Russia loses another three cases over Chechnya in Strasbourg
All three cases involve disappearances and the manner in which the victims relatives were treated when they tried to find out what had happened was classified by the Court as inhuman treatment in itself.
The following is from the press release issued by the Europena Court of Human Rights
The applicants are three Russian nationals who live in the Chechen Republic. Esila Sultanovna Akhiyadova lives in Makhkety and is the wife and daughter-in-law of Magomed and Kharon Khumaidov, born in 1977 and 1932 respectively, whom she has not seen since 13 February 2002. Khapta Musayeva lives in Grozny and is the mother of Yakub Iznaurov, born in 1966, whom she has not seen since 5 February 2000. Ruslan Usmanovich Umarov lives in Grozny and is the father of Magomed Umarov, born in 1975, whom he has not seen since 27 May 2000.
The cases concerned the applicants allegations that their relatives disappeared after being unlawfully detained by Russian servicemen and that the Russian authorities failed to carry out an effective investigation into their allegations. All the applicants relied, in particular, on Articles 2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), 5 (right to liberty and security), 13 (right to an effective remedy), 34 (right of individual petition) and 38 § 1 (a) (obligation to furnish necessary facilities for the examination of the case). Ms Akhiyadova also relied on Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination).
The Court found that the fact that a large group of armed men in uniform, with military vehicles, had been able to detain in broad daylight the applicants four relatives at their homes strongly supported the allegation that their abductors had been Russian servicemen. Drawing inferences from the Russian Governments failure to submit documents – despite specific requests from the Court – to which it exclusively had access and the fact that it had not provided any other plausible explanation for the disappearances, the Court considered that Magomed and Kharon Khumaidov, Yakub Iznaurov and Magomed Umarov had been arrested by Russian servicemen during an unacknowledged security operation. There had been no reliable news of the applicants relatives since their abduction and the Russian Government had not submitted any explanation as to what had happened to them. In the context of the conflict in Chechnya, when a person had been detained by unidentified servicemen without any subsequent acknowledgment of their detention, that situation could be regarded as life-threatening. The absence of the applicants relatives or any news of them for several years corroborated that assumption. Therefore the four men had to be presumed dead following their unacknowledged detention by Russian servicemen. Noting that the authorities had not justified the use of lethal force by their agents, the Court concluded that there had been a violation of Article 2 in respect of all four men. It also held, in each case, that there had been a further violation of Article 2 concerning the Russian authorities failure to carry out an effective investigation into the circumstances in which the applicants relatives had disappeared.
In all of the cases, the Court considered that the applicants had suffered, and continued to suffer, distress and anguish as a result of the disappearance of their relatives and their inability to find out what had happened to them. The manner in which their complaints had been dealt with by the authorities had to be considered to constitute inhuman treatment, in violation of Article 3. In the case of Umarov, the Court held that there had been two further violations of Article 3 in respect of the applicant as the evidence had shown that he had been beaten and sustained injuries when his son had been apprehended and that the authorities had failed to carry out an effective investigation into that ill-treatment. However, the Court held that there had been no violation of Article 3 in respect of Mr Umarovs son, since the information available had not proven beyond reasonable doubt that he had been subjected to ill-treatment. In the case of Musayeva, the Court noted that the applicants son had been made to kneel on tram tracks, half dressed with a mask pulled over his face and his hands tied by metal wire behind his back, for two hours in the cold. It therefore held that there had been a violation of Article 3 in respect of the ill-treatment of Ms Musayevas son and that there had been a further violation of Article 3 in that the authorities had failed to conduct an effective investigation into that ill-treatment.
The Court further found that the applicants relatives had been held in unacknowledged detention without any of the safeguards contained in Article 5, which constituted a particularly grave violation of the right to liberty and security enshrined in that article.
In the case of Akhiyadova, the Court further also held that there had been a violation of Article 13 in respect of the alleged violation of Article 2 and that no separate issues arose under that article or under Article 34. It further held that there had been no violation of Article 14.
In the case of Musayeva, the Court also held that there had been two violations of Article 13 in respect of the alleged violation of Articles 2 and of Article 3 as regards the applicants son. It further held that no separate issues arose under Articles 13 or 34.
In the case of Ruslan Umarov, the Court held that there had been two violations of Article 13 in respect of the alleged violation of Article 2 and of Article 3 as regards the applicants ill-treatment. It further held that no separate issues arose under Articles 13 or 34.
Lastly, the Court held that there had been a failure to comply with Article 38 § 1 (a) in that the Government had refused to submit documents requested by the Court.
In respect of non-pecuniary damage, the Court awarded Ms Akhiyadova EUR 70,000, Mrs Musayeva EUR 35,000 and Mr Umarov EUR 40,000. In respect of pecuniary damage, they were further awarded EUR 5,000, EUR 10,000 and EUR 15,000, respectively. They were also awarded, respectively, EUR 5,150, EUR 8,000 and EUR 7,200 for costs and expenses. (The judgments are available only in English.)