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10.01.2009

Strasbourg passes six judgments against Russia concerning Chechnya

   

The European Court of Human Rights on Friday notified of six Chamber judgments concerning Russia.  All the applicants in these cases alleged that, during security operations carried out in Chechnya in 2002, their relatives had been detained by Russian servicemen and had subsequently disappeared or had been killed. They also claimed that the domestic authorities had failed to carry out an effective investigation into their allegations. They all relied, in particular, on Articles 2 (right to life) and 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The judgments which may be consulted on the Court’s website (http://www.echr.coe.int) are only available in English.

The Court held in particular that in the first five cases the applicants had presented a coherent and convincing picture, corroborated by witness statements, of their relatives’ abduction by Russian servicemen and that the evidence available established beyond reasonable doubt that their relatives had either died, been killed or could be presumed dead following their detention by Russian servicemen during security operations. In all of those cases, the Court, noting that the Government had not provided any plausible explanation at all or that the authorities had not justified the use of lethal force by their agents, concluded that there had been a violation of Article 2 in respect of the all of the applicants’ relatives.

However, in respect of two of the applicants’ relatives in the case of Shakhgiriyeva and the applicants’ relative in the case of Zakriyeva and Others, the Court noted that the evidence available, either disjointed or based on rumour, did not establish beyond reasonable doubt that Russian servicemen had been implicated in the disappearance or death of the applicants’ relatives. In such circumstances, the Court found no State responsibility and held that there had been no violation of Article 2 concerning the right to life of the applicants’ relatives.

In all six cases, the Court further held that there had been violations of Article 2 relating to the authorities’ failure to carry out effective criminal investigations into the circumstances in which the applicants’ relatives had disappeared.

Furthermore, in the cases of Abdulkadyrova and Others and Arzu Akhmadova and Others the Court found 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 Dzhamayeva and Others in April 2002 the authorities, refusing to carry out a forensic examination, had returned to the applicants severely decomposed bodies wrapped in bags; the applicants had only learned two years later when a forensic examination had been carried out that those disfigured remains belonged to their relative. The Court considered that such conduct demonstrated an astonishing lack of care and respect both for the person killed and his relatives and amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment, in violation of Article 3.

The Court found in four of the cases 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.

The Court also found in the first five cases that there had been a violation of Article 13 as regards the alleged violation of Article 2. In the case of Abdulkadyrova and Others it found a further violation of Article 13 as regards the alleged violation of Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.

The Court held that in the cases of Abdulkadyrova and Others, Arzu Akhmadova and Others and Shakhgiriyeva and Others 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.

The press release in full is available here: http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int/tkp197/view.asp?item=3&portal=hbkm&action=html&highlight=&sessionid=17891904&skin=hudoc-pr-en
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