Strasbourg again finds Russia guilty of violations over disappearances in Chechnya


In three more Chamber judgments concerning disappearances in Chechnya, the European Court of Human Rights unanimously found that there had been a violation of Article 2 (the right to life), Article 5 (unacknowledged detention) and Article 13 (lack of an effective remedy).  In two of the three cases it found that there had been inhumane treatment of the applicants (Article 3),

In all three cases the applicants alleged that their relatives disappeared after being abducted by Russian servicemen. In the case of Sambiyev and Pokayeva, the applicants further alleged that their son, found dead the day after his disappearance, had also been killed by Russian servicemen. All the applicants complained that the domestic authorities failed to carry out an effective investigation into their allegations.

In Dolsayev and Others v. Russia (10700/04) the ECtHR held Russia responsible for the enforced disappearance of four brothers. Beslan, Rizvan, Rizavdi and Shuddi Dolsayev were living with their parents and siblings in the village of Martan-Chu, Chechnya. In the early morning of 21 October 2002 servicemen belonging to the Main Intelligence Department of the Ministry of Defense (GRU) broke into the Dolsayevs’ house and took away Beslan, Rizvan, Rizavdi and Shuddi on an APC. The four brothers have not been seen since.

“Only the European Court protects us. We had no one else to turn to,” said Kursolt Dolsayev, the father of Beslan, Rizvan, Rizavdi and Shuddi.

Zaurbekova and Zaurbekova v. Russia (27183/03) concerns the enforced disappearance of Isa Zaurbekov on 11 February 2003 after he was arrested by military servicemen at his home in the Chechen capital Grozny. There has been no news of him since.

The applicants in Sambiyev and Pokayeva v. Russia (38693/04) are the parents of Anzor Sambiyev who was killed by military servicemen on 10 April 2004 in the village of Starye Atagi, Chechnya. In March 2002 servicemen arrested Anzor’s younger brother Amir Pokayev as well as nine other villagers during a large-scale security operation in Starye Atagi. On 8 January 2009 the ECtHR held Russia responsible for the deaths of Amir and nine other inhabitants of Starye Atagi. After Amir’s killing his parents sent their other son Anzor to live with relatives outside of Chechnya. In early April 2004 Anzor returned to visit his parents. In the evening of 10 April 2004 military servicemen, who had been regularly enquiring about Anzor’s whereabouts, raided the applicants’ home and detained Anzor. The following day his body was discovered with bullet wounds.

In today’s judgments the ECtHR unanimously held that:

The right to life has been violated in respect of Anzor Sambiyev as well as in respect of the disappeared persons who must be presumed dead (violation of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights);

The Russian authorities had failed to conduct effective investigations into the violations of the right to life (violation of Article 2);

The applicants’ relatives had been illegally detained (violation of Article 5);

The manner in which the complaints of the applicants in the first two cases were dealt with by Russian authorities constituted inhuman treatment (violation of Article 3);

The applicants did not have access to an effective remedy before Russian authorities for the violations (violation of Article 13).

The ECtHR awarded the applicants in the three cases a total of 234,000 euro for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.

“The ECtHR has already handed down more than 70 judgments in which it condemned Russia for grave human rights abuse committed by Russian servicemen in Chechnya,” said Aage Borchgrevink, member of the board of Russian Justice Initiative. “A majority of those judgments concerns enforced disappearances. Although between 3,000 and 5,000 individuals have disappeared in Chechnya since 1999 at the hands of Russian servicemen, there has been just a single case in which the perpetrator was brought to justice. On 27 November 2007 a court in Chechnya sentenced Sergey Lapin, a police officer from Khanty-Mansiysk, to ten and a half years in prison for torturing Zelimkhan Murdalov, who subsequently disappeared. The Russian authorities only started a meaningful investigation into the case after Anna Politkovskaya wrote about it and Stanislav Markelov complained on behalf Zelimkhan’s family.”

The applicants were assisted in bringing their applications to the ECtHR by Russian Justice Initiative.

Mostly from as well as where the judgments are available in full

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