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Home » ECHR Cases

Iriskhanova and Iriskhanov – Aliyeva v. Russia

Submitted by on Thursday, 18 February 2010.    1,075 views No Comment
Iriskhanova and Iriskhanov – Aliyeva v. Russia

The ECHR cases of Iriskhanova and Iriskhanov v. Russia (no. 35869/05) and Aliyeva v. Russia (no. 1901/05).




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EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

135

18.02.2010

Press release issued by the Registrar

Two Chamber judgments against Russia concerning disappearances in Chechnya

The European Court of Human Rights has today notified in writing two Chamber judgments concerning Russia, neither of which is final. The applicants alleged that their relatives, elder son in the first case and husband in the second case, disappeared after being abducted by Russian servicemen and that the domestic authorities failed to carry out an effective investigation into their allegations. 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) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

1. Iriskhanova and Iriskhanov v. Russia (no. 35869/05)

The applicants are two Russian nationals who live in Samashki, Chechnya. They are the parents of Mr Zurab Iriskhanov, who was born in 1980 and has not been seen since the evening of 19 June 2002 when he was abducted from his home, together with his younger brother, Gilani Iriskhanov, by a group of men with machine guns. The men did not produce any documents to identify themselves; they beat and handcuffed both brothers, put sacks over their heads and took them away in two different vehicles.

The abduction was witnessed by a number of the applicants’ relatives and neighbours who provided accounts which were submitted to the Court by the applicants. According to the applicants, the district prosecutor of the Achkhoy-Martan told them on 21 June 2002 that their two sons had been taken by helicopter to the military base in Khankala. Once there, they were told that the young men were transferred to ORB-2 (operational search bureau of the Ministry of the Interior in Grozny). The applicants found a note in their yard indicating the whereabouts of their younger son, whom they collected form ORB-2 on 27 June 2002.

Since 19 June 2002, the applicants have repeatedly applied in person and in writing to various public bodies requesting assistance in finding their son, Zurab. On 24 June 2002 an investigation was opened into the events. The Government submitted that a number of investigative measures were undertaken including a crime scene inspection and questioning of many neighbours and relatives of the applicants. According to the Government, the investigation had found no evidence to support the involvement of the federal forces in the crime. The investigation was suspended and resumed on several occasions; it has so far failed to establish Zurab’s whereabouts or the identity of the perpetrators of his kidnapping.

Despite specific requests by the Court the Government did not disclose the entire contents of criminal case opened into Zurab’s disappearance. They stated that the investigation was in progress and that disclosure of other documents would be in violation of the Russian Code of Criminal Procedure, since the file contained information and personal data concerning witnesses or other participants in criminal proceedings.

Violation of Article 2 (right to life) in respect of Zurab Iriskhanov

Violation of Article 2 (right to life) for failure to conduct an effective investigation into the circumstances of Zurab’s disappearance

Violation of Article 3 (inhuman and degrading treatment) on account of the applicants’ mental suffering caused by Zurab’s disappearance

Violation of Article 5 (unacknowledged detention) in respect of Zurab Iriskhanov

Violation of Article 13 (lack of an effective remedy) in conjunction with Article 2

The Court awarded the applicants jointly 60,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage, and EUR 5,500 for costs and expenses.

2. Aliyeva v. Russia (no. 1901/05)

The applicant is a Russian national who was born in 1967 and lives in Grozny in Chechnya. She was the wife of Mr Abu Aliyev, who was born in 1962 and was disabled one of his leg having been amputated.

At about 2.00 a.m. on 29 October 2002 several armoured personnel vehicles arrived at the applicant’s apartment where she lived with her husband and five children. Around thirty armed men wearing camouflage uniforms and masks got out of the vehicles, broke down the door of the Aliyevs’ flat and entered. The men did not identify themselves. They bound the applicant with adhesive tape and threw her on the kitchen floor; then they dragged Abu Aliyev out in his underwear and left with him.

An investigation into the kidnapping of the applicant’s husband was opened on 11 November 2002 and the applicant was granted victim status in December 2002. Some witnesses were questioned and requests for information were sent to departments of the Interior and prosecutors of different levels in Chechnya and Dagestan. The Government submitted that as a result of those measures it was established that Mr Abu Aliyev had not been detained by State authorities and had not been placed in either remand or administrative detention facilities. He was not found in hospitals, nor was his body to be found in any morgue either. No special operations were being conducted by the federal forces in Grozny on the date in question. The investigation did not establish that servicemen were involved in the crime. Operational search measures were being taken in the criminal case. The Government provided documents related to the investigation on ten pages, however, they did not enclosed transcripts of questioning or other documents concerning the investigative measures allegedly taken.

In December 2003 the applicant complained before the district court of the ineffective investigation. Her complained was dismissed the courts having found that the investigators had taken all requisite measures to resolve the crime.

Violations of Article 2 (right to life) in respect of Abu Aliyev

Violations of Article 2 (right to life) for failure to conduct an effective investigation into the circumstances of Abu’s disappearance

Violation of Article 3 (inhuman and degrading treatment) on account of the ill-treatment to which Abu Aliyev had been subjected, on account of the authorities’ failure to conduct an effective investigation into the complaints regarding that ill-treatment, and on account of the mental suffering of Abu’s wife as a result of his disappearance

Violation of Article 5 (unacknowledged detention) in respect of Abu Aliyev

Violation of Article 13 (lack of an effective remedy) in conjunction with Articles 2 and3

The Court awarded 60,000 euros (EUR) to the applicant in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 1,650 for costs and expenses.

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CASE OF IRISKHANOVA AND IRISKHANOV v. RUSSIA

(Application no. 35869/05)

JUDGMENT

STRASBOURG

18 February 2010

This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Iriskhanova and Iriskhanov v. Russia,

The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:

Christos Rozakis, President,
Anatoly Kovler,
Elisabeth Steiner,
Dean Spielmann,
Sverre Erik Jebens,
Giorgio Malinverni,
George Nicolaou, judges,
and SĂžren Nielsen, Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 28 January 2010,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

PROCEDURE

1.  The case originated in an application (no. 35869/05) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by two Russian nationals, Ms Zukhrat Iriskhanova and Mr Umar-Ail Iriskhanov (“the applicants”), on 28 September 2005.

2.  The applicants were represented by lawyers of the Stichting Russian Justice Initiative (“SRJI”), an NGO based in the Netherlands with a representative office in Russia. The Russian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr A. Savenkov, First Deputy Minister of Justice, and, subsequently, by Mr G. Matyushkin, Representative of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights.

