26 November 2009, Thursday The European Court of Human Rights has held Russia responsible for the disappearance of six men from different locations in Chechnya in early January 2003, Russian Justice Initiative said today.

The applicant in Ustarkhanova v Russia is the mother of Balavdi Ustarkhanov, who was abducted from the village of Zakan-Yurt, Chechnya. In the early morning hours on 6 January 2003, armed masked serviceman broke into the house where Balavdi was staying and embarked on an identity check, stating they were looking for a man on the authorities' wanted list. The soldiers were about to leave when Balavdi, whose head was bandaged after a recent scuffle, caught their eye. The soldiers asked him about his head and then received orders to detain him. Balavdi was put into a military vehicle which drove away towards a nearby checkpoint, and has not been seen since. The investigation into his disappearance has yielded no tangible results.

The applicants in Ismailov and others v Russia are the relatives of five men who disappeared from the village of Achkoy-Martan, Chechnya, on 14 January 2003. The five men—Aslambek, Aslan, Yaragi and Khizir Ismailov, along with Yusi Daydayev—were sleeping in various units of the same housing complex when they were detained by armed servicemen in the early morning. According to witness statements, Yusi was beaten before his detention. Aslambek and Aslan were driven off in an unknown direction while the other three were driven off towards the village of Samashki, not far from where Russian federal troops were stationed at the time. The investigation into the disappearances led to no concrete results. A year after their disappearance, Yaragi was declared a missing person by the district court of Achkoy-Martan, following an application by his wife, one of the applicants in the present case.

The applicants in Ismailov and others expressed satisfication with the judgment but stressed that someone must still be held accountable for their relatives' disappearance.

In its unanimous judgments, the European Court of Human Rights determined that:

  • The right to life was violated in respect of all six men, who must be presumed dead (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights);

  • The Russian authorities failed to conduct effective investigations into the above violations of the right to life (Article 2);

  • All six men were illegally detained prior to their disappearance (Article 5);

  • The manner in which the applicants' complaints in both cases were handled by Russian authorities constituted inhuman treatment (Article 3);

  • The applicants did not have access to an effective remedy before Russian authorities for the violations of the right to life (violation of Article 13)

The applicants in both cases were awarded a total of 254,500 EUR in pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages. Both cases were brought to the ECtHR by the Russian Justice Initiative in 2005.

For more information: In Moscow, Vanessa Kogan: +7 925 863 5111

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