The European Court of Human Rights today condemned Russia for the disappearance of two brothers in Grozny, Chechnya, in September 2000, Russian Justice Initiative said.
"I have waited eight years for this judgment. It is a very important step," said Lech Aziyev, the father of the two disappeared brothers. "We very much hope that this judgment will lead to the Russian authorities establishing the fate of our sons and holding the perpetrators accountable."
In the early morning of 24 September 2000, a group of eight military servicemen broke into the house of the Aziyev family in Grozny, Chechnya. The servicmen kicked and beat the owner of the house, Lech Aziyev, who suffered several injuries, including a concussion and fractured ribs.
The servicemen, who did not identify themselves, then proceeded to detain Lech's two sons, Lom-Ali and Umar-Ali Aziyev. They assured the family that the two sons would be released as soon as they had checked their identities. The Aziyev family has had no news of their two sons since.
The family immediately complained to Russian authorities about the incident and a criminal investigation was launched on 29 September 2000. The authorities suspended the investigation on several occasions, however, and the investigation has not brought about any tangible results.
In its unanimous judgment, the Court found that:
- The Aziyev brothers were abducted by State servicemen;
- The brothers must be presumed dead and Russia is responsible for their deaths (violation of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights);
- The investigation into the disappearance and killing of the Aziyev brothers has been inadequate on numerous accounts (Article 2);
- The suffering of the Aziyev family as a result of their sons' deaths, the beating of the father during the detention, and the failure of the Russian government to take adequate steps to investigate the killing constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3);
- The detention of the Aziyev brothers was unlawful (Article 5);
- The applicants did not have access to an effective remedy for the above-mentioned violations (Article 13);
- The refusal of the Russian authorities to submit the documents of criminal investigation file constitutes a failure to assist the Court in its investigation (Article 38).
The Court awarded the parents of the two brothers EUR 75.000 in compensation for moral damages.
In its judgment the Court was particularly critical of the investigation, pointing to the fact that "as late as November 2006, more than six years after the crime had occurred and the investigation had been opened, the most basic investigation steps related to the establishment of the identity of the victims and the questioning of the witnesses about the events of the night of 24 September 2000 had not been taken."
"This is a continuing problem," said Ole Solvang, Executive Director of Russian Justice Initiative. "The Court has condemned the investigation in all cases from Chechnya. It is now time for the investigative authorities in Chechnya to start doing their job."
The judgment in the case Aziyevy v. Russia is the tenth judgment concerning disappearances in Chechnya. Between three and five thousand people have disappeared in Chechnya since 1999. However, only one Russian serviceman has been convicted in a disappearance case since 1999.