23 October 2008, Thursday

The European Court of Human Rights today unanimously condemned Russia for the enforced disappearance and killing of three men, whose bodies were subsequently discovered in a mass grave close to Khankala – the main Russian military base in Chechnya, Russian Justice Initiative said today.

Magomed Musayev and Others v. Russia (8979/02) concerns the disappearance of Said-Rakhman Musayev, Odes Mitayev and Magomed Magomadov during a large scale mop-up operation by Russian federal forces in the neighbouring villages of Raduzhnoye, Pobedinskoye and Dolinskiy, situated about 25 kilometres north-west of Grozny on 10 December 2000. On that day a total of 21 men were detained by Russian servicemen. All of them were subsequently released except Said-Rakhman, Odes and Magomed.

Several detainees later testified how they were taken to the main Russian military base at Khankala. Despite the winter weather they were kept in two pits in the ground, 3-4 metres deep, for several days. They were taken out one by one for questioning. During the questioning they were hit with rifle buts.

On 21 February 2001 the mutilated bodies of Said-Rakhman, Odes and Magomed were found in the abandoned village of Zdorovye (also called Dachny), located less than a kilometer from Khankala. The bodies bore numerous gunshot and knife wounds. Odes had one ear cut off. The corpses of additional 48 people were eventually found in the vicinity of the village. Human Rights Watch later reported that 19 bodies were identified, at least 16 were the remains of people who were last seen alive in the custody of Russian servicemen. One of them was 40-year-old mother of four Nura Luluyeva, who was detained by Russian servicemen on 3 June 2000 in Grozny. In a judgment of 9 November 2006 the European Court of Human Rights condemned Russia for the enforced disappearance and killing of Nura Luluyeva.

"Someone who has not experienced what we did cannot understand all the horror that we went through. The perpetrators could have been identified and tried long ago,  if the Russian authorities really wanted it," said Magomed Musayev, the father of Said-Rakhman.

In today's unanimous judgment, 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 had been illegally detained (violation of Article 5);

      · The manner in which the complaints of the applicants 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);

      The refusal of the Russian authorities to submit the documents of the criminal case file constitutes a failure to assist the Court in its investigation (violation of Article 38).

The Court awarded the applicants a total of 80,000 Euro for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.

The applicants were assisted in bringing their application to the European Court of Human Rights by Russian Justice Initiative.

On 18 September 2008 the European Court of Human Rights announced its 10,000th judgment, Takhayeva and Others v. Russia (no. 23286/04), which unanimously condemned Russia for the enforced disappearance of a twenty-year-old man in Chechnya in November 2002. The applicants in that case were also represented before the Court by Russian Justice Initiative.

On 6 November 2008 the Court will announce its judgments in another three 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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