violation of Article 9 of the Convention.


16. The applicants also complained under Articles 8, 10, 11 and 14 of the Convention. Having regard to the facts of the case, the submissions of the parties, and its findings under Article 9 of the Convention, the Court considers that it has examined the main legal questions raised in the present applications and that there is no need to give a separate ruling on the above complaints (see Centre for Legal Resources on behalf of Valentin Câmpeanu v. Romania [GC], no. 47848/08, § 156, ECHR 2014).

4. Remaining complaints

17. Some applicants (applications nos. 44363/11, 78114/11 and 5571/12) also complained, relying on Article 3 of the Convention, that they had been subjected to inhuman treatment during the searches. The Court has examined the complaint and considers that, in the light of all the material in its possession and in so far as the matters complained of are within its competence, these complaints do not meet the admissibility criteria set out in Articles 34 and 35 of the Convention. It follows that this part of the applications must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 § 4 of the Convention.


18. The applicants claimed the amount of fines they had paid in respect of the pecuniary damage and also various sums in respect of non-pecuniary damage, set out in Appendix II. They claimed a total of 46,266 euros (EUR) for costs and expenses, and additional sums of money in respect of “punitive damages”.

19. The Government submitted that the amounts claimed were excessive.

20. The Court awards the applicants the amounts claimed in respect of pecuniary damage, and also EUR 7,500 or such amounts as were actually claimed to each of the applicants, in respect of non-pecuniary damage, plus any tax that may be chargeable (see Appendix II). As regards costs and expenses, the Court awards EUR 5,000 jointly to all applicants, plus any tax that may be chargeable to them. Lastly, it rejects the claims for punitive damages in accordance with its well-established practice (see the cases cited in Greens and M.T. v. the United Kingdom, nos. 60041/08 and 60054/08, § 97, ECHR 2010 (extracts)).

21. The Court further considers it appropriate that the default interest rate should be based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which should be added three percentage points.


1. Decides to join the applications;

2. Declares the complaints under Article 9 of the Convention about the disruption of religious meetings admissible and the complaints about the alleged ill-treatment inadmissible;

3. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 9 of the Convention;

4. Holds that there is no need to examine the admissibility and merits of the remaining complaints;

5. Holds

(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicants, within three months, the following amounts, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:

(i) the amounts as claimed in respect of pecuniary damage, as set out in Appendix II, plus any tax that may be chargeable;

(ii) the amounts indicated in Appendix II, plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage;

(iii) EUR 5,000 (five thousand euros) jointly to all applicants, plus any tax that may be chargeable to them, in respect of costs and expenses;

(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;

6. Dismisses the remainder of the applicants’ claims for just satisfaction.

Done in English, and notified in writing on 31 January 2023, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.

Olga Chernishova                          Georgios A. Serghides
Deputy Registrar                                   President



Name Date and place of the event Reason for the interruption and final judicial decision
Nabokikh and Others v. Russia, no. 19428/11
Aleksandr Borisovich NABOKIKH 16/07/2010


Meeting conducted without prior notification

04/10/2010 the Oktyabrskiy District Court of Kirov, Kirov Region

Aleksandr Vasilyevich AKHMATOV 05/06/2010


Meeting conducted without prior notification

28/09/2010 the Volgodonsk District Court, Rostov Region

Vyacheslav Viktorovich TUMAKOV 23-24/07/2010



Meetings conducted without prior notification

22/09/2010 the Georgiyevsk Town Court, Stavropol Region

Aleksey Georgievich TSARKOV 02-03/07/2010


Meetings conducted without prior notification

26/11/2010 the Leninskiy District Court of Vladimir, Vladimir Region

Vasim Yusupovich ABLAYEV 30/07/2010


Meeting conducted without prior notification

17/11/2010 the Sovetskiy District Court of Ufa, Bashkortostan Republic

Martynenko and Others v. Russia, no. 44363/11
All the applicants 10/08/2010


Police needed to search the flat

26/01/2011 the Supreme Court of the Mariy El Republic

Zinchenko and Others v. Russia, no. 73036/11
Kirill Andreyevich ZINCHENKO 18/10/2010



Meetings conducted without prior notification

06/09/2011 the Promyshlennyy District Court of Smolensk, Smolensk Region

Viktor Naumovich POKRYVAYLO 22/07/2011


Meeting conducted without prior notification

27/01/2012 the Dzerzhinskiy District Court of Perm, Perm Region

Rifat Ravilyevich ARTYUSHEVSKIY 20/11/2010


Meeting conducted without prior notification

23/05/2011 the Sovetskiy District Court of Kazan, Tatarstan Republic

Sergey Aleksandrovich TYUMENTSEV 17/04/2011


Meeting conducted without prior notification

28/07/2011 the Khorolskiy District Court, Primorskiy Region

Nikolay Grigoryevich




Meeting conducted without prior notification

17/08/2011 the Leningradskiy District Court of Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad Region

