Strasbourg finds against Russia over three more cases in Chechnya and Ingushetia
In three Chamber judgments on cases involving disappearances in Chechnya and the extra-judicial killing of Umar Zabiyev in Ingushetia, the European Court of Human Rights found, among others, violations of the right to life and that the authorities’ treatment of the victims’ families constituted inhuman treatment (Article 3)
Asadulayeva and others v. Russia (No. 15569/06)
Magomadova and others v. Russia (No. 33933/05)
Zabiyeva and others v. Russia (No. 35052/04)
Violations of Articles 2, 3, 5 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights
Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court awarded the applicants sums ranging between 2,622 euros (EUR) and EUR 24,000 in respect of pecuniary damage, between EUR 2,000 and EUR 35,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage, and between EUR 4,500 and EUR 5,500 for costs and expenses. The judgments, the texts of which can be consulted on the Court’s Internet site (http://www.echr.coe.int), are available only in English.
The applicants in the first case are three Russian nationals who live in Groznenskiy District (Chechen Republic). The first and third applicants are the sisters of Bekman Adiyevich Asadulayev, born in 1979, and the second applicant is his wife. He has not been seen since the early afternoon of 14 January 2004 when he was detained on leaving a Ministry of the Interior building by three or four armed men in unusual grey uniforms, handcuffed and driven away.
The applicants in the second case are five Russian nationals who live in Grozny (Chechen Republic). The first applicant is the mother of Ruslan Magomadov, born in 1966. The second applicant is his wife, the third and fourth applicants are his daughter and son, and the fifth applicant is his sister. He has not been seen since the early hours of 9 February 2003 when he was abducted from the family home by a group of armed men in camouflage uniforms, and driven away in an armoured personnel carrier.
The applicants in the third case are four Russian nationals who live in Galashki (Republic of Ingushetia). They are the mother, wife and sons of Umar Zabiyev, born in 1972, who disappeared from the scene of an accident caused when his lorry came under gunfire, and during which his mother was seriously wounded. His dead body bearing gunshot wounds and bruises was found the next day about two kilometres from the scene of the incident.
The Government did not challenge most of the account given by the applicants in the Magomadova and others case. In respect of the Asadulayeva and others case they submitted that unidentified armed men had abducted Bekman from the secure grounds of the Ministry of Interior. As regards the Zabiyeva and others case, the Government advanced that unidentified persons hiding in a forest had shot at the applicants in June 2003 and that Umar Zabiyev had been found dead, buried not far from the scene of the shooting incident.
Complaints and procedure
The first two cases concerned the applicants’ allegations that a close relative disappeared in Chechnya after having been detained by Russian servicemen; the third case that a close relative had been killed by Russian servicemen. All the applicants further alleged that the domestic authorities failed to carry out an effective investigation. 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).
Decision of the Court
In the case of Asadulayeva and others the Court observed that it was common ground between the parties that on 14 January 2004 Bekman Asadulayev had been summoned to the Ministry of Interior (MVD) and subsequently abducted from its secure grounds. As access to the MVD grounds had only been possible through a secured checkpoint, and that there had been no security breach on the MVD grounds, the Court concluded that the abduction had taken place on premises over which the State authorities had exercised full control at the material time. Furthermore, the District Court had concluded that the applicants’ relative had been taken away with the knowledge of the MVD officials. In addition, having drawn inferences from the authorities’ refusal to submit the file to it, the Court concluded that the applicants’ relative had been abducted by State agents during an unacknowledged security operation. Finally, the Government had failed to provide any explanation for Bekman’s disappearance and the official investigation into his kidnapping, having dragged on for more than five years, had produced no known results. Consequently Court found it established that Bekman Asadulayev had to be presumed dead. In the absence of any plausible explanation on the part of the Government about the circumstances of his death, the Court held that there had been a violation of Article 2.
In the case of Magomadova and others, the Court having examined the documents submitted by the parties, and having drawn inferences from the Government’s failure to submit to it the remaining documents in their exclusive possession or to provide another plausible explanation for the events in question, the Court found that Ruslan Magomadov had been arrested by State servicemen during an unacknowledged security operation. In view of his absence or of any news of him for several years, the Court concluded that he had to be presumed dead. Given the lack of any justification by the Government for his absence, the Court found that his death could be attributed to the State and that there had therefore been a violation of Article 2.
In the case of Zabiyeva and others, the Court considered that the applicants had presented a coherent and convincing picture of the events which had been supported by the witnesses and the domestic investigation. Having drawn inferences from the Government’s failure to submit the documents which were in their exclusive possession or to provide another plausible explanation of the events in question, the Court found it established that the first applicant had been wounded and Umar Zabiyev killed by State servicemen. Since the authorities had failed to account for the killing, the Court held that there had been a violation of Article 2 in respect of Umar Zabiyev.
The Court further held in all three cases that Article 2 had been breached on account of the failure of the competent authorities to conduct en effective investigation into the circumstances of the disappearances or killing of the applicants’ relatives.
In all three cases the Court found a violation of Article 3: in the Asadulayeva and others and Magomadova and others the violation of Article 3 related to the psychological suffering of the applicants; in the Zabiyeva and others three violation of this Article were found, on account of the ill-treatment of Umar and Tamara Zabiyevi and of the lack of an effective investigation into the allegations of such ill-treatment.
The Court further found in the cases Asadulayeva and others, and Magomadova and others, that the applicants’ relatives had been held in unacknowledged detention without any of the safeguards contained in Article 5, which had constituted a particularly grave violation of the right to liberty and security enshrined in this Article.
Finally, in all three cases the Court held that there had been a violation of Article 13 of the Convention taken in conjunction with Article 2. In the Zabiyeva and others case, there had been a violation of Article 13 also in respect of the violation of Article 3.