The European Court of Human Rights has found Russia responsible for the killing of a resident of the village of Galashki, Ingushetia, in 2004, as well as the ill-treatment of the victim’s relative, Russian Justice Initiative reported today.
The applicants in Arapkhanovy v. Russia (no. 2215/05) are the close relatives of Beslan Arapkhanov, who was killed during a search of his house by a group of servicemen of the Russian Federal Security Service in the village of Galashki, Ingushetia. In the early morning hours of 20 July 2004 around ten Russian servicemen wearing camouflage uniforms and armed with machine guns burst into Beslan Arapkhanov’s house. The servicemen grabbed Mr. Arapkhanov, handcuffed him, forced him onto the floor and hit him with a machine gun butt. After locking Beslan’s wife and children in one of the rooms, the servicemen dragged Beslan to the courtyard, where they shot him. Subsequently, a search was conducted at the Arapkhanov’s house by mistake, as the search warrant indicated a different address. The Government did not contest that Beslan had been killed by state servicemen, but argued that he had offered armed resistance and had been killed to protect the lives of the servicemen.
Zelimkhan Arapkhanov, Beslan Arapkhanov’s cousin, who lived next door to Beslan’s house, was woken up that morning by the sound of gunshots. He went outside and asked the servicemen what was going on. The servicemen beat him severely and he sustained cerebral bruising and numerous abrasions on the face and abdomen as a result.
The Government refused to submit to the Court the case materials relating to the investigation into the killing of Beslan Arapkhanov, citing the confidentiality of the documents. The Court found this justification insufficient and drew inferences from the Government’s failure to disclose the documents, finding that the Government had not done “all that could be reasonably expected of it to avoid real and immediate risk to life.”
The investigation into Beslan Arapkhanov’s killing was plagued by such omissions as failure to inspect the crime scene, a failure to conduct a ballistic expert examination or to take fingerprints. Although the Government did not dispute that Beslan Arapkhanov was killed by servicemen, no one was held accountable for his killing.
In its unanimous judgment, the European Court found that:
- The right to life has been violated in respect of Beslan Arapkhanov into which no effective investigation was conducted (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights);
- Zelimkhan Arapkhanov’s beating by the servicemen constituted inhuman and degrading treatment into which no effective investigation has been conducted (Article 3);
- The search of the applicants’ home was carried out without any proper authorization or safeguards in violation of the right to respect for the home (Article 8);
- The applicants did not have access to an effective remedy before the Russian authorities for the violations (Article 13 in conjunction with Article 2, 3 and 8 of the Convention).
The applicants were awarded 68,000 euro in respect of material and moral damages.