17 April 2012, Tuesday

The European Court of Human Rights found Russia responsible for failing to conduct an effective investigation into the killing of a civilian in Chechnya in 2001, Russian Justice Initiative reported today.  

The applicant in Estamirova v Russia is the wife of Asradiy Estamirov, who was killed by a gunshot wound to the head during a firefight between a convoy of Russian federal troops and militants in the town of Argun on 5 January 2001.

On that day, a convoy of the 70th motorized infantry battalion under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Shvetsov passed through the town of Argun at around 5 pm. Asradiy was on the street when a firefight broke out between federal servicemen and unidentified militants, who had attempted to attack the convoy. Asradiy received a gunshot wound to the head and died in hospital shortly afterwards.

A criminal case was instituted into Asradiy’s killing under negligent infliction of death. A ballistics test conducted shortly after his death was inconclusive due to a supposed lack of a database of firearms in Argun. However, as supervising prosecutors pointed out several times during the course of the investigation, investigators took no measures to compare the firearms carried by the soldiers in the convoy with the cartridge cases collected from the crime scene. Furthermore, the investigation never identified the servicemen who were passing through Argun in the convoy on that day, despite the fact that the military unit and the identity of its commander were known to investigators. Despite criticism from supervising prosecutors regarding the negligent conduct of the investigation, basic investigative steps were never carried out, and the precise circumstances of Asradiy’s death were never established.

For these reasons the Court found that Russia had not carried out an effective investigation into Asradiy’s death, even though it did not find enough evidence to attribute his killing to the actions of federal servicemen.

In addition to finding Russia responsible for failing to conduct a proper investigation into Asradiy’s death, it also found that the applicant did not have access to an effective remedy before the Russian authorities in her pursuit to establish the circumstances of her husband’s killing. The applicant was awarded 30,000 euro in respect of moral damages.

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