O.K. v. Latvia
OHCHR – Human Rights Committee
Communication No. 1935/2010
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: articles 6 (Right to life) and 7 (Freedom from torture).
The author of the communication was O.K., a former resident of Latvia, currently residing in New Zealand, acting on her own behalf and on behalf of her son, N.K., deceased in 1994, at the age of 15. O.K. alleged that her son died as a result of a beating by a gang of teenagers believed to be of Russian nationality. She claimed that the failure of the Latvian authorities to investigate her son’s death and prior ill-treatment constituted a breach by Latvia of her son’s rights under article 6 (Right to life), and of her own rights under article 7 (Freedom from torture) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (The Covenant). She further contended that she believed that the lack of investigation into her son’s death was motivated by ethnic factors, since both the gang of suspects who beat her son and the police officers in charge of the investigation were ethnic Russians, not Latvians. She believed that the investigation was insufficient, and/or a cover-up and that corruption was also involved. On the procedural side of the case, O.K. had not exhausted all domestic remedies in Latvia. She explained that her intentions to do so were clear and genuine in that regard, but special circumstances (mental health condition) prevented her from taking additional steps in that respect, and that it would be absurd to allow the State party to benefit from its failure to investigate. She claimed that her son’s death was a serious contributing factor to her trauma and ensuing inability to pursue the investigation. She also alleged that she received death threats against herself and her daughter, which served as a deterrent to submitting any complaints to the authorities.
The Committee, however, observed that, other than her initial complaint to the police, O.K. did not make any other attempt to contest the alleged ineffectiveness of the investigation, apart from making oral inquiries, the latest of which she made a year after the death of her son. The Committee also observed that she had failed to substantiate any concrete instance of corruption associated with the investigation into the death of her son and that she had not provided any information on the alleged death threats. In those circumstances, the Committee considered that the author had not argued that the domestic remedies available to her were ineffective, nor that she was otherwise exempt from availing herself of those remedies. The Committee therefore concluded that the communication was inadmissible under article 5, paragraph 2 (b), of the Optional Protocol (paragraph 7.4).
It should be noted that 2 members of the Committee expressed a dissident opinion. They thought that the investigation was not swift, thorough or prompt, which resulted in an unreasonable prolongation of the proceedings. Under article 5, paragraph 2 (b), of the Optional Protocol, they explained that it is precisely one of the grounds which exempts a person from the obligation to exhaust domestic remedies. They concluded that the Committee should have, at least, declared the case admissible so that it could have been examined on the merits.
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