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13.03.2009

More judgments against Russia over disappearances in Chechnya

   

On 12 March the European Court of Human Rights notified of three Chamber judgments in which the applicants alleged that their relatives had disappeared after being abducted by Russian servicemen and that the domestic authorities failed to carry out an effective investigation into their allegations. In all three cases which involved the disappearance in different parts of Chechnya of 13 men, the Court found that Russia had violated Article 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.

1. Dzhambekova and Others v. Russia (nos. 27238/03 and 35078/04)

The applicants in the first case are 19 Russian nationals belonging to four families who live in the Urus-Martan district (Chechen Republic). They are the close relatives of four men who have not been seen since they were abducted from their family homes in late 2001 and early 2002 by armed, masked men in camouflage uniforms. Since then the four families have been conducting a search for the four men together. In December 2002 Imran Dzhambekov’s mother and Magomed Soltymuradov’s sister, at a “congress of the Chechen people” in order to draw attention to their relatives’ disappearance, were arrested and detained for four days at Gudermes District Department of the Interior. The two women complained about the unlawfulness and conditions of their detention, in particular inadequate heating, hygiene and sanitary facilities and lack of food and water.

2. Elsiyev and Others v. Russia (no. 21816/03)

The applicants in the second case are eight Russian nationals who live in Tsotsi-Yurt (Chechen Republic). They are the close relatives of Salakh Elsiyev, Iskhadzhi Demelkhanov, Akhmed Demilkhanov, Adam Boltiyev, Dzhabrail Debishev, Lom-Ali Abubakarov, Ramzan Mandiyev and Aslambek Agmerzayev, born in 1972, 1980, 1984, 1980, 1977, 1968, 1981 and 1956, respectively. The eight men have not been seen since 2 and 3 September 2002 when they were abducted from their family homes by armed men in camouflage uniforms, some wearing masks. The applicants alleged in particular that their relatives had disappeared during a large-scale security operation carried out in their village between 1 and 8 September 2002 during which at least 86 people were apprehended.

3. Khadayeva and Others v. Russia (no. 5351/04)

The applicants in the third case are eight Russian nationals who live in Urus-Martan (Chechen Republic). They are the close relatives of Ali Zainievich Khadayev, born in 1977, who was abducted from his family home in the early hours of 5 January 2003 by a group of armed men wearing camouflage uniforms.

In all three cases the Court considered that the applicants had presented a coherent and convincing picture of their relatives’ abduction, corroborated by witness statements. In the case of Elsiyev and Others it was indeed even common ground between the parties that the applicants’ eight relatives had been apprehended in a security operation in Tsotsi-Yurt. The Court therefore held in all three cases that the evidence available to it established beyond reasonable doubt that the applicants’ relatives had to be presumed dead following their unacknowledged detention by Russian servicemen during security operations. The Court came to these conclusions by drawing inferences from the Government’s failure to submit the documents from the investigation files which were in their exclusive possession or to provide another plausible explanation for the events in question. Noting in the cases of Dzhambekova and Others and Khadayeva and Others that the authorities had not justified the use of lethal force by their agents and in the case of Elsiyev and Others that the Government had failed to give any plausible explanation for the events in question, the Court concluded that there had been a violation of Article 2 in respect of all of the applicants’ relatives.

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

The Court also found that, with the exception of Magomed Soltymuradov’s uncle and cousin who could not be considered as his close family members and had not apparently been involved in the search for him, all 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.

The Court found in particular in all three 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.

Lastly, the Court found that, in the case of Dzhambekova and Others, Imran Dzhambekov’s mother and Magomed Soltymuradov’s sister had been detained for fours days in December 2002 in manifest contradiction to the procedural guarantees provided for by domestic legislation and the European Convention, in violation of Article 5 § 1. It further held that the mental anguish caused by the unlawful nature of their detention had been exacerbated by the unsatisfactory conditions of their detention, especially taking into account the two women’s vulnerable position, in view of their age, 43 and 53 at the time, and gender. The Court therefore held that there had been a violation of Article 3 on account of the two women’s conditions of detention in December 2002.

Strasbourg again finds against Russia over disappearances in Chechnya

http://www.echr.coe.int
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