Strasbourg condemns Russia for torture and enforced disappearances in Chechnya


The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on 5 February found Russia guilty of violations of the European Convention over the torture of two men and the enforced disappearance of another six men in different locations in Chechnya between September 2001 and November 2002

In Khadisov and Tsechoyev v. Russia (21519/02) the ECtHR held Russia responsible for the illegal detention and torture of Salambek Khadisov and Islam Tsechoyev. Salambek and Islam,who had never met before, were detained on 23 September 2001 in the Sunhza district of Ingushetia. The next day a local court sanctioned their arrest for 3 days. On the same day they were illegally transferred first to a military base near Nazran, Ingushetia, where they were beaten, and later by helicopter to Khankala, the main Russian military base in Chechnya. Upon arrival they were thrown into a pit in the ground. They were held in the pit for 5 days and were only taken out for interrogation. During interrogations they were severely tortured. Salambek and Islam were subsequently transferred to the Sixth Department of the Organized Crime Unit of the Staropromyslovskiy district of Grozny and finally released on 12 October 2001. Upon release Salambek and Islam could hardly walk, the skin on their feet peeled off, and their faces and bodies were bloated and covered with haematomas.

The applicants in Khaydayeva and Others v. Russia (1848/04) are the relatives of five men who disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near the village of Duba-Yurt, Chechnya, on 9 June 2002. Several eyewitnesses, including two members of the special police forces employed at the checkpoint, subsequently stated to investigators that soldiers belonging to the 348th battalion of Interior Ministry troops had detained Sayd-Salu Akhmatov, Mansur Ismailov, Suliman Malikov, Adlan and Aslan Khatuyev. For several years the authorities denied that they had ever arrested the five men. In October 2007 the Russian government informed the Court that it had detained the five men on 9 June 2002 but that it released them on 10 June 2002. However, it failed to produce any documents showing that the men were released. There has been no news of the five men since.

“Today’s judgment is a first step but now the Russian authorities must continue the investigation. We want to know what happened to our loved-ones and the perpetrators should be found and brought to justice,” said Aset Akhmatova, the mother of Sayd-Salu Akhmatov.

Idalova and Idalov v. Russia (41515/04) concerns the enforced disappearance of Marvan Idalov on 22 November 2002 after he was arrested by military servicemen in the village of Akhkinchu-Borzoy, Chechnya. Marvan has not been seen since.

In today’s judgments the ECtHR unanimously held that:

The right to life has been violated in respect of the six disappeared men 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 (Article 2);

Salambek Khadisov and Islam Tsechoyev were subjected to torture (violation of Article 3);

The Russian authorities had failed to conduct an effective investigation into the allegations of torture (Article 3);

Salambek Khadisov, Islam Tsechoyev and the six disappeared men had been illegally detained (Article 5);

The manner in which the complaints of the relatives of the disappeared men were dealt with by Russian authorities constituted inhuman treatment (Article 3);

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

The ECtHR awarded the applicants in the three cases a total of 286,000 euro for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages. The applicants were assisted in bringing their applications to the ECtHR by Russian Justice Initiative. On 12 February 2009 the Court will announce its judgments in two other cases concerning grave human rights abuse in Chechnya.

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