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ECHR finds Russia custody agreement termination of trans person breached human rights convention

By Zara Thomas | Auckland Law School, NZ

July 11, 2024

Credits @fFHR.CZ

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Tuesday that Russia’s termination of a foster parents’ custody agreement due to the foster parent’s sexual and gender identity violated the European Convention on Human Rights. The court determined that the right to privacy of family life, as protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, prohibited Russia from lawfully terminating the custody agreement between the state and applicant Yulia Savinovskikh due to Savinovskikh’s gender status.

Savinovskikh gained custody of two foster children between 2014 and 2016 before Russian authorities requested they be voluntarily returned to the state in 2017. After Savinovskikh refused to surrender the children, the custody agreement was terminated and the children were removed from his care.

The ECHR determined that the termination of the custody and care agreement was primarily due to the applicants’ change of gender and sexual identity and did not arise from any evidence that Savinovskikh was not fit to care for the children nor evidence-backed concerns that the children’s wellbeing would be affected by Savinovskikh’s transition.

The court also found that the Russian officials gave insufficient consideration for the interests of those involved, including the children. As the court found a violation of Article 8 of the convention could be established, the majority did not find it necessary to separately determine whether Article 14, related to protection against discrimination, had been violated.

Russia withdrew from the European Convention of Human Rights in September 2022, though the ECHR determined it had the authority to decide this case as the events concerned took place prior to the withdrawal when the state was still obliged to abide by the Articles of the convention.

Russia has been widely condemned for its limited protections of LGBTQ individuals, with a 2024 report by the non-governmental organisation ILGA-Europe ranking Russia as lowest amongst all European states for legislative developments in the area of LGBT rights. Russia’s departure from the convention is one of many recent developments within the state that have decreased the legal protections and social acceptance of LGBT individuals. Earlier this year the state faced harsh criticism internationally after a Russian financial watchdog referred to the LGBT movement as a “terrorist organisation”, only months after the Russian Supreme Court labelled the LGBT movement as “extremist”.

The court ordered Russia to pay €7 500 ($8 120) in damages and €5000 ($5  413) in costs to Savinovskikh. In a partial dissent, Judge  Serghides also found that the children ought to receive compensation as victims of the breach, however, this view was ultimately not reflected in the majority decision.



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