21 February 2017, Tuesday

Ibragim Kushtov was abducted by state officials in Ingushetia’s Sunzhensky District. His fate has been unknown for 11 years now.

On the evening of January 25, 2006, Ibragim Sulambekovich Kushtov left his house. His car was stopped by traffic police that evening. When Kushtov got out of his car, one of the traffic officers struck him on the face. Two Niva vehicles without licence plates then arrived. Six armed men in camouflage gear got out of one of them. Several of them wore masks. They looked Slavic in appearance and spoke Russian with no accent. Several men in a dark uniform and masks got out of the other Niva. They began to beat Kushtov but he succeeded in breaking free and ran off down the road. One of the dark-uniformed men fired a gun at him. He stumbled and fell to the ground and was then bundled in the white Niva, which drove off in the direction of Magas. Since then, there has been no news of him.  

The applicants, Kushtov’s mother, two brothers and four sisters, sent letters and complaints to various law enforcement agencies in an attempt to obtain information on Kushtov’s whereabouts. On February 15, 2006, the Ingushetia Prosecutor’s Office opened a criminal case into Kushtov’s abduction, but the preliminary investigation into this case was suspended on October 22, 2006.

In 2007, the applicants turned to Justice Initiative and the organisation’s lawyers helped to put together an application and send it to the European Court of Human Rights.

The application states that the “Russian authorities proved incapable of carrying out an effective investigation into Ibragim’s abduction, establish his whereabouts, and bringing the guilty to account”. The applicants affirm that “there was a violation of the right to life (Article 2), violation of the right to personal freedom (Article 5), and violation of the right to effective remedy (Article 13) of the European Convention on Human Rights”.

On February 21, 2017, in its judgment Kushtova and others v. Russia (No. 60806/08), the ECHR recognised the stated violations committed against the abducted man and said that the applicants “ must be considered victims of a violation of Article 3 of the Convention on account of the distress and anguish which they have suffered, and continue to suffer, as a result of their inability to discover the fate of their son and brother who has disappeared and because of the manner in which their complaints have been dealt with”.

“Despite the Court’s positive decision, the members of our family would like to know Ibragim’s fate: Is he alive or not? If he is alive, we want to know his whereabouts. If he is dead, we want to have his body returned for burial in accordance with Muslim tradition. It is cruel to leave a person without a grave”, said Musa Kushtov, the abducted man’s brother.

“The ECHR’s judgment repeats its conclusions on the general ineffectiveness of criminal investigations in cases of abductions of people”, said Olga Gnezdilova, legal director at Justice Initiative. “Without any results from criminal investigations, all other possible means of legal protection remain out of reach in practice. The applicants had no possibility of recourse to effective remedy”.  

The ECHR awarded the Kushtov family 65,000 euros as compensation for material and moral damages. 

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