3.  On 18 March 2008 the Court decided to apply Rule 41 of the Rules of Court and to grant priority treatment to the application and to give notice of the application to the Government. Under the provisions of Article 29 § 3 of the Convention, it decided to examine the merits of the application at the same time as its admissibility. The President of the Chamber acceded to the Government’s request not to make the documents from the criminal investigation file deposited with the Registry in connection with the application publicly accessible (Rule 33 of the Rules of Court).

4.  The Government objected to the joint examination of the admissibility and merits of the application. Having considered the Government’s objection, the Court dismissed it.

THE FACTS

I.  THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE

5.  The applicants were born in 1957 and 1955 respectively. They live in Samashki, Chechnya. They are the parents of Zurab Iriskhanov, who was born in 1980.

A.  Disappearance of Zurab Iriskhanov

1.  The applicants’ account

6.  At the material time Zurab Iriskhanov was a student at the Grozny State Oil Academy and was positively assessed by its administration. His brother Gilani Iriskhanov was in the 10th grade at the local school. The brothers lived with their parents and other relatives at 10 Novaya Street in Samashki village in the Achkhoy-Martan district of Chechnya. At the material time the settlement was under a curfew. Russian military checkpoints were situated on the roads leading to and from the village.

7.  In the evening of 19 June 2002 the applicants, their sons Zurab and Gilani Iriskhanov and other relatives were at home. At about 7 p.m. three APCs (armoured personnel carriers) with a group of armed men arrived at the house. Another APC arrived in a neighbouring street and parked close to the applicants’ house.

8.  The group consisted of approximately thirty to forty men of Slavic appearance. They were armed with machine guns and spoke unaccented Russian. The men neither introduced themselves nor produced any documents. The applicants thought that they were Russian military servicemen.

9.  The servicemen surrounded the applicants’ house. The first applicant heard one of the officers, whom the others called “Lyekha” (â€˜Đ›Ă«Ń…Đ°â€™), calling somebody on his portable radio and reporting: “These men are not here…” and the response: “Take the other ones as well”. When the first applicant asked the officers what was going on, they swore at her and threatened to shoot her.

10.  When Zurab and Gilani Iriskhanov heard the APCs they ran outside. The servicemen opened fire on them. As a result, Zurab Iriskhanov was wounded and Gilani Iriskhanov was hit on the head with a gun butt and forced to the ground. The servicemen handcuffed Zurab and Gilani Iriskhanov, put sacks over their heads, kicked them and beat them with gun butts. After that they dragged the brothers to the APCs and put them into different vehicles.

11.  Meanwhile some of the servicemen searched the applicants’ house. They did not inform the applicants of what they were looking for. It appears that they did not find anything of interest to them. After the search the APCs drove away in the direction of the Samashki military commander’s office.

12.  The abduction of Zurab and Gilani Iriskhanov was witnessed by a number of the applicants’ relatives and neighbours.

13.  The description of the events of the evening of 19 June 2002 is based on the following accounts: two accounts by the first applicant, one dated 20 February 2005 and one undated; an account by the applicants’ neighbour Ms A.Sh. (undated); an account by the applicants’ neighbour Ms A. M. (undated); an account by the applicants’ neighbour Ms A.A. (undated); an account by the applicants’ neighbour Ms Z.K. dated 21 August 2005; an account by the applicants’ neighbour Ms A.M. (undated); two accounts by a number of residents of Samashki (undated); a hand-drawn map of the premises and an article published in the newspaper Pravo-Zashchita (“ПраĐČĐŸ-Защота”) in the issue for 5 June 2003.

2.  Information submitted by the Government

14.  The Government did not challenge most of the facts as presented by the applicants. According to their submission “…the reason for the opening of the criminal case was the complaint by Z. Iriskhanova lodged on 21 June 2002 about the abduction of her sons Zurab Iriskhanov, who was born in 1980, and Gilani Iriskhanov, who was born in 1983, on 19th June 2002.

B.  The search for Zurab Iriskhanov and the investigation

1.  The applicants’ account

15.  Since 19 June 2002 the applicants have repeatedly applied in person and in writing to various public bodies. They were supported in their efforts by the SRJI. In their letters to the authorities the applicants referred to their son’s abduction and asked for assistance and details of the investigation. Most of these enquiries have remained unanswered, or purely formal replies have been given in which the applicants’ requests have been forwarded to various prosecutors’ offices. The applicants submitted some of the letters to the authorities and the replies to the Court, which are summarised below.

a. The applicants’ search for their sons

16.  Immediately after the abduction of their sons the applicants, along with other residents of the village, went to the Samashki military commander’s office (the military commander’s office). It appears that by midnight of 19 June 2002 a crowd of almost 300 local residents gathered there. They demanded the release of Zurab and Gilani Iriskhanov and the reasons why they had been taken away by the servicemen.

17.  At about midnight on 19 June 2002 the head of the local department of the interior, officer L.S., came out of the military commander’s office building and told the crowd that Zurab and Gilani Iriskhanov would be released at 7 a.m. on the following morning, 20 June 2002.

18.  In the morning of 20 June 2002 the applicants and other residents of the village returned to the military commander’s office. At the office they were told that Zurab and Gilani Iriskhanov had not been detained on their premises. No explanation was provided concerning the whereabouts of the brothers. The applicants and their relatives decided to wait for the news about Zurab and Gilani Iriskhanov at the entrance to the building. They waited until midnight on 20 June 2002.

19.  In the morning of 21 June 2002 the first applicant went to the Achkhoy-Martan district prosecutor’s office (the district prosecutor’s office) and asked them to come to the military commander’s office. At about 10 a.m. the district prosecutor arrived at the military commander’s office. Having spent about twenty minutes in the building, the prosecutor came out and told the applicants that about fifteen minutes before, on that very same morning, Zurab and Gilani Iriskhanov had been taken by helicopter to the main Russian military base in Khankala, Chechnya. A number of local residents saw the helicopter taking off from the yard of the military commander’s office. After that three APCs drove out of the yard. Employees of the military prosecutor’s office told the applicants that these APCs had arrived from the military base in Khankala.

20.  When the applicants asked the district prosecutor for assistance in expediting the release of their sons, the latter told them that he could not do anything about it, as when he had arrived at the military commander’s office even he had had to surrender his service gun to enter the building.

21.  On several occasions from 21 to 23 June 2002 the applicants went to the military base in Khankala. The servicemen there told them that Zurab and Gilani Iriskhanov had been transferred to the ORB-2 (operational search bureau) of the Grozny department of the interior (the Grozny OVD).

