02 October 2007, Tuesday

Cases Part of Mass-killing of at least 51 Civilians in Grozny

(Moscow) On 4 October 2007, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will hand down judgments in three cases concerning the mass killing of civilians in the Staropromyslovsky district of Grozny, Chechnya, Russian Justice Initiative said today. Russian federal forces killed at least 51 civilians in the Staropromyslovsky district between late December 1999 and early February 2000.

On 19 January 2000, Russian federal forces launched a massive attack on the Staropromyslovsky district in the northern part of Grozny, Chechnya.

Goygova v. Russia (74240/01): When Maryam Goygova was wounded during the attack, her son, Magomed Goygov, and two other men tried to help Maryam out of Grozny. At a checkpoint, a group of Russian soldiers shot Maryam in the head without warning and took away the three men helping her. On 10 February 2000, Maryam Goygova's daughter discovered the dead bodies of Magomed and the two other men in a garage not far from where Maryam was killed. The bodies had numerous gunshot wounds and Magomed's right ear had been cut off.

Goncharuk v. Russia (58643/00): When the attack started, Elena Goncharuk and five others sought shelter in a cellar. As the attack subsided, Russian federal soldiers appeared and ordered everybody out of the cellar. After having talked to the soldiers, the six returned to their cellar, but were immediately ordered out again. As they exited the cellar for the second time, the Russian soldiers started shooting at them. Five of them were killed immediately. Elena was only wounded, but lost consciousness. When she regained consciousness, the soldiers had left, evidently believing that she was dead as well.

Makhauri v. Russia (58701/00): When Kheyedi Makhauri on 20 January heard on Russian television that the federal forces were in full control of the settlement where she used to live in the Staropromyslovsky district, she decided to return to Grozny to check upon her house. After having discovered that her house was totally destroyed, Kheyedi and two other women came upon a group of 30-40 Russian federal soldiers who were taking valuables out of houses and stacking them into their armored personell carriers. The soldiers detained them, blindfolded them and took them to a courtyard nearby. In the courtyard, the Russian soldiers started shooting at the women. Two of the women were killed immediately. Kheyedi was only wounded, but lost consciousness. When she woke up because of intense pain in her legs she discovered that they were covered by a mattress, which had been set on fire. Kheyedi managed to crawl out to the street where she eventually received help from people living nearby.

Despite numerous complaints from victims and human rights organizations that immediately documented the mass killing, the Prosecutor's Office of the City of Grozny launched a criminal investigation into the mass-killing only after Anna Politkovskaya published an article about the events in Novaya Gazeta.

Even though the investigation established that the military operation had been conducted by the 205th brigade from Budennovsk, nobody has been held accountable for the mass killings.

On 24 February 2005, the ECHR held Russia responsible for the the death of, among others, Rizvan Taymeskhanov and Khamid Khashiyev, the two men that were killed together with Magomed Goygov. (see Khashiyev and Akayeva v. Russia, nos. 57942/00 and 57945/00, 24 February 2005).

In all the cases, the applicants claim that the Russian authorities have violated Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to life), Article 3 (prohibition of torture) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy). Ms. Goygova also claims a violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security) concerning her relatives’ unlawful detention prior to their deaths and Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing) in respect of a civil claim for damages. Mrs Goncharuk complains of harassment following her application to the Court, in breach of Article 34 (right of individual petition).

The applicant in Goygova v. Russia has been assisted by Russian Justice Initiative in bringing her application to the ECHR. The applicants in Goncharuk v. Russia and Makhauri v. Russia have been assisted by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre and the Human Rights Centre Memorial.

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

See also:
HRW: Civilian Killings in Staropromyslovski District of Grozny
Judgment: Khashiyev and Akayeva v. Russia
Admissibility decision: Goygova v. Russia
Admissibility decision: Goncharuk v. Russia
Admissibility decision: Makhauri v. Russia

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