Yesterday a hearing took place at the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights on the case of Khamtokhu and Aksenchik v Russia in which the Court will decide whether two men convicted of crimes in Russia have been victims of gender and age discrimination, due to legislation which allows life sentences to be given only to men between the ages of 18 and 65. The Equal Rights Trust was granted permission to intervene in the case, and submitted an amicus curie on the alleged violation of the non-discrimination article (Article 14) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Article 57 of the Russian Criminal Code currently provides that men between the ages of 18 and 65 may be sentenced to life imprisonment but women and those above and below those ages found guilty of the same crimes may not. The Russian State justifies treating the three different groups – women, persons under 18 and those over 65 – as positive discrimination to make up for their naturally “vulnerable” position as a result of their “biological, psychological, sociological and other particularities”.
The Russian State argues that international law supports a more “humane” approach for women and that over 65s should be exempt from life sentences on the basis that they are a vulnerable social group which, among other things, has an “underdeveloped or weakened capacity to understand the implications of their conduct”.
The Equal Rights Trust presented an analysis of the discrimination issue, from which it can be concluded that Article 14 has been violated. Stereotypes about gender and age cannot justify blanket differential treatment, are discriminatory and perpetuate inequality. The brief defends the view that an individualised and nuanced approach to sentencing is necessary in order to ensure the right to equality, as opposed to blanket gender and age exemptions.
Following the hearing, the Court will now begin its deliberations in private and the ruling on the case will be held at a later stage.
The Equal Rights Trust brief on the case can be found here.