22.  On 26 June 2002 the applicants found a note in their yard. The letter stated that Gilani Iriskhanov had been detained in the ORB-2 of the Grozny OVD and that the applicants could pick him up from there.

23. In the morning of 27 June 2002 the applicants went to the ORB-2 in Grozny. Gilani Iriskhanov was released in exchange for money. The applicants were told that he had been transferred to the ORB-2 from the military base in Khankala. No information was available about the whereabouts of Zurab Iriskhanov.

24.  While in detention Gilani Iriskhanov had been beaten and questioned about the whereabouts of his uncle, a member of illegal armed groups. After his release Gilani Iriskhanov underwent medical treatment in the Malgobek district hospital. Neither the applicants nor Gilani Iriskhanov complained to domestic authorities that he had been ill-treated.

b. The official investigation into the disappearance

25.  On 20 June 2002 the applicants complained to the district prosecutor’s office that their sons had been abducted. They also informed them of the registration numbers of the APCs which had taken away their sons on 19 June 2002.

26.  On 24 June 2002 the district prosecutor’s office instituted an investigation into the abduction of Zurab and Gilani Iriskhanov under Article 126 § 2 of the Criminal Code (aggravated kidnapping). The case file was given the number 63045.

27.  On 16 April 2003 the first applicant requested the district prosecutor’s office to assist her in the search for Zurab Iriskhanov.

28.  On 19 April 2003 the district prosecutor’s office informed the first applicant that they had been taking operational search measures to establish the whereabouts of Zurab Iriskhanov and identify the perpetrators of the crime.

29.  On 28 April 2003 the Chief Military Prosecutor’s office forwarded the first applicant’s complaint that her son had been abducted by Russian military servicemen to the military prosecutor’s office of the United Group Alignment (the military prosecutor’s office of the UGA).

30.  On 10 July 2003 the military prosecutor’s office of the UGA forwarded the first applicant’s complaint to the military prosecutor’s office of military unit no. 20102 for examination.

31.  On 27 June 2003 the Achkhoy-Martan district military commander informed the first applicant that his office had no information concerning any unlawful actions of the Russian military servicemen on 19 June 2002.

32.  On 11 May 2005 the district prosecutor’s office informed the first applicant that on an unspecified date the investigation of criminal case no. 63045 had been resumed.

2.  Information submitted by the Government

33.  According to the documents submitted by the Government, the first applicant complained on 21 June 2002 to the district prosecutor’s office that her sons had been abducted. In her letter she stated that her sons had been abducted by Russian servicemen who had arrived in APCs; that they had been detained for some time at the checkpoint located on the Sunzhenskiy mountain ridge; and that thirty-four other residents of the Achkhoy-Martan district had been detained there on 18 and 19 June 2002.

34.  The Government submitted that the investigation of the criminal case opened in connection with the abduction of Zurab and Gilani Iriskhanov by “unidentified men” had commenced on 24 June 2002.

35.  On 24 June 2002 the investigators conducted a crime scene examination at the applicants’ house. Nothing was collected from the scene.

36.  On 24 June 2002 the first applicant was granted victim status in the criminal case and questioned. She stated that at about 8 p.m. on 19 June 2002 three APCs with a group of about fifty military servicemen had arrived at her yard. The registration numbers on the vehicles had been covered with mud. The servicemen were armed; they swore a lot and fired gunshots in the air. They grabbed Gilani Iriskhanov, beat him with rifle butts and put him into one of the APCs. Her second son, Zurab, tried to run away from the soldiers through the back yard, but he was caught in the vegetable garden, beaten with rifle butts and placed in another APC. The abduction of her sons took about five minutes; due to the gunshots fired by the abductors, a number of neighbours gathered next to her house and witnessed the abduction. After that the APCs drove to the military commander’s office in Samashki. The applicant and her neighbours went there to inquire about the reasons for the arrest of Zurab and Gilani Iriskhanov; they waited at the entrance to the office until 11 p.m. According to the applicant, that evening she managed to speak to the military commander, who promised her that her sons would be released on the following morning. The applicant also found out that her sons’ abductors were not from the local military commander’s office, that they were stationed there temporarily and were from an unidentified military unit. The applicant and her neighbours spent several days waiting for news about the abducted brothers; while they were waiting they saw a helicopter, which landed in the yard of the military commander’s office and took off about ten minutes later; after that the abductors drove away from the military commander’s office building in four APCs and six Ural lorries with tented backs. On the third day after the abduction some employees of the military commander’s office informed the applicant that Gilani and Zurab Iriskhanov had been taken by helicopter to Khankala, Chechnya.

37.  On 27 June 2002 the investigators questioned the applicants’ neighbour Ms R.Yu., who stated that at about 8 p.m. on 19 June 2002 she had been at home when she had heard gunfire. Through the fence she had seen a group of about ten men in camouflage uniforms and armed with automatic weapons in the Iriskhanovs’ vegetable garden. These men had taken a young man from there and put him in an APC. After the military vehicle had left she learnt from the first applicant that the armed men had abducted her sons.

38.  On 27 June 2002 the investigators questioned the applicants’ relative, Ms Kh.Ch., whose statement concerning the circumstances of the abduction of Gilani and Zurab Iriskhanov by military servicemen and the subsequent events was similar to the first applicant’s statement of 24 June 2002.

39.  On 27 June 2002 the investigators questioned the applicants’ neighbour, Ms L.A., who stated that at about 8 p.m. on 19 June 2002 she had heard from her house gunshots, screams, loud swearing in Russian and the noise of armoured vehicles. After the shooting had stopped, she had gone to the Iriskhanovs, where the first applicant had told her that armed men in camouflage uniforms, who had arrived in APCs, had taken away her son Zurab Iriskhanov.

40.  On 27 June 2002 the investigators also questioned the applicants’ neighbour, Ms A.M. who stated that at about 8 p.m. on 19 June 2002 she had been at home when she had heard gunshots. She had gone out into the street, where she had seen an APC and a group of nine armed men in camouflage uniforms standing next to it and swearing in Russian. Her neighbour, the first applicant, was standing next to the gate crying. After the APC had gone she found out from the first applicant that the men had beaten and abducted her son Zurab Iriskhanov. On 8 June 2005 the witness was questioned again and stated that after the military servicemen had taken away Gilani and Zurab Iriskhanov, the applicants and about 300 other residents of the village had gone to the local military commander’s office, where they had spent three days waiting for news of the abducted men. On 1 July 2002 Gilani had returned home; according to the applicants, he had been handed over to them by officers of the Regional Department of the Fight Against Organised Crime of the Ministry of the Interior (the RUBOP) and that he had been detained in a pre-trial detention centre in Grozny.