Adam Mikhaylovich SVARICHEVSKIY 29/07/2011


Meeting conducted without prior notification

09/09/2011 the Blagoveshchensk Town Court, Amur Region

Aleksandr Ivanovich SCHENDRYGIN 14-15/05/2011


Meetings conducted without prior notification

29/09/2011 the Oktyabrskiy District Court of Belgorod, Belgorod Region

Ramzes Yulianovich KODEU 09-10/06/2011


Meetings conducted without prior notification

19/10/2011 the Levoberezhnyy District Court of Voronezh, Voronezh Region

Burenkov v and Others v. Russia, no. 78114/11
All the applicants 21/10/2010



Police needed to search the flat

20/06/2011 the Yamalo-Nenets Regional Court

Golovko and Others v. Russia, no. 5571/12
All the applicants 26/10/2010



Police needed to search the Kingdom Hall

14/07/2011 the Kemerovo Regional Court

Shaikhiyev and Others v. Russia, no. 65838/12
Rafail Ravilyevich SHAIKHIYEV

Rufat Rashidovich GABAYDULIN

Ilnur Rashitovich GAYFULLIN

Ilgiz Ravilyevich GALIYEV

Nailya Faatovna GALIYEVA

Ilyusya Ildusovna SADREYEVA

Gulshad Grigoryevna SITDIKOVA

Railya Midkhatovna FAKHRUTDINOVA


Naberezhnyye Chelny

Meeting conducted without prior notification

29/03/2012 the Supreme Court of the Tatarstan Republic

Aleksandr Vladimirovich KHILYUTA

Oksana Pavlovna KHILYUTA

Oleg Yevgenyevich IVANOV

Nataliya Pavlovna MASHCHENKO

Marina Vyacheslavovna TROPINA


Galina Vladimirovna RYBAKOVA

Viktoria Vladimirovna TISHINA

Anna Aleksandrovna MAMONTOVA



Police needed to search the Kingdom Hall

21/06/2012 the Moscow Regional Court

Mashinskiy and Others v. Russia, no. 35190/14
All the applicants 26/03/2013

Primorskiy Region

Meeting conducted without prior notification

24/10/2013 the Primorskiy Regional Court



Name Year of birth Residence Pecuniary damage

awarded (EUR)

