Strasbourg finds violations by Russia of the right to life over the presumed death of two Chechen teenagers


The European Court of Human Rights has found Russia guilty of the assumed death of two Chechen teenagers who have not been seen since being detained by OMON [riot police] officers in June 2000.

A number of judgments were passed against Russia on 2 October, these involving violations of Article 2 (the right to life), Article 3 (prohibition of torture) and others. 

Khalidova and Others v. Russia (no. 22877/04)

The applicants in the first case were five Russian nationals who are members of the same family and relatives of Isa and Shamil Khalidov, father and son, born in 1950 and 1981 respectively. The two men have not been seen since November 2002 when they were taken away from the factory where they were working by armed men wearing camouflage uniforms.

Lyanova and Aliyeva v. Russia (nos. 12713/02 and 28440/03)

The applicants in the second case, Asiyat Khusainovna Lyanova and Rashan Mayrbekovna Aliyeva, are Russian nationals who were born in 1956 and 1958 respectively. They live in Ingushetia (Russia) and Grozny. They are the mothers of Murad Lyanov, born in 1983, and Islam Dombayev, born in 1984; they have not seen their teenage sons since they left to spend the night at a friend’s house in June 2000.

Rasayev and Chankayeva v. Russia (no. 38003/03)

The applicants in the third case, Rizvan Said-Khasanovich Rasayev, and his mother, Raisa Abdulayevna Chankayeva, are Russian nationals who were born in 1966 and 1939 respectively. They live in Chechen-Aul (Chechen Republic). They are the brother and mother of Ramzan Said-Khasanovich Rasayev, born in 1963. They have not seen him since December 2001 when he was apprehended by armed men during a security operation in their village.

All the applicants alleged that their relatives disappeared after being abducted by Russian servicemen and that the domestic authorities failed to carry out an effective investigation into their allegations. They relied, in particular, 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). In the case of Lyanova and Aliyeva the applicants also relied on Articles 8 (right to respect for private and family life), 34 (right of individual petition) and 38 § 1 (a) (obligation to furnish necessary facilities for the examination of the case).

In the case of Khalidova and Others the Court noted that the Russian Government had admitted in their submissions that a vehicle belonging to a Russian police unit had allegedly been seen at the scene of the crime.

In the case of Lyanova and Aliyeva the commander of the Pskov special police forces (OMON) had filed an official report, corroborated by five other OMON officers, giving a detailed description of a special operation carried out the night the applicants’ sons had disappeared in the street where they said they had been heading. The OMON officers had further submitted that the three young men were of Chechen origin and aged between 15 and 20.

In the case of Rasayev and Chankayeva a large group of armed men in uniform, with military vehicles, had detained the applicant’s relative in broad daylight at his home. The Court considered that those elements in particular strongly supported the allegation that the five men had been apprehended by Russian servicemen.

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 the applicants’ relatives had been arrested by Russian servicemen during security operations. There had been no reliable news of the five men since their disappearances 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’ relatives or any news of them for several years corroborated that assumption. In particular there had been no news of Isa and Shamil Khalidov for more than five years; Islam Dombayev and Murad Lyanov for more than eight years; and, Ramzan Rasayev for more than seven years. Furthermore, the official investigations in the second two cases, dragging on for more than eight and six years respectively, had had no tangible results. Therefore the Court found that the five 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 the applicants’ relatives.

The Court also held that there had been further violations of Article 2 concerning the Russian authorities’ failure to carry out effective criminal investigations into the circumstances in which the applicants’ relatives had disappeared.

Furthermore, 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. However, the Court found that it had not been established exactly how Islam Dombayev, Murad Lyanov and Ramzan Rasayev had died and whether they had been subjected to ill-treatment and therefore, in the case of Lyanova and Aliyeva, held that there had been no violation of Article 3 and, in the case of Rasayev and Chankayeva, declared that part of the applicants’ complaint inadmissible.

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 all three cases the Court held, in particular, that there had been a violation of Article 13 in respect of the alleged violation of Article 2. In the case of Lyanova and Aliyeva it held that there had been no violation of Article 13 as regards the alleged violation of Article 3 in respect of the applicants’ sons.

Finally, in the case of Lyanova and Aliyeva the Court held unanimously 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. No separate issues arose under Articles 8 or 34.

In the case of Khalidova and Others the Court awarded EUR 3,000 to Isa Khalidov’s wife and EUR 1,500 to their younger son in respect of pecuniary damage. In respect of non-pecuniary damage, the latter were also each awarded EUR 30,000 and Isa Khalidov’s daughter EUR 10,000. For costs and expenses, the applicants were awarded EUR 3,650.

In the case of Lyanova and Aliyeva the Court awarded each applicant EUR 2,000 in respect of pecuniary damage and EUR 35,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage. For costs and expenses, it awarded 1,489.47 pounds sterling (GBP) (approximately EUR 1,882) to Murad Lyanov’s mother and EUR 7,000 to Islam Dombayev’s mother.

In the case of Rasayev and Chankayeva the Court awarded the applicants, jointly, EUR 35,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 5,150 for costs and expenses. (The judgments are available only in English.)

Slightly abridged from the press release at:

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