41.  On 28 June 2002 the investigators questioned Gilani Iriskhanov, who stated that at about 8 p.m. on 19 June 2002 two APCs with a group of about fifty unidentified armed men in camouflage uniforms had arrived at his family’s house. The men placed him in one of the APCs. His brother Zurab had tried to run away from them, but was caught and also put into the APC. After that the brothers were taken to the military commander’s office in Samashki, where they were detained for two days; on the third day they were taken by a helicopter to Khankala, where they were detained for three more days. After that they were taken to the RUBOP in Grozny. Throughout the detention the brothers were kept separately and did not see each other. According to the witness, he was not beaten during the detention. On 27 July 2002 he was released and returned home. The Government did not provide a copy of this witness statement.

42.  On 28 and 29 June 2002 the investigators questioned the applicants’ neighbours, Ms M.S. and Ms Ma.S., whose statements concerning the circumstances of the abduction were similar to the one provided by Ms A.M.

43.  On 30 June 2002 the investigators questioned the applicants’ neighbour, Ms G.A., who stated that at about 8 p.m. on 19 June 2002 she had been at home when she had heard gunshots and gone outside. In the vegetable garden adjacent to the Iriskhanov family’s garden she had seen a group of about ten armed men in camouflage uniforms and an APC in the street. The armed men put Zurab Iriskhanov into the APC and took him away.

44.  On 26 and 30 June and 5 July 2002 the investigators requested the ROVD and other district departments of the interior in Chechnya to take operational search measures to identify and question witnesses to Zurab Iriskhanov’s abduction, to establish whether he had been detained by local law-enforcement and military structures, whether he was detained in any of the detention centres of the Achkhoy-Martan district and whether his corpse had been found. According to the replies of 27-29 August and 2, 4, 6, 16, 17 and 20 September 2002, Zurab Iriskhanov had not been detained by the State authorities and his corpse had not been found.

45.  On 13, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20 and 22–26 May and 1, 3-5, 9 and 10 June 2005 the investigators questioned a number of the applicants’ fellow villagers, including Ms L.Z., Ms Z.Kh., Mr M.T., Ms Z.S., Mr S.G., Mr Kh.S., Mr A.S., Mr Kh.I., Ms S.Ch., Mr A.O., Mr I.A., Mr M.I., Mr M.G., Mr Sh. M., Ms Z.A., Mr M.D., Ms Kh.U. , Mr A.U., Mr I.S., Mr A.A., Ms Kh.M., Ms M.D., Mr D.Kh. and Ms T.Sh., all of whom provided similar statements concerning the abduction. The witnesses stated that they had not witnessed the events, but had been informed by their relatives and neighbours that in the evening of 19 June 2002 a group of military servicemen had arrived at the Iriskhanovs’ house in three APCs, opened fire and taken away Zurab and Gilani Iriskhanov and that at some point later Gilani Iriskhanov had been released and returned home.

46.  On 20 May and 11 June 2005 the investigators questioned the applicants’ neighbours Ms T.A. and Ms L.M. accordingly, who provided similar statements concerning the circumstances surrounding the abduction. According to the witnesses, they had been at home when they had heard armoured vehicles and gunfire. They had seen armed men in camouflage uniforms in the street, got scared and stayed inside. About half an hour later, when the shooting was over, they went to the Iriskhanovs’ and learnt about the abduction of their sons. After that along with the applicants and about 300 other residents of the village they went to the local military commander’s office to obtain information about the abducted brothers. They spent three days next to the office waiting for the news, but to no avail. On the third day they saw a helicopter land on the premises of the office and take off about ten minutes later. Shortly afterwards several armoured vehicles drove out of the yard of the military commander’s office; their registration numbers were covered with mud. However, it started raining and those present were able to see the numbers when the mud was washed off by the rain. They wrote them down and submitted them to the authorities in their collective letter. They witnesses further stated that the Iriskhanov brothers had been taken by helicopter to Khankala, Chechnya.

47.  On 19, 20, 23 and 25 May and 1, 6 and 9 June 2005 the investigators questioned the applicants’ neighbours, Ms Kh.Ts., Ms M.D., Ms Z.Sh., Mr R.A., Ms R.Kh., Mr Kh.Z., Ms M.A. and Ms R.I., whose statements concerning the events surrounding the abduction were similar to those provided by Ms T.A. and Ms L.M.

48.  On 5 June 2005 the investigators questioned the applicants’ neighbour, Ms M.T., who stated that at about 6 p.m. on 19 June 2002 she had been at home and had gone out in the street and seen military armoured vehicles. It was the third time the vehicles had arrived in her street that day. This time they stopped at the Iriskhanovs’ house. From the balcony she saw three APCs with military servicemen in camouflage uniforms; the servicemen opened fire and the shooting lasted for about half an hour. According to the witness, she watched Gilani Iriskhanov being taken away. After the shooting was over she went to the Iriskhanovs’ house, where she was told that the soldiers had also taken away Zurab Iriskhanov.

49.  On 6 June 2005 the investigators questioned the deputy head of the Samashki village administration, Mr Kh.Ts., who stated that in the summer of 2002 he had learnt about the abduction of the Iriskhanov brothers by military servicemen. According to the witness, the brothers had not participated in the activities of illegal armed groups.

50.  On 7 June 2005 the investigators questioned the applicants’ neighbour, Ms Z.N., who stated that at about 7 p.m. on 19 June 2002 she had been at home when she had heard armoured vehicles in the street. She had gone outside and next to the Iriskhanovs’ house she had seen three APCs and a group of military servicemen, who had just opened fire. After the shooting was over, she went to the applicants’ house and learnt that the servicemen had taken away their sons Gilani and Zurab. Then about 300 local residents gathered and went to the military commander’s office. For three days they waited for news of the abducted men, but to no avail. On the third day a convoy of military vehicles drove away from the military commander’s office. The locals wrote down the registration numbers of the vehicles and provided them to the authorities in a collective letter, signed by a number of local residents including the witness.

51.  On 11 June 2005 the investigators questioned the applicants’ neighbour, Ms M. Dzh., who provided a statement similar to those given by her fellow villagers (see paragraph 45 above). In addition, she stated that on the third day they had been waiting at the military commander’s office, a helicopter had landed there for about ten minutes and then had taken off again. After that a convoy of APCs and Ural military lorries had driven away from the military commander’s office; their numbers had been written down by the residents, who had submitted them later to the authorities in a collective letter. According to the witness, these were the same military vehicles which had participated in the abduction of the applicants’ relatives.

