14 November 2008, Friday

The European Court of Human Rights today unanimously condemned Russia for the killing of two civilians near the village of Komsomolskoye, Chechnya, in October 2001, Russian Justice Initiative said.

Around 3 p.m. on 27 October 2001 Amkhad Vakha-Khadzhiyevich Gekhayev, 15 years old, and Zalina Amadovna Mezhidova, a 23-year-old mother of two small children, were driving home from work in the fields surrounding the village of Komsomolskoye, Chechnya. Three military helicopters appeared and fired warning shots at the car and at the people remaining in the field. The car stopped. One helicopter landed and several military servicemen got off. After strafing the car with machine guns the servicemen took Amkhad and Zalina out of the car and carried them to the helicopter. The servicemen then blew up the car and left on the three helicopters.

Two days later a military helicopter delivered the severely mutilated bodies of Amkhad and Zalina to the military commander's office in Gudermes. An autopsy was carried out on 30 October 2001 but the Russian government refused to provide the Court with a copy of the results. Accordingly, it remains unclear if Amkhad and Zalina died instantly in the attack or were killed later.

Before the Court, the Russian government did not dispute the killings, but argued that Amkhad and Zalina had been armed and that they had attempted to drive away from the helicopters despite several warning shots. However, no weapons were found in their car and the other villagers present in the field testified that the car had stopped. Although the official investigation into the killings identified the military servicemen involved in the attack, it was repeatedly suspended on the ground that the use of lethal force by the military servicemen had been justified. In 2005 the investigation was closed due to the application of an amnesty law.

In its unanimous judgment, the Court found that:

  • Amkhad and Zalina were killed by Russian military servicemen and that the authorities had failed to prove that the use of lethal force had been necessary. The Russian authorities are therefore responsible for their deaths (violation of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights);

  • The Russian authorities failed to properly investigate the killings (Article 2);

  • The applicants did not have access to an effective remedy for the above violations (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 case Akhmadov and Others v. Russia (21586/02) was lodged by eight relatives of the two victims. The applicants were assisted by Russian Justice Initiative. The Court awarded the relatives a total of EUR 119,500 in compensation.

For more information:

In Moscow, Russia: Andrey Nikolaev +7 (495) 915 0829

In Nazran, Russia: Arsen Sakalov, +7 906 486 0753

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