Non-pecuniary damage (EUR)
Sought by the applicant Awarded by the Court
Nabokikh and Others v. Russia, no. 19428/11, lodged on 21/03/2011
Aleksandr Borisovich NABOKIKH 1954 Kirov 37 5,000 5,000
Aleksandr Vasilyevich AKHMATOV 1973 Solnechnyy 25 7,500 7,500
Vyacheslav Viktorovich TUMAKOV 1963 Prokhladnyy 25 30,000 7,500
Aleksey Georgievich TSARKOV 1972 Vladimir 25 7,500 7,500
Vasim Yusupovich ABLAYEV 1979 Ufa 25 5,000 5,000
Martynenko and Others v. Russia, no. 44363/11, lodged on 18/07/2011
Dmitriy Yevgenyevich MARTYNENKO 1980 Yoshkar-Ola   10,000 7,500
Zhanna Sergeyevna KALININA 1978 Yoshkar-Ola   10,000 7,500
Alevtina Gennadyevna KAPITONOVA 1970 Yoshkar-Ola   10,000 7,500
Tatyana Ilyinicnha GREBNEVA 1952 Yoshkar-Ola   10,000 7,500
Marina Anatolyevna MOLCHANOVA 1971 Yoshkar-Ola   10,000 7,500
Oleg Vladimirovich RUSINOV 1975 Yoshkar-Ola   10,000 7,500
Natalya Anatolyevna RUSINOVA 1978 Yoshkar-Ola   10,000 7,500
Zinchenko and Others v. Russia, no. 73036/11, lodged on 18/11/2011
Kirill Andreyevich ZINCHENKO 1986 Smolensk 37 7,500 7,500
Viktor Naumovich POKRYVAYLO 1952 Perm 62 5,000 5,000
Rifat Ravilyevich ARTYUSHEVSKIY 1977 Kazan 25 7,500 7,500
Sergey Aleksandrovich TYUMENTSEV 1952 Yaroslavskiy 25 5,000 5,000
Nikolay Grigoryevich TER-AVANESOV 1962 Kaliningrad 37 7,500 7,500
Adam Mikhaylovich SVARICHEVSKIY 1963 Blagoveshchensk 37 7,500 7,500
Aleksandr Ivanovich SCHENDRYGIN 1953 Belgorod 25 5,000 5,000
Ramzes Yulianovich KODEU 1966 Voronezh 25 5,000 5,000
Burenkov and Others v. Russia, no. 78114/11, lodged on 15/12/2011
Eduard Aleksandrovich BURENKOV 1974 Salekhard   10,000 7,500
Pavel Vadimovich KORCHAGIN 1987 Salekhard   10,000 7,500
Nataliya Vladimirovna SMETANIK 1987 Salekhard   10,000 7,500
Olga Petrovna BUZKO 1984 Salekhard   10,000 7,500
Olga Aleksandrovna TSYKALOVA 1984 Salekhard   10,000 7,500
Larisa Karlenovna OREKHOVSKAYA 1965 Salekhard   10,000 7,500
Violetta Vladimirovna PLASTININA 1976 Salekhard   10,000 7,500
Yelena Nikolaevna BOZHKOVA 1981 Salekhard   10,000 7,500
Olga Petrovna RASOVA 1981 Salekhard   10,000 7,500
Gennadiy Viktorovich SKUTELETS 1976 Salekhard   10,000 7,500
Inna Ivanovna TERENTYEVA 1979 Salekhard   10,000 7,500
Viktor Viktorovich LEYS 1979 Salekhard   10,000 7,500
Oksana Vladimirovna LEYS 1976 Salekhard   10,000 7,500
Golovko and Others v. Russia, no. 5571/12, lodged on 10/01/2012
Pavel Konstantinovich GOLOVKO 1980 Kemerovo 7,500 7,500
Vitaliy Faritovich GAREYEV 1982 Kemerovo 7,500 7,500
Eduard Rafaelovich AKHUNZYANOV 1973 Kemerovo 7,500 7,500
Nadezhda Petrovna MAKSIMISHINA 1946 Kemerovo 5,000 5,000
Nina Gennadyevna AKHUNZYANOVA 1973 Kemerovo 5,000 5,000
Valentina Viktorovna GOLOVKO 1961 Kemerovo 5,000 5,000
Anna Aleksandrovna STOLYAROVA 1976 Kemerovo 5,000 5,000
Margarita Aleksandrovna ANKUDINOVA 1977 Kemerovo 5,000 5,000
Nina Ivanovna VINOGRADOVA 1937 Kemerovo 5,000 5,000
Lyudmila Andreyevna ZHARKOVA 1937 Kemerovo 5,000 5,000
Darya Aleksandrovna KHMYROVA 1979 Kemerovo 5,000 5,000
Lyudmila Ivanovna YASAKOVA 1955 Kemerovo 5,000 5,000
Irina Anatolyevna MAKSIMISHINA 1982 Kemerovo 5,000 5,000
Nina Tarasovna BELYAYEVA 1936 Kemerovo 5,000 5,000
Nadezhda Nikolaevna KAMNEVA 1954 Kemerovo 5,000 5,000
Tatiana Fedorovna VASILITSA 1988 Kemerovo 5,000 5,000
Faina Mikhaylovna PANIKOROVSKAYA 1936 Kemerovo 5,000 5,000
Shaikhiyev and Others v. Russia, no. 65838/12, lodged on 26/09/2012
Rafail Ravilyevich SHAIKHIYEV 1971 Naberezhnyye Chelny 500 500
Rufat Rashidovich GABAYDULIN 1987 Naberezhnyye Chelny 500 500
Ilnur Rashitovich GAYFULLIN 1980 Zainsk 500 500
Ilgiz Ravilyevich GALIYEV 1988 Naberezhnyye Chelny 500 500
Nailya Faatovna GALIYEVA 1966 Naberezhnyye Chelny 500 500
Ilyusya Ildusovna SADREYEVA 1982 Naberezhnyye Chelny 500 500
Gulshad Grigoryevna SITDIKOVA 1949 Naberezhnyye Chelny 500 500
Railya Midkhatovna FAKHRUTDINOVA 1964 Naberezhnyye Chelny 500 500
Aleksandr Vladimirovich KHILYUTA 1959 Dubna 500 500
Oksana Pavlovna KHILYUTA 1961 Nevinnomysk 500 500
Oleg Yevgenyevich IVANOV 1970 Dubna 500 500
Nataliya Pavlovna MASHCHENKO 1968 Mtsensk 500 500
Marina Vyacheslavovna TROPINA 1971 Dubna 500 500
Roberto ERNANDEZ-AGILAR 1988 Klin 500 500
Galina Vladimirovna RYBAKOVA 1964 Dubna 500 500
Viktoria Vladimirovna TISHINA 1965 Dubna 500 500
Anna Aleksandrovna MAMONTOVA 1976 Verbiliki 500 500
Mashinskiy and Others v. Russia, no. 35190/14, lodged on 22/04/2014
Pavel Vasilyevich MASHINSKIY 1961 Ussuriysk 2,000 2,000
Klavdiya Vladimirovna MASHINSKAYA 1965 Ussuriysk 2,000 2,000
Lyubov Viktorovna VORONINA 1980 Novopokrovka 2,000 2,000
Dmitriy Yuryevich CHERNYUK 1982 Ussuriysk 2,000 2,000
Olesya Fedorovna CHERNYUK 1984 Ussuriysk 2,000 2,000
Anna Germanovna SAVCHENKO 1988 Ussuriysk 2,000 2,000

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