52.  On 16 August 2007 the investigators questioned the second applicant, who stated that at about 8 p.m. on 19 June 2002 he had been at home when he had heard gunshots. He had gone into the street and seen his son Zurab being forced into an APC. His other son, Gilani, was in the vegetable garden with his hands up and then was also forced into an APC. After the brothers had been forced inside, the vehicles drove away. Several days later the applicant learnt that his sons were detained in the RUBOP in Grozny; some time later Gilani was released, but Zurab never returned home.

53.  According to the Government, the investigators also requested information about the disappearance from various State authorities. According to the responses received from various district prosecutors’ offices, district departments of the interior, military prosecutors’ offices, and detention centres in the Southern Federal Circuit, no information concerning the detention of Zurab Iriskhanov or the discovery of his corpse was available.

54.  Although the investigation failed to establish the whereabouts of Zurab Iriskhanov, the investigators sent requests for information to the competent State agencies and took other steps to have the crime resolved. The law enforcement authorities of Chechnya had never arrested or detained Zurab Iriskhanov on criminal or administrative charges and had not carried out a criminal investigation in his respect. No special operations had been carried out in respect of the applicants’ son.

55.   The Government submitted the investigation had found no evidence to support the involvement of the federal forces in the crime and that the investigators were verifying two theories concerning the abduction. Firstly, that Zurab Iriskhanov had staged his abduction with the assistance of his close relatives in order to join illegal armed groups. Secondly, that he had been kidnapped by criminals for a ransom. No documents pertaining to the verification of these theories by the authorities were submitted by the Government.

56.  According to the Government, the investigation into the abduction of the applicant’s son was suspended and resumed on several occasions; it has so far failed to establish his whereabouts or the identity of the perpetrators of his kidnapping. The applicants had been duly informed of all decisions taken during the investigation.

57.  Despite specific requests by the Court the Government did not disclose the entire contents of criminal case no. 63045, providing only copies of a number of documents, running to 229 pages. The Government stated that the investigation was in progress and that disclosure of other documents would be in violation of Article 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, since the file contained information and personal data concerning witnesses or other participants in criminal proceedings.

II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW

58.  For a summary of the relevant domestic law see Akhmadova and Sadulayeva v. Russia (no. 40464/02, §§ 67-69, 10 May 2007).

THE LAW

I.  THE GOVERNMENT’S OBJECTION REGARDING NON-EXHAUSTION OF DOMESTIC REMEDIES

A.  The parties’ submissions

59.  The Government contended that the complaint should be declared inadmissible for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies. They submitted that the investigation into the disappearance of Zurab Iriskhanov had not yet been completed. They further argued that it had been open to the applicants to challenge in court any acts or omissions on the part of the investigating authorities, but that the applicants had not availed themselves of that remedy. They also argued that it had been open to the applicants to pursue civil complaints but that they had failed to do so.

60.  The applicants contested that objection. They stated that the only effective remedy in their case, the criminal investigation into the disappearance, had proved to be ineffective. Referring to the other cases concerning forced disappearances in Chechnya which had been reviewed by the Court, they also alleged that the ineffectiveness of the criminal investigation rendered any other potential remedy, including civil claims, illusory and inadequate in their case.

B.  The Court’s assessment

61.  The Court will examine the arguments of the parties in the light of the provisions of the Convention and its relevant practice (for a relevant summary, see Estamirov and Others v. Russia, no. 60272/00, §§ 73-74, 12 October 2006).

62.  The Court notes that the Russian legal system provides, in principle, two avenues of recourse for the victims of illegal and criminal acts attributable to the State or its agents, namely civil and criminal remedies.

63.  As regards a civil action to obtain redress for damage sustained through the alleged illegal acts or unlawful conduct of State agents, the Court has already found in a number of similar cases that this procedure alone cannot be regarded as an effective remedy in the context of claims brought under Article 2 of the Convention (see Khashiyev and Akayeva v. Russia, nos. 57942/00 and 57945/00, §§ 119-121, 24 February 2005, and Estamirov and Others, cited above, § 77). In the light of the above, the Court confirms that the applicants were not obliged to pursue civil remedies. The Government’s objection in this regard is thus dismissed.

64.  As regards criminal law remedies, the Court observes that the applicants complained to the law enforcement authorities shortly after the kidnapping of Zurab Iriskhanov and that an investigation has been pending since 24 June 2002. The applicants and the Government dispute the effectiveness of the investigation of the kidnapping.

65.  The Court considers that the Government’s objection raises issues concerning the effectiveness of the investigation which are closely linked to the merits of the applicants’ complaints. Thus, it decides to join this objection to the merits of the case and considers that the issue falls to be examined below.

II. THE COURT’S ASSESSMENT OF THE EVIDENCE AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE FACTS

A.  The parties’ arguments

66.  The applicants maintained that it was beyond reasonable doubt that the men who had taken away Zurab Iriskhanov were State agents. In support of their complaint they referred to the following facts. At the material time Samashki had been under the total control of federal troops. There had been Russian military checkpoints at the roads leading to and from the village. The armed men who had abducted Zurab Iriskhanov had Slavic features and spoke Russian without an accent, which proved that they were not of Chechen origin. The men had arrived at the applicants’ house late in the evening, which indicated that they had been able to move around past curfew. They had arrived in APCs, the military vehicles which had been deployed at the time only by State representatives. The men acted in a manner similar to that of special forces carrying out identity checks. They were wearing specific camouflage uniforms, were armed and had portable radios. The men fired a number of shots without fear of being heard by law enforcement agencies located in the village. The officer who had come out to the applicants and their neighbours from the local military commander’s office had confirmed that Zurab and Gilani Iriskhanov had been detained in their office. All the information disclosed from the criminal investigation file supported their assertion as to the involvement of State agents in the abduction. Since their son had been missing for a very lengthy period, he could be presumed dead. That presumption was further supported by the circumstances in which he had been arrested, which should be recognised as life-threatening.

67.  The Government submitted that unidentified armed men had kidnapped Zurab Iriskhanov. They further contended that the investigation of the incident was pending, that there was no evidence that the men were State agents and that there were therefore no grounds for holding the State liable for the alleged violations of the applicants’ rights. The Government asserted that the abduction could have been attributable to criminals who could have kidnapped Zurab Iriskhanov for a ransom or that he could have staged his abduction with the assistance of his relatives, in order to join illegal armed groups. They further argued that there was no convincing evidence that the applicants’ relative was dead. The Government raised a number of objections to the applicants’ presentation of the facts. The fact that the perpetrators of the abduction spoke unaccented Russian and were wearing camouflage uniforms did not mean that these men could not have been members of illegal armed groups or criminals pursuing mercenary goals. The Government further alleged that the applicants’ description of the circumstances surrounding the abduction was inconsistent. In particular, the applicants’ descriptions of the abductors and the insignia on their uniforms were not sufficiently precise and Gilani Iriskhanov’s allegations about his subsequent detention in the local law enforcement agencies were unsubstantiated.

