On 9 February the European Court issued two judgments finding Russia responsible for the disappearance and presumed death of six men in Chechnya between the years 2000-2002. Russian Justice Initiative represented the relatives of three of the disappeared men, Islam Deniyev, Muma Babuyev, and Ruslan Kagermanov.
In Khachukayevy v Russia, the Court examined the circumstances of the detention of Mr Islam Deniyev, who was last seen on 24 November 2000 at the “Chernorechensky” checkpoint along the Kavkaz military highway between Alkhan-Yurt and Grozny. Witnesses had seen Mr Deniyev and two others standing outside of their car, surrounded by military men. A short time later, the car he had been driving in, with the same license plate, was spotted in a military convoy. A year after the abduction, the blown-up remains of the car were found as well as the remains of the bodies of the three men, which were identified by relatives.
A criminal case was opened only in February 2001 by the Grozny Prosecutor’s office, and although a number of key witnesses were questioned early on, the investigation was soon suspended for a failure to identify the perpetrators. Subsequently the investigation was re-opened and suspended nine times over a period of seven years.
In Nazyrova and others v Russia, the Court examined the circumstances of the disappearance of Muma Babuyev on 30 August 2002, and of Ruslan Kagermanov on 4 February 2002. Mr Babuyev had been working at the Khankala military base as a technician, and on the day of his disappearance had gone into work to collect salary arrears. He never emerged from the base. Mr Kagermanov was abducted from his home in the village of Gekhi, which at the material time was under curfew. Witnesses had seen a Ural truck park near his home and heard his door being smashed down. APCs were also observed in the surrounding area. The investigations into both disappearances were re-opened and suspended numerous times and never established the involvement of military servicemen in the abductions. Although the applicants were granted victim status, they were not given access to the case materials.
In its unanimous judgments, the European Court found, among other findings, that:
• The right to life was violated in respect of all three of the abducted men (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights), into which no effective investigation was conducted;
• The relatives of Islam Deniyev, Muma Babuyev, and Ruslan Kagermanov suffered inhuman and degrading treatment on account of the Government’s response to their complaints concerning the disappearance of their relatives (Article 3 of the Convention);
• 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 a total of 209 000 euro in pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages. In total, the Court awarded 369 000 euro in damages to all of the applicants in its two judgments.
"After the judgment enters into force the relatives of the victims will be paid the court-awarded compensation from the federal budget," said Olga Gnezdilova, Legal Director of Russian Justice Initiative. "The organization's lawyers will continue their efforts to obtain an effective investigation and accountability for the crimes."