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Home » ECHR Cases

Yusupova and Zaurbekov – Zulpa Akhmatova and Others v. Russia

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Yusupova and Zaurbekov – Zulpa Akhmatova and Others v. Russia

The ECHR cases of Yusupova and Zaurbekov v. Russia (application no. 22057/02), Zulpa Akhmatova and Others v. Russia (application nos. 13569/02 and 13573/02).

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EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

708

9.10.2008

Press release issued by the Registrar

CHAMBER JUDGMENT

YUSUPOVA and ZAURBEKOV v. RUSSIA

ZULPA AKHMATOVA and OTHERS v. RUSSIA

Yusupova and Zaurbekov v. Russia (no. 22057/02)

The applicants are two Russian nationals, Roza Yusupova and Ayndi Zaurbekov, who were born in 1958 and 1983 respectively and live in Grozny (Chechen Republic). They are the wife and son of Abdulkasin Zaurbekov who was born in 1951. On 17 October 2000, having been told that his contract at the Temporary Office of the Interior of the Oktyabrskiy District of Grozny (the Oktyabrskiy VOVD) as a crane operator would not be extended, he went there to collect his wages with his son, Ayndi, who waited outside for him to return; he has not been seen since. The applicants alleged that the authorities were responsible for their relative’s disappearance and that the investigation into their allegation was inadequate. They relied, in particular, on Articles 2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), 5 (right to liberty and security), 13 (right to an effective remedy) and Article 38 § 1 (a) (obligation to furnish necessary facilities for the examination of the case).

The Court found it established that Abdulkasim Zaurbekov entered, and never left, the premises of the Oktyabrskiy VOVD. There has been no reliable news of the applicants’ relative since 17 October 2000 and the Government did not submit any reasonable explanation as to what had happened to him after that date. In the context of the conflict in Chechnya, in a situation where the applicants’ relative entered the premises of a police station and went missing for years, it may be presumed, even in the absence of any conclusive evidence as to what exactly happened to him afterwards, that he was placed in unacknowledged detention under the control of the State. The Court further noted that these circumstances could be described as life-threatening, given, in particular, the available information attesting several other cases of disappearance from the premises of the Oktyabrskiy VOVD of Grozny in September – October 2000. Abdulkasim Zaurbekov went missing for a considerable lapse of time and has to be presumed dead following unacknowledged detention by State agents. The Court further found that the Russian Government had not accounted for the death of the applicants’ relative during his detention. The Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 2 as regards the disappearance of Abdulkasim Zaurbekov. It also held that there had been a further violation of Article 2 on account of the authorities’ failure to carry out an adequate and effective investigation into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Abdulkasim Zaurbekov.

The Court noted that it was unable to establish, to the necessary degree of proof, the exact way in which Abdulkasim Zaurbekov had died and whether he had been subjected to ill-treatment while in detention and therefore held that there had been no violation of Article 3 as regards the alleged ill-treatment of Abdulkasim Zaurbekov.

The Court considered that the applicants had suffered distress and anguish as a result of their relative’s disappearance and of their inability to find out what had happened to him or to receive up-to-date and exhaustive information on the investigation. The manner in which the applicants’ complaints have been dealt with by the authorities had to be considered as amounting to inhuman treatment contrary to Article 3.

Referring to its finding that Abdulkasim Zaurbekov had been a victim of unacknowledged detention, the Court found that this constituted a particularly grave violation of his right to liberty and security enshrined in Article 5.

The Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 13 in respect of the alleged violations of Article 2, and no violation of Article 13 as regards the alleged violation of Article 3 in respect of Abdulkasim Zaurbekov. No separate issues arose under Article 13 in respect of the alleged violation of Article 3 in respect of the applicants on account of mental suffering and in respect of the alleged violation of Article 5.

Finally, the Court held unanimously that there had been a failure to comply with Article 38 § 1 (a) of the Convention in that the Russian Government refused to submit the documents requested by the Court.

The Court awarded the applicants, jointly, EUR 8,000 in respect of pecuniary damage, EUR 25,000 to each applicant in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 7,150 for costs and expenses. (The judgment is available only in English.)


Zulpa Akhmatova and Others v. Russia (nos. 13569/02 and 13573/02)

The applicants are six Russian nationals: Zulpa Akhmatova, born in 1939, Abaz Debizov, born in 1932, now deceased, Taus Serbiyeva, born in 1932, Saret Yasadova, born in 1963, and Sharpudi Bargayev, born in 1956, who live in Novye Atagi (Chechen Republic); and, Islam Serbiyev, born in 1964, who lives in Grozny. Ms Akhmatova and Mr Debizov are the parents of Said-Magomed Debizov, born in 1967; Ms Serbiyeva and Mr Serbiyev are the mother and brother of Iznovr Serbiyev, born in 1967; and, Ms Yasadova and Mr Bargayev are the parents of Bekkhan Bargayev, born in 1981. The families have had no news of their relatives since 14 January 2001. They alleged that the three men disappeared after being detained by Russian servicemen during a “sweeping operation”. They relied, in particular, on Articles 2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), 5 (right to liberty and security), 13 (right to an effective remedy).

The Court held unanimously that there had been a failure to comply with Article 38 § 1 (a) of the Convention in that the Government had refused to submit documents requested by the Court.

The Court found that the fact that a large group of armed men in uniform in broad daylight, equipped with military vehicles, had been able to move freely through military roadblocks, to check identity documents and to arrest several persons in an urban area, strongly supported the applicants’ allegation that these were Russian servicemen. Drawing inferences from the Government’s failure, despite specific requests from the Court, to submit documents from the criminal investigation file which were in their exclusive possession or to provide another plausible explanation of the events in question, the Court considered that Said-Magomed Debizov, Iznovr Serbiyev and Bekkhan Bargayev had been arrested on 14 January 2001 in Novye Atagi by Russian servicemen during an unacknowledged security operation. There had been no reliable news of them since then and the Government had not submitted any explanation as to what had happened to them after their arrest. In the context of the conflict in Chechnya, when a person had been detained by unidentified servicemen without any subsequent acknowledgment of the detention, this can be regarded as life-threatening. The absence of Said-Magomed Debizov, Iznovr Serbiyev and Bekkhan Bargayev or of any news of them for over seven years supported this assumption. Therefore they had to be presumed dead following their unacknowledged detention by Russian servicemen. Noting that the authorities had not justified the use of lethal force by their agents, the Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 2 in respect of Said-Magomed Debizov, Iznovr Serbiyev and Bekkhan Bargayev.

The Court also held unanimously that there had been a further violation of Article 2 concerning the Russian authorities’ failure to conduct an effective investigation into the circumstances in which the applicants’ relatives had been killed.

Furthermore, the Court considered that the applicants had suffered, and continued to suffer, distress and anguish as a result of the disappearance of their family members 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 as inhuman treatment, in violation of Article 3.

The Court further found that Said-Magomed Debizov, Iznovr Serbiyev and Bekkhan Bargayev 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 5.

Finally, the Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 13 in conjunction with Article 2, and that no separate issues arose under Article 13 of the Convention in conjunction with Articles 3 and 5.

The Court awarded EUR 8,000, each, to the mothers of Said-Magomed Debizov and Iznovr Serbiyev in respect of pecuniary damage. In respect of non-pecuniary damage, the Court awarded EUR 35,000 to Said-Magomed Debizov’s mother, EUR 35,000, jointly, to the mother and brother of Iznovr Serbiyev, and EUR 35,000, jointly, to Bekkhan Bargayev’s parents. For costs and expenses, the applicants were awarded EUR 9,150. (The judgment is available only in English.)

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