B.  The Court’s evaluation of the facts

68.  The Court observes that in its extensive jurisprudence it has developed a number of general principles relating to the establishment of the facts of matters in dispute, in particular when faced with allegations of disappearance under Article 2 of the Convention (for a summary of these, see Bazorkina v. Russia, no. 69481/01, §§ 103-109, 27 July 2006). The Court also notes that the conduct of the parties when evidence is being obtained has to be taken into account (see Ireland v. the United Kingdom, § 161, Series A no. 25).

69.  The Court notes that despite its requests for a copy of the investigation file into the abduction of Zurab Iriskhanov, the Government produced only a part of the documents from the case file. The Government referred to Article 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Court observes that in previous cases it has already found this explanation insufficient to justify the withholding of key information requested by the Court (see Imakayeva v. Russia, no. 7615/02, § 123, ECHR 2006- … (extracts)).

70.  In view of this and bearing in mind the principles referred to above, the Court finds that it can draw inferences from the Government’s conduct in respect of the well-foundedness of the applicants’ allegations. The Court will thus proceed to examine crucial elements in the present case that should be taken into account when deciding whether the applicants’ son can be presumed dead and whether his death can be attributed to the authorities.

71.  The applicants alleged that the persons who had taken Zurab Iriskhanov away on 19 June 2002 and then killed him were State agents.

72.  The Government suggested in their submissions that the abductors of Zurab Iriskhanov may have been criminals pursuing mercenary goals or that he had staged his abduction himself in order to join illegal armed groups. However, these allegations were not specific and the Government did not submit any material whatsoever in support of them. The Court would stress in this regard that the evaluation of the evidence and the establishment of the facts is a matter for the Court, and it is incumbent on it to decide on the evidentiary value of the documents submitted to it (see Çelikbilek v. Turkey, no. 27693/95, § 71, 31 May 2005).

73.  The Court notes that the applicants’ allegation is supported by the witness statements collected by the applicants and by the investigation. It finds that the fact that a large group of armed men in uniform during curfew hours equipped with military vehicles was able to move freely through military roadblocks and proceeded to check identity documents and take two persons away from their home strongly supports the applicants’ allegation that these were State servicemen conducting a security operation. In their applications and witness statements to the authorities the applicants and the other witnesses consistently maintained that Zurab Iriskhanov had been detained by military servicemen, and requested the investigation to look into that possibility (see paragraphs 29, 33, 36-41, 46 and 50-52 above).

74. The Government questioned the credibility of the applicants’ statements in view of certain discrepancies relating to the exact circumstances of the arrests and the description of the hours immediately following the detention. The Court notes in this respect that no other elements underlying the applicants’ submissions of facts have been disputed by the Government. The Government did not furnish to the Court a number of witness statements to which they referred in their submissions. In the Court’s view, the fact that over a period of several years the applicants’ recollection of an extremely traumatic and stressful event differed in rather insignificant details does not in itself suffice to cast doubt on the overall veracity of their statements.

75.  The Court observes that where the applicants make out a prima facie case and the Court is prevented from reaching factual conclusions owing to a lack of relevant documents, it is for the Government to argue conclusively why the documents in question cannot serve to corroborate the allegations made by the applicants, or to provide a satisfactory and convincing explanation of how the events in question occurred. The burden of proof is thus shifted to the Government, and if they fail in their arguments, issues will arise under Article 2 and/or Article 3 (see Toğcu v. Turkey, no. 27601/95, § 95, 31 May 2005, and Akkum and Others v. Turkey, no. 21894/93, § 211, ECHR 2005-II).

76.  Taking into account the above elements, the Court is satisfied that the applicants have made a prima facie case that their son was abducted by State servicemen. The Government’s statement that the investigators had not found any evidence to support the involvement of the special forces in the kidnapping is insufficient to discharge them from the above-mentioned burden of proof. Having examined the documents submitted by the parties, and drawing inferences from the Government’s failure to submit the remaining documents which were in their exclusive possession or to provide another plausible explanation for the events in question, the Court finds that Zurab Iriskhanov was arrested on 19 June 2002 by State servicemen during an unacknowledged security operation.

77.  There has been no reliable news of Zurab Iriskhanov since the date of the kidnapping. His name has not been found in any official detention facility records. Finally, the Government have not submitted any explanation as to what happened to him after his arrest.

78.  Having regard to previous cases concerning disappearances in Chechnya which have come before it (see, among others, Bazorkina, cited above; Imakayeva, cited above; Luluyev and Others v. Russia, no. 69480/01, ECHR 2006-… (extracts); Baysayeva v. Russia, no. 74237/01, 5 April 2007; Akhmadova and Sadulayeva, cited above; and Alikhadzhiyeva v. Russia, no. 68007/01, 5 July 2007), the Court finds that in the context of the conflict in the Republic, when a person is detained by unidentified servicemen without any subsequent acknowledgment of the detention, this can be regarded as life-threatening. The absence of Zurab Iriskhanov or of any news of him for several years supports this assumption.

79.  Accordingly, the Court finds that the evidence available permits it to establish that Zurab Iriskhanov must be presumed dead following his unacknowledged detention by State servicemen.

III. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 2 OF THE CONVENTION

80.  The applicants complained under Article 2 of the Convention that their son had been deprived of his life by Russian servicemen and that the domestic authorities had failed to carry out an effective investigation of the matter. Article 2 reads:

“1. Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.

2.  Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary:

(a)  in defence of any person from unlawful violence;

(b)  in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;

(c)  in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection.”

A.  The parties’ submissions

81.  The Government contended that the domestic investigation had obtained no evidence to the effect that Zurab Iriskhanov was dead or that any servicemen of the federal law-enforcement agencies had been involved in his kidnapping or alleged killing. The Government claimed that the investigation into the kidnapping of the applicants’ son met the Convention requirement of effectiveness, as all measures available under national law were being taken to identify those responsible.

