07 May 2007, Monday

10th Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights relating to Chechnya

On 10 May 2007, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will rule on the disappearance and murder of a young man from Chechnya, the organization representing  relatives of the victim, Russian Justice Initiative, said today.

On 12 March 2001, Russian federal forces detained Shamil Akhmadov, father of five small children, during a large-scale mopping-up operation in the town of Argun, Chechnya. Akhmadov was one of more than 150 detained that day in a military operation conducted in response to an attack by Chechen fighters on the local television station in Argun. While most of the detainees were released within days eleven of them, including Akhmadov, “disappeared.”

A few days after the operation, the bodies of four of the disappeared were discovered in a mass grave on the edge of the main Russian military base in Chechnya, at Khankala. A year later, the corpses of several more of the disappeared were discovered in a mass grave on the outskirts of Argun. In late April 2002, local residents discovered a body in a field outside of Argun, which relatives identified as Shamil Akhmadov’s. The upper half of Akhmadov’s skull was missing and there were bullet holes on the clothes in the chest area.

Immediately after the detention, Akhmadov's wife, Larisa Sadulayeva, and mother, Tamusa Akhmadova, started searching for him together with relatives of the other disappeared. They wrote numerous letters to law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies and provided detailed testimonies to investigators. Although officials opened a criminal investigation into the disappearances, the investigation has produced no tangible results. It even remains unclear whether the Russian authorities have questioned military officers that took part in the mop-up operation that was conducted in Argun on the day Akhmadov disappeared. The Russian government has refused to provide a copy of the criminal investigation file to the ECHR, despite  repeated requests by the Court to do so.

On 31 October 2002, Shamil Akhmadov's wife and mother, assisted by Russian Justice Initiative, lodged an application  with the ECHR claiming violations of:

  • Akhmadov's right to life (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights);
  • the right not to be subjected to inhuman treatment (Article 3) in respect of the mother and wife;
  • Akhmadov's right to liberty (Article 5); and,
  • the right to an effective remedy, including an adequate investigation (Article 13).

After Akhmadov's wife and mother submitted the application to the ECHR, they have faced repeated harassment from the Russian military. Military servicemen have visited the family’s home several times and have broken or looted the family's property, and threatened members of the family. On one occasion, the servicemen deliberately dropped Akhmadov's six-month old son on the ground. During one of the raids, the servicemen took away all the documents the family had gathered relating to the disappearance of Akhmadov.

Out of concern for their security, the family moved to a camp for internally displaced people in Ingushetia in February 2003. In late August 2003, military servicemen broke into the house of Akhmadov's grandmother, demanding to know the whereabouts of Akhmadov's wife and why she was writing letters, apparently referring to letters written by Russian Justice Initiative to prosecutors on behalf of the family. 

The case, Akhmadova and Sadulayeva v. Russia (40464/02), is the tenth judgment by the European Court of Human Rights regarding grave human rights abuses in Chechnya. In eight of of the previous cases the Court held Russia responsible for a violation of the right to life. In the other case Russia was condemned for torture.

For more information:
In Moscow, Russia: Ole Solvang, +7 905 527 5978
In Nazran, Russia: Arsen Sakalov, +7 906 486 0753

See also:
ECHR: Admissibility decision
HRW: Last Seen...: Continued "Disappearances" in Chechnya
Memorial: A Second Civilian Burial Site Discovered Near the Military Base at Khankala
Memorial: "Disappeared" Found in Unmarked Graves

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