22 November 2016, Tuesday

On November 22, 2016, in its ruling on the case of Ortsuyev and others v. Russia (No.3340/08 and No.24689/10), ordered compensation paid to the relatives of those who disappeared between May 21 and June 11, 2002, in the village of Mesker Yurt, Shali District, Chechnya, during an armed special operation.  

Between May 21 and June 11, 2002, federal troops carried out a special operation and purge in the Chechen village of Mesker Yurt. They surrounded the village and set up a temporary filtration camp on the village outskirts. The local people were driven from their homes, mosques and other buildings. A few days later, they found the body of Adam Temersultanov, who was detained during the special operation. The fate of the other detainees remains unknown.

An application to the ECHR was sent on behalf of 45 people who are relatives of those who disappeared or were killed during the special operation. The application collected evidence from the eyewitnesses to the events. “The detainees were all taken to the village outskirts, where the military forces had set up their headquarters in tents. We went there every day, took food, and the soldiers passed it on to the detainees. And then one day, they suddenly said that they had no detainees there”, said Zara Gachayeva, the sister of one of the disappeared men.   

The relatives of those who disappeared or were killed spent around five years in active attempts to have an investigation conducted into the circumstances of the detention and disappearances, but without result. 

“The state authorities constantly demonstrate their indifference and refusal to take the events seriously”, the relatives’ application states. “Over the entire time since their relatives disappeared, the applicants have not received a single letter about any real progress in the investigation. As a result, the applicants are left guessing and lack any official information about the location and fate of their loved ones. They have been living with this pain for more than five years now”, the application states.   

Russian Justice Initiative represented the applicants in this case. Legal Director of Russian Justice Initiative Olga Gnezdilova commented the ECHR ruling. “What is particularly important in this decision is that it orders compensation for material damage, which is something the Government challenged. The Court has taken the relatives’ side. This means that the relatives will receive from 2000 to 17,000 euros as compensation for material damages, and 60,000 euros as compensation for moral damages. The Court also mentioned the pilot decision on the case of Aslakhanova and others v. Russia, which Russian Justice Initiative was handling, and once again emphasised that the problem of ineffective investigations into disappearances in Checnya between 2000 and 2006 is systemic. Even today, there are enough facts to open a criminal case and conduct an effective investigation. We know the name of the general who was in command of this ‘purge’, and much other information”.

The special operation began in the village of Mesker Yurt on May 21, 2002. Troops arrived by helicopter and were later joined by units that had conducted a special operation in the village of Avtury. From this date, all residents of Mesker Yurt were unable to leave the village and were blockaded there until June 11, 2002. 

Human rights activists and journalists who were in the village say that more than 30 people were killed or disappeared. Human rights activists’ information shows that at least 12 Mesker Yurt residents had been killed by the start of June.

The Court ordered 1,129,000 euros to be paid as compensation in 16 cases of abducted Chechnya residents (169,000 euros for material damages and 960,000 euros for moral damages).

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