82.  The applicants argued that Zurab Iriskhanov had been detained by State servicemen and should be presumed dead, in the absence of any reliable news of him for several years. The applicants also argued that the investigation had not met the effectiveness and adequacy requirements, laid down by the Court’s case-law. The applicants pointed out that by 2005 the district prosecutor’s office had not taken some crucial investigative steps, such as questioning a number of witnesses to the abduction. The investigation into Zurab Iriskhanov’s kidnapping had been opened five days after the events and then had been suspended and resumed a number of times – thus delaying the taking of the most basic steps – and that the relatives had not been properly informed of the most important investigative measures. The fact that the investigation had been pending for such a long period of time without producing any known results was further proof of its ineffectiveness. They also invited the Court to draw conclusions from the Government’s unjustified failure to submit the documents from the case file to them or to the Court.

B.  The Court’s assessment

1.  Admissibility

83.  The Court considers, in the light of the parties’ submissions, that the complaint raises serious issues of fact and law under the Convention, the determination of which requires an examination of the merits. Further, the Court has already found that the Government’s objection concerning the alleged non-exhaustion of domestic remedies should be joined to the merits of the complaint (see paragraph 65 above). The complaint under Article 2 of the Convention must therefore be declared admissible.

2.  Merits

(a)  The alleged violation of the right to life of Zurab Iriskhanov

84.  The Court has already found that the applicants’ son must be presumed dead following unacknowledged detention by State servicemen. In the absence of any justification put forward by the Government, the Court finds that his death can be attributed to the State and that there has been a violation of Article 2 in respect of Zurab Iriskhanov.

(b)  The alleged inadequacy of the investigation of the kidnapping

85.  The Court has on many occasions stated that the obligation to protect the right to life under Article 2 of the Convention also requires by implication that there should be some form of effective official investigation when individuals have been killed as a result of the use of force. It has developed a number of guiding principles to be followed for an investigation to comply with the Convention’s requirements (for a summary of these principles see Bazorkina, cited above, §§ 117-119).

86.  In the present case, the kidnapping of Zurab Iriskhanov was investigated. The Court must assess whether that investigation met the requirements of Article 2 of the Convention.

87.  The Court notes at the outset that most of the documents from the investigation were not disclosed by the Government. It therefore has to assess the effectiveness of the investigation on the basis of the documents partially submitted by the parties and the information about its progress presented by the Government.

88.  The Court notes that the authorities were made aware of the crime by the applicants’ oral submissions immediately after the abduction and by their written submission on 21 June 2002. The investigation in case no. 63045 was instituted on 24 June 2002, that is five days after Zurab Iriskhanov’s abduction. Such a postponement per se was liable to affect the investigation of the kidnapping in life-threatening circumstances, where crucial action has to be taken in the first days after the event. It appears that after that a number of essential steps were delayed and were eventually taken only several years after the events or not at all. It follows from the submitted documents that the investigation questioned a number of witnesses to the abduction only in May-June 2005, that is three years after the events in question. Furthermore, the district prosecutor’s office failed to take such basic investigating steps as to establish the identity of the owners of the military vehicles used by the abductors and question their drivers, or to try to identify and question the servicemen who had been manning the checkpoints in Samashki about the passage of the APCs on 19 June 2002; they failed to question the local military commander about the possible involvement of his staff in the abduction of the applicants’ sons and the subsequent detention of Zurab and Gilani Iriskhanov in his office building; they failed to verify a number of concurring witness statements concerning the helicopter’s involvement in the transportation of the abducted men to Khankala and Gilani Iriskhanov’s allegations concerning his detention in the military commander’s office, Khankala and in the RUBOP in Grozny. It is obvious that these investigative measures, if they were to produce any meaningful results, should have been taken immediately after the crime was reported to the authorities, and as soon as the investigation had begun. Such delays, for which there has been no explanation in the instant case, not only demonstrate the authorities’ failure to act of their own accord but also constitute a breach of the obligation to exercise exemplary diligence and promptness in dealing with such a serious crime (see Paul and Audrey Edwards v. the United Kingdom, no. 46477/99, § 86, ECHR 2002-II).

89.  The Court also notes that even though the first applicant was granted victim status in the investigation concerning the abduction of her son, she was only informed of the suspension and resumption of the proceedings, and not of any other significant developments. Accordingly, the investigators failed to ensure that the investigation received the required level of public scrutiny, or to safeguard the interests of the next of kin in the proceedings.

90.  Finally, the Court notes that the investigation was adjourned and resumed on several occasions and that there were lengthy periods of inactivity on the part of the district prosecutor’s office when no proceedings were pending. For instance, it follows from the documents submitted that no proceedings whatsoever were pending between July 2002 and May 2005.

91.  The Government argued that the applicants could have sought judicial review of the decisions of the investigating authorities in the context of the exhaustion of domestic remedies. The Court observes that the applicants, having no access to the case file and not being properly informed of the progress of the investigation, could not have effectively challenged the acts or omissions of investigating authorities before a court. Furthermore, the Court emphasises in this respect that while the suspension or reopening of proceedings is not in itself a sign that the proceedings are ineffective, in the present case the decisions to adjourn were made without the necessary investigative steps being taken, which led to numerous periods of inactivity and thus unnecessary protraction. Moreover, owing to the time that had elapsed since the events complained of, certain investigative measures that ought to have been carried out much earlier could no longer usefully be conducted. Therefore, it is highly doubtful that the remedy relied on would have had any prospects of success. Accordingly, the Court finds that the remedy cited by the Government was ineffective in the circumstances and dismisses their preliminary objection as regards the applicants’ failure to exhaust domestic remedies within the context of the criminal investigation.

92.  In the light of the foregoing, the Court holds that the authorities failed to carry out an effective criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Zurab Iriskhanov, in breach of Article 2 in its procedural aspect.

IV. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 3 OF THE CONVENTION

93.  The applicants relied on Article 3 of the Convention, submitting that Gilani Iriskhanov had been subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment prohibited by Article 3 of the Convention and that as a result of the disappearance of their son Zurab Iriskhanov and the State’s failure to investigate it properly they had endured mental suffering in breach of Article 3 of the Convention. Article 3 reads:

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

A. The complaint concerning Gilani Iriskhanov

94.  In their observations on the admissibility and merits of the application the applicants stated that they no longer wished to maintain this complaint.

95.  The Court, having regard to Article 37 of the Convention, notes that the applicants do not intend to pursue this part of the application, within the meaning of Article 37 § 1 (a). It finds no reasons of a general character affecting respect for human rights as defined in the Convention which require further examination of the present complaints by virtue of Article 37 § 1 of the Convention in fine (see, among other authorities, Chojak v. Poland, no. 32220/96, Commission decision of 23 April 1998, unpublished; Singh and Others v. the United Kingdom (dec.), no. 30024/96, 26 September 2000; and Stamatios Karagiannis v. Greece, no. 27806/02, § 28, 10 February 2005).

96.  It follows that this part of the application must be struck out in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention.

