Lawyers from Russian Justice Initiative have sent to the ECHR a response to the Russian government memorandum on the case of 35-year-old Zelikha Magomadova. Magomadova’s application was sent to the court in 2014 and is being examined under priority policy.
Magomadova’s complaint concerns violation by the state of Article 8 of the Convention, which prohibits direct interference with family life, and the failure to execute court decisions on custody of her children.
Magomadova’s husband was killed in Chechnya in 2006, while performing his professional duties. His widow and children were entitled to a one-off compensation payment and to a pension for loss of the breadwinner: The compensation payment came to around 2 million roubles and the monthly pension to 10,000 roubles for each child.
In 2007, Magomadova’s relations with her in-laws began to deteriorate. Her passport was taken from her and she was forced to sign a document giving power of attorney to her in-laws so that they could take the whole of the compensation payment and take custody of all six children.
Magomadova filed a complaint with the regional court, which ruled that the children should live with their mother, but the court decision was not carried out and the bailiffs shirked their responsibilities. Later, Magomadova’s relatives went to court against her to deprive her of her parental rights.
“In court, the in-laws stated that Magomadova was avoiding her childrearing duties, but we know that they prevented any attempt on her part to have contact with the children. They did not let her into the house to the children, and in some instances, they beat her when she tried to enter the house”, said lawyer with Russian Justice Initiative Olga Gnezdilova. “Her in-laws succeeded in overturning the court decision giving custody of the children to the mother, with the result that the children’s uncle, her late husband’s brother, was appointed the children’s guardian”.
From the case materials, it is clear that the in-laws focused the court’s attention on Magomadova’s allegedly ‘immoral lifestyle’. The basis of these claims was that Magomadova spoke with men on the phone and had been allegedly seen on the street together with a man. One of the witnesses said at the hearing that Magomadova “wants to marry”. The court considered this circumstance as having considerable importance for the case.
Magomadova said that her in-laws are treating her this way because she “has not any male relatives on her father’s side, neither brother, uncle, nor grandfather, and the monetary compensation the children received following their father’s death acted as a lure for the in-laws”.