The European Court of Human Rights today unanimously condemned Russia for a violation of the right to life in three cases from Chechnya, Russian Justice Initiative said today. Two cases concern the disappearance of four men in Chechnya in October 2000 and January 2001. The third case concerns the death of two men and the injury of a third one in October 2000 from landmines near the village of Akhkinchu-Barzoy.
Yusupova and Zaurbekov v. Russia (no. 2205702) concerns the disappearance of Abdulkasim Zaurbekov from the Temporary Office of the Interior of the October District of Grozny on 17 October 2000. Abdulkasim entered the police office at 11 a.m. His son, Ayndi, waited for him outside until the evening but Abdulkasim never exited the police office. At the time the Temporary Office of the Interior of the October District of Grozny was staffed with police officers from Khanty-Mansiysk in northern Russia and was notorious for grave human rights abuses. On 12 July 2007 the European Court of Human Rights condemned Russia for the disappearance of Ayub Magomadov from the same police office. In January 2001 another Chechen man, Zelimkhan Murdalov, was tortured at the police office and subsequently disappeared. Zelimkhan's case was highlighted by Anna Politkovskaya. On 27 November 2007 a court in Chechnya sentenced Sergey Lapin to 10 and a half years in prison for torturing Zelimkhan. Nobody has been tried in connection with Zelimkhan's disappearance.
Zulpa Akhmatova and Others v. Russia (nos. 13569/02 and 13573/02) concerns the disappearance of three men, Bekkhan Bargayev, Said-Magomed Debizov and Iznovr Serbiev. Russian servicemen detained dozens of villagers during a large military operation in the neighbouring villages of Novye Atagi and Starye Atagi between 14 and 16 January 2001. All of them were subsequently released except five men, three of them the applicants' relatives. The mutilated bodies of two detainees were found on 26 January 2001. There has been no news about the applicants' three relatives since they were detained.
Albekov and Others v. Russia (no. 68216/01) concerns the death of two men, Vakhazhi Albekov and Khasayn Minkailov, and the injury of a third one, Nokha Uspanov, from landmines near the village of Akhkinchu-Barzoy in October 2000.
In its judgments, the Court unanimously held that:
The right to life had been violated in respect of the disappeared persons who must be presumed dead (violation of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights);
The right to life had been violated in respect of the victims of the landmines because of the Russian authorities' «failure to endeavour to locate and deactivate the mines, to mark and seal off the mined area (...), and to provide the villagers with comprehensive warnings concerning the mines laid in the vicinity of their village» (violation of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights);
The Russian authorities had not conducted an effective investigation into the violations of the right to life (violation of Article 2);
The disappeared persons had been illegally detained (violation of Article 5);
The manner in which the applicants’ complaints concerning their disappeared relatives were dealt with by the Russian authorities constituted inhuman treatment (violation of Article 3);
The applicants did not have access to an effective remedy before Russian authorities for the violations (violation of Article 13);
The refusal of the Russian authorities to submit the documents of criminal case file constitutes a failure to assist the Court in its investigation (violation of Article 38).
The Court awarded the applicants in the three cases a total of 269 000 euro for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.
The applicants in the cases of Yusupova and Zaurbekov and Zulpa Akhmatova and Others were assisted in bringing their applications to the ECtHR by Russian Justice Initiative. In the case of Albekov and Others, the applicants were assisted by lawyers from the Human Rights Centre "Memorial".
For more information:
In Moscow, Russia: Roemer Lemaître, +7 906 772 3632
In Nazran, Russia: Arsen Sakalov, +7 906 486 0753