27 March 2012, Tuesday

The European Court of Human Rights has found Russia responsible for the enforced disappearance of two Chechen women in 2001, Russian Justice Initiative  reported today.  

The applicants in Kadirova and others v Russia (no. 5432/07) are the close relatives of Aset Yakhyayeva and Milana Betilgiriyeva, who disappeared after being detained during a special operation conducted by Russian federal servicemen in Serzhen-Yurt, Chechnya, on 7 November 2001.

Shortly before they were detained, Aset and Milana visited Serzhen-Yurt, and on the night of 7 November 2001 were sleeping in the kitchen of a relative’s house. Early that morning, a group of Russian servicemen broke into the house, saying they were “looking for the men.” When they found out that there were no men in the house, they threatened to gun down the women, took money and jewelry, and said they would stay in the house until morning and then take the women to the military commander’s office to “decide what to do with them.” Several hours later, Aset and Milana went missing from the house, and have not been seen since. Tracks left by armored vehicles were discovered near the house.    

The applicants soon found out that the previous night a special operation had been conducted in Serzhen-Yurt, led by the military commander of Shalinskiy District, Mr. Nakhaev, who promised to check the women’s passports and also supplied a hand-written note instructing to pick up Aset and Milana from the Shali Temporary Office of the Interior (“VOVD”). But the officers on duty at the Shali VOVD had no information about the whereabouts of Aset and Milana. According to the applicants, they obtained information that Aset and Milana had been transferred from the DON-2 military unit in Shali to Khankala military base, where they had been tortured and made to confess to their participation in illegal armed groups.

The Court was particularly critical of the authorities’ delay in conducting essential investigative steps. For example, Commander Nakhaev was interviewed as a witness only three years after the disappearance of the women, and even then the interviews were “superficial in character.” Although Commander Nakhaev explicitly acknowledged the arrests of several residents of Serzhen-Yurt, no attempts were made by investigators to identify the military units which participated in the special operation.

In its unanimous judgment, the European Court found that:

  • The right to life has been violated in respect of Aset Yakhyayeva and Milana Betilgiriyeva (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights);
  • The Russian authorities have failed to conduct an effective investigation into the disappearance of Aset Yakhyayeva and Milana Betilgiriyeva (Article 2);
  • The manner in which the applicant’s complaints were dealt with by the Russian authorities constituted inhuman treatment (Article 3);
  • Aset Yakhyayeva and Milana Betilgiriyeva  were unlawfully deprived of their liberty (Article 5);
  • The applicants did not have access to an effective remedy before the Russian authorities for the violations (Article 13 in conjunction with Article 2 of the Convention).

The applicants were awarded 120,000 euro in respect of moral damages. Russian Justice Initiative assisted the applicants in bringing their case to the ECtHR in January 2007.  

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