European Court of Human Rights 10 000th judgment was against Russia


On 18 September the European Court of Human Rights issued its judgment, No. 10,000, in the case of Takhayeva and Others v. Russia (no. 23286/04). The Court found violations of Articles 2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), 5 (right to liberty and security) and 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the applicants’ complaint that their relative disappeared after being abducted from their village in Chechnya by Russian servicemen

The applicants, Rabu Mutushovna Takhayeva, Khashim Nurdinovich Takhayev, Zaira Khashimovna Takhayeva, Islam Sultanovich Tumanov and Razet Zayndiyevna Terkibayeva are five Russian nationals who live in Mesker-Yurt, a village in the Shalinskiy District of Chechnya. They are the parents, brother, nephew and grandmother of Ayub Khashidovich Takhayev, born in 1982, whom they have not seen since 13 November 2002.

The case concerned the applicants’ allegation that their relative disappeared after being abducted by Russian servicemen during a “sweeping” operation in their village and that the domestic authorities failed to carry out an effective investigation into their allegation. They relied on Articles 2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), 5 (right to liberty and security) and 13 (right to an effective remedy).

The Court found that the fact that a large group of armed men in uniform, with military vehicles, had been able to move freely around the applicants’ village at night strongly resembled a military special operation and supported the allegation that Ayub Takhayev’s abductors had been Russian servicemen. Furthermore, three other men of the same village had disappeared the next day in similar circumstances. Drawing inferences from the Russian Government’s 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 events in question, the Court considered that Ayub Takhayev had been arrested by Russian servicemen during an unacknowledged security operation. There had been no reliable news of the applicants’ relative since his abduction and the Russian Government had not submitted any further explanations. 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’ relative or any news of him for more than five years corroborated that assumption. Therefore Ayub Takhayev had to be presumed dead following his unacknowledged detention by Russian servicemen. Noting that the authorities had not justified the use of lethal force by their agents, the Court therefore concluded that there had been a violation of Article 2 in respect of the applicants’ relative. It also held 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’ relative had disappeared.

The Court also considered that the applicants had suffered, and continued to suffer, distress and anguish as a result of the disappearance of their relative and their inability to find out what had happened to him. 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.

The Court further found that the applicants’ relative 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.

Finally, the Court 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 in respect of the alleged violations of Articles 3 and 5.

In respect of pecuniary damage, the Court awarded Ayub Takhayev’s parents EUR 3,000, jointly. In respect of non-pecuniary damage, the Court awarded EUR 25,000, jointly, to Ayub Takhayev’s parents, EUR 5,000, jointly, to his brother and nephew and EUR 5,000 to his grandmother. The applicants were awarded EUR 3,650 for costs and expenses.
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