B.  The complaint concerning the applicants’ mental and emotional suffering

1.  The parties’ submissions

97.  The Government disagreed with these allegations and argued that the investigation had not established that the applicants had been subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment prohibited by Article 3 of the Convention.

98.  The applicants maintained their submissions.

2.  The Court’s assessment

a. Admissibility

99.  The Court notes that this complaint under Article 3 of the Convention is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. It further notes that it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.

b. Merits

100.  The Court has found on many occasions that in a situation of enforced disappearance close relatives of the victim may themselves be victims of treatment in violation of Article 3. The essence of such a violation does not mainly lie in the fact of the “disappearance” of the family member but rather concerns the authorities’ reactions and attitudes to the situation when it is brought to their attention (see Orhan v. Turkey, no. 25656/94, § 358, 18 June 2002, and Imakayeva, cited above, § 164).

101.  In the present case the Court notes that the applicants are the parents of the disappeared person who witnessed his abduction. For more than seven years they have not had any news of the missing man. During this period the applicants have made enquiries of various official bodies, both in writing and in person, about their missing son. Despite their attempts, the applicants have never received any plausible explanation or information about what became of him following his detention. The responses they received mostly denied State responsibility for their relative’s arrest or simply informed them that the investigation was ongoing. The Court’s findings under the procedural aspect of Article 2 are also of direct relevance here.

102.  The Court therefore concludes that there has been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in respect of the applicants.

V. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 5 OF THE CONVENTION

103.  The applicants further stated that their sons Gilani Iriskhanov and Zurab Iriskhanov had been detained in violation of the guarantees contained in Article 5 of the Convention, which reads, in so far as relevant:

“1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:…

(c)  the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so;

2.  Everyone who is arrested shall be informed promptly, in a language which he understands, of the reasons for his arrest and of any charge against him.

3.  Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 (c) of this Article shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial.

4.  Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful.

5. Everyone who has been the victim of arrest or detention in contravention of the provisions of this Article shall have an enforceable right to compensation.”

A. The complaint concerning Gilani Iriskhanov

104.  In their observations on the admissibility and merits of the application the applicants stated that they no longer wished to maintain this complaint.

105.  The Court, having regard to Article 37 of the Convention, notes that the applicants do not intend to pursue this part of the application, within the meaning of Article 37 § 1 (a). The Court also finds no reasons of a general character, affecting respect for human rights, as defined in the Convention, which require further examination of the present complaints by virtue of Article 37 § 1 of the Convention in fine (see, for example, among other authorities, Stamatios Karagiannis, cited above).

106.  It follows that this part of the application must be struck out in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention.

B.  The complaint concerning Zurab Iriskhanov

1.  The parties’ submissions

107.  The Government asserted that no evidence had been obtained by the investigators to confirm that Zurab Iriskhanov had been deprived of his liberty. He was not listed among the persons kept in detention centres and none of the regional law-enforcement agencies had information about his detention.

108.  The applicants reiterated their complaint in respect of Zurab Iriskhanov.

2.  The Court’s assessment

a. Admissibility

109.  The Court notes that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. It further notes that the complaint is not inadmissible on any other grounds and must therefore be declared admissible.

b. Merits

110.  The Court has previously noted the fundamental importance of the guarantees contained in Article 5 to secure the right of individuals in a democracy to be free from arbitrary detention. It has also stated that unacknowledged detention is a complete negation of these guarantees and discloses a very grave violation of Article 5 (see Çiçek v. Turkey, no. 25704/94, § 164, 27 February 2001, and Luluyev, cited above, § 122).

111.  The Court has found that Zurab Iriskhanov was abducted by State servicemen on 19 June 2002 and has not been seen since. His detention was not acknowledged, was not logged in any custody records and there exists no official trace of his subsequent whereabouts or fate. In accordance with the Court’s practice, this fact in itself must be considered a most serious failing, since it enables those responsible for an act of deprivation of liberty to conceal their involvement in a crime, to cover their tracks and to escape accountability for the fate of a detainee. Furthermore, the absence of detention records, noting such matters as the date, time and location of detention and the name of the detainee, as well as the reasons for the detention and the name of the person effecting it, must be seen as incompatible with the very purpose of Article 5 of the Convention (see Orhan, cited above, § 371).

112.  The Court further considers that the authorities should have been more alert to the need for a thorough and prompt investigation of the applicants’ complaints that their son had been detained and taken away in life-threatening circumstances. However, the Court’s findings above in relation to Article 2 and, in particular, the conduct of the investigation leave no doubt that the authorities failed to take prompt and effective measures to safeguard him against the risk of disappearance.

113.  In view of the foregoing, the Court finds that Zurab Iriskhanov was held in unacknowledged detention without any of the safeguards contained in Article 5. This constitutes a particularly grave violation of the right to liberty and security enshrined in Article 5 of the Convention.

VI. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 13 OF THE CONVENTION

114.  The applicants complained that they had been deprived of effective remedies in respect of the aforementioned violations, contrary to Article 13 of the Convention, which provides:

“Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in [the] Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.”

A.  The parties’ submissions

115.  The Government contended that the applicants had had effective remedies at their disposal as required by Article 13 of the Convention and that the authorities had not prevented them from using them. The applicants had had an opportunity to challenge the acts or omissions of the investigating authorities in court and could also claim damages in civil proceedings. In sum, the Government submitted that there had been no violation of Article 13.

116.  The applicants reiterated the complaint.

B.  The Court’s assessment

1.  Admissibility

117.  The Court notes that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. It further notes that it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.

2.  Merits

118.  The Court reiterates that in circumstances where, as here, a criminal investigation into the disappearance has been ineffective and the effectiveness of any other remedy that might have existed, including civil remedies suggested by the Government, has consequently been undermined, the State has failed in its obligation under Article 13 of the Convention (see Khashiyev and Akayeva, cited above, § 183).

119.  Consequently, there has been a violation of Article 13 in conjunction with Article 2 of the Convention.

120. As regards the applicants’ reference to Articles 3 and 5 of the Convention, the Court considers that, in the circumstances, no separate issue arises in respect of Article 13, read in conjunction with Articles 3 and 5 of the Convention (see Kukayev v. Russia, no. 29361/02, § 119, 15 November 2007, and Aziyevy v. Russia, no. 77626/01, § 118, 20 March 2008).

VII. ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OF ARTICLES 8 AND 14 OF THE CONVENTION

121.  In their initial application form the applicants complained under Article 8 that their house had been searched unlawfully on 19 June 2002 and that the disappearance of Zurab Iriskhanov had adversely affected their family life. Under