The European Court of Human Rights has found Russia responsible for the disappearance of two Chechen men who were detained at their homes in Samashki and Grozny in 2002, Russian Justice Initiative said today.
The applicants in Iriskhanova and Iriskhanov v Russia are the mother and father of Gilani and Zurab Iriskhanov, who were violently abducted by Russian servicemen on the evening of 19 June 2002 in the village of Samashki. At around 7 pm a large group of armed servicemen arrived at their house in three APCs. The applicants could hear one of the soldiers saying over his portable radio that the men they were searching for were not in the house, and could hear the order given in response to apprehend any other men they could find. The soldiers had surrounded the applicants’ house when Gilani and Zurab were drawn outside by the noise. The soldiers opened fire; Zurab was wounded, while Gilani was forced to the ground by a rifle butt. The soldiers put sacks on their heads, and kicked and beat them until they were dragged to one of the APCs and driven off in the direction of Samashki village. Their detention was witnessed by many other local residents.
On the night of their abduction, around four hundred residents of Samashki gathered outside the local military commander’s office in protest. At around midnight the head of the local department of the interior emerged from the building to announce that Gilani and Zurab would be released the following morning at 7 am. The following morning the villagers returned but were told that the men had not been detained on the premises and that no further information was available. The next day the applicants appealed to the district prosecutor, who revealed that Zurab and Gilani had been transferred to the Khankala military base. Seven days later the applicants were able to exchange Gilani for money from ORB-2 in Grozny. Gilani had been severely beaten while in custody and questioned about his uncle, a Chechen rebel fighter.
The applicants’ efforts to locate their other son proved fruitless; Zurab has not been seen since the night of his detention. The domestic investigation produced no tangible results despite information collected by the authorities from various witnesses.
The applicant in Aliyeva v Russia is the wife of Abu Aliyev, who was abducted from their home in Grozny. In the early morning hours of 29 October 2002, several armed men burst into the applicant’s home, dragging Abu out of bed and beating him. The applicant was ordered into the kitchen while the servicemen searched the house, removing several personal items. The applicant was then tied up in adhesive tape and thrown to the floor while Abu was taken outside in his underwear. Abu has not been seen since and the domestic investigation obtained no conclusive results as to his fate.
In its unanimous judgments, the European Court found that:
- The right to life has been violated in respect of Zurab Iriskhanov and Abu Aliyev, who must be presumed dead (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights);
- The Russian authorities have failed to conduct an effective investigation into the above violations (Article 2);
- Abu Aliyev was subjected to inhuman treatment, into which no effective investigation was conducted (Article 3);
- Zurab Iriskhanov and Abu Aliyev were unlawfully deprived of their liberty (Article 5);
- The manner in which the complaints of the applicants were dealt with by Russian authorities constituted inhuman treatment (Article 3);
- The applicants did not have access to an effective remedy before Russian authorities for the violations (violation of Article 13)
The applicants in the two cases were awarded EUR 120,000 in moral damages. In light of previous case-law concerning disappearances in Chechnya, it is notable that the Court awarded the applicants in these cases significantly higher moral compensation for the violations suffered, following two other recent ECtHR judgments on disappearances in Chechnya, Dubayev and Guluyeva v Russia.
Despite Russia’s obligation to fully implement hundreds of similar judgments on the domestic level—which entails restoring the applicants’ rights through a range of measures including effective investigations—the moral compensation awarded by the ECtHR is still too often the only remedy available for victims of human rights violations in the North Caucasus.
The applicants in Iriskhanova were assisted in bringing their case to the ECtHR by the Russian Justice Initiative. The applicants in Aliyeva were assisted by the NGO International Protection Centre.
For more information,
In Moscow, Vanessa Kogan: + 7 (495)915-0869; +7 (925)863-5111;
Roemer Lemaître: +7 (903)108-1346