29 May 2008, Thursday

The European Court of Human Rights today unanimously condemned Russia for enforced disappearances in five cases from Chechnya, Russian Justice Initiative said today. The cases concern the disappearances of eight men and two women in different locations in Chechnya between 2002 and 2003.

In Sangariyeva and Others v. Russia two brothers were detained by Russian military servicemen in Urus-Martan. One of them, Musa Gaytayev, subsequently disappeared. Ibragimov and Others v. Russia concerns the disappearance of Rizvan Ibragimov in Urus-Martan after he was detained by Russian troops. In Betayev and Betayeva v. Russia two brothers disappeared during a military operation in Goyty. Gekhayeva and Others v. Russia concerns the disappearance of two young women in Ulus-Kert. The prosecutor's office initially stated to media that Kurbika Zinabdiyeva and Aminat Dugayeva had been arrested on suspicion of involvement with the 2002 siege of the Dubrovka theater in Moscow. The case of Utsayeva and Others v. Russia concerns the disappearance of four men, Islam Utsaev, Movsar Taisumov, Idris Abdulazimov and Masud Tovmerzaev, during a military operation in Novye Atagi. Already in November 2006 the Court held Russia responsible for the disappearance of a fifth man detained on the same night in Novye Atagi.

"It's terrifying and hard to live in a country in which soldiers kidnap people in the middle of the night and nobody investigates this," said Israil Gaytayev, the brother of Musa Gaytayev.

In its five unanimous judgments, the Court held that:

  • The right to life had been violated in respect of the disappeared persons who must be presumed dead (violation of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights);
  • The Russian authorities had not conducted an effective investigation into the disappearances (violation of Article 2);
  • The disappeared men and women had been illegally detained (violation of Article 5);
  • The manner in which the applicants’ complaints were dealt with by Russian authorities constituted inhuman treatment (violation of Article 3);
  • The applicants did not have access to an effective remedy before Russian authorities for the violations (violation of Article 13).

Four of the cases are the first cases from Chechnya decided under an expedited review process. During this process, the Court makes a decision on the admissibility and merits of the case at the same time instead of issuing separate decisions. The Court started to use the expedited review process more widely in 2006, in part to manage the increasing number of complaints from Russian citizens. On 1 May 2008, 88,200 cases were pending before the Court, 22,050 (25%) of them against Russia. Each year around 10,000 new complaints against Russia alone are filed with the Court. Further reforms to reduce the backlog of cases are currently blocked by Russia. Russia is the only country, among the 47 member-states of the Council of Europe, that has not ratified the 14th Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights.

In these five cases the Court awarded the applicants a total of 429,000 Euro for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.

The applicants in the cases of Sangariyev, Gekhayeva, Ibragimov, and Utsayeva were assisted in bringing their applications to the ECHR by Russian Justice Initiative. In the case of Betayev, the applicants were assisted by lawyers from the Human Rights Centre "Memorial".

On 12 June 2008 the Court will announce its judgments in two other disappearance cases from Chechnya.

For more information:
In Moscow, Russia: Roemer Lemaître, +7 906 772 3632
In Nazran, Russia: Arsen Sakalov, +7 906 486 0753

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