The applicants in the case of Tatayev and others vs Russia (No 51928/15) have received a memorandum from the Russian government in which the Russian authorities deny violations of the right to life in the case of residents of Chechen village Achkhoy-Martan, who died in Ingushetia near the village of Arshty.
On February 11 2010, following shooting in the forest near the village of Arshty (Ingushetia), four residents of the village of Achkhoy-Martan – Movsar Dakhayev, Shamil Katayev, Ramzan Susayev and Movsar Tatayev – were fatally injured. The body of Mayr-Ali Vakhayev was not found after the shooting and he is considered missing. Adlan Multayev was injured in the shooting and submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights. Seven applicants are represented, including one who lost his son and his nephew in the shooting.
The victims’ relatives believe that there were violations of the material and procedural aspects of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights because an effective official investigation was not conducted.
The victims were known to have been gathering wild garlic in the forest and had received a permit to do so from the local authorities. Witnesses say that at least 100 civilians were in the forest near Arshty on the morning of February 11 2010.
“We spent several hours gathering wild garlic. At around 11am we heard shots. There were a lot of people in the surrounding area at that moment, who were also gathering wild garlic”, said one of the survivors and eye witnesses, Zelimkhan Abalayev. “Me and a few other people headed for the gully, hoping to wait out the shooting there, but it didn’t stop. We heard explosions. At one point, we tried to run from this part of this forest and we encountered military personnel. We asked them to stop the shooting because there were a lot of civilians in the forest. I noticed that Mayr-Ali Vakhayev and at least seven other people did not come back out of the forest”, he said.
Residents of Arshty heard the shots and started gathering on the village outskirts. They told the military personnel that there were people in the forest, who had gone out that morning to gather wild garlic.
“None of the military people gave any notification that the forest would be the target of fire from machine guns and grenade launchers”, said Saidkhamzat Tatayev, the brother of Movsar Tatayev, who was killed. “When the shooting began, some people ran from the forest and tried to flee, but when they reached the bus they saw military personnel and hundreds of pieces of weaponry. The military people started rounding them all up”, he said.
The relatives of Movsar Dakhayev, Shamil Katayev and Ramzan Susayev told the authorities repeatedly that the men had engaged in gathering wild garlic for some years now and that they all had official permits to do so.
“When we learned that four of our fellow villagers had been killed and that the forest had come under fire, I went with the police and the Emergency Situations Ministry people to the accident site, but my brother’s body was not there. I saw ‘control shots’ on the bodies of those killed and I think the military personnel were involved in this”, said the brother of missing man Mayr-Ali Vakhayev.
The applicants spent more than three years trying to get an investigation into this crime conducted in Ingushetia and demanded that those responsible for the deaths and disappearance of their relatives be found. Over this time, the investigators did not even identify suspects in the case. The question of who gave the order to conduct a counterterrorist operation in Arshty on February 11 2010 also remains unclear. What is clear is that the local people were not informed about the danger.
The criminal case and search for those responsible were halted on February 28 2014.
The application Tatayev and others vs the Russian Federation was submitted to the ECHR in 2015 with the help of Justice Initiative. “Wild garlic picking in these districts is a difficult and dangerous job but people had no choice but to take up this occupation for lack of any other livelihood”, said lawyer Tanzila Arsamakova, who works with Justice Initiative. “The applicants and their relatives who were killed all had the necessary permits from the village administration to collect wild garlic in this location. They had been engaged in this work for some time now. The authorities simply had to have known that around 100 civilians were in the forest, but they nonetheless gave the order to fire indiscriminately on the forest from machine guns and grenade launchers”.