Sergey Solovyev v. Russia  | 2013

Illegal detention of innocent man and reforms to protect the right to liberty

For detention to meet the standard of ‘lawfulness’ it must have a basis in the domestic law.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, February 2013


Falsely accused of manslaughter, Sergey Solovyev was locked up in a cell where he lost three years of his life. His pre-trial detention was extended even when this had not been ordered by a judge and had not been allowed under Russian law.

Mr Solovyev was eventually acquitted of the crime and released.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court found that Mr Solovyev’s detention had been extended without a valid judicial order, contrary to Russian law. This meant that he had been locked up arbitrarily, in violation of his basic rights. 

A series of similar cases before the European court involved arbitrary, unlawful or improper detention in Russia.

As a result [of these cases], Russian courts are justifying the lawfulness and the length of detention on remand with greater precision, while the number of alternative measures of restraint is steadily growing.

Report on the group of cases in 20 cases that have changed the Russian legal system


Reforms were made to protect the right to liberty in Russia, in particular following rulings by the Constitutional and Supreme Courts. Measures were taken to establish the following:

  • Pre-trial detention must be ordered by a court decision;
  • These decisions must contain reasons and a time-limit for the detention;
  • The court hearings must be carried out in the presence of the defendant and their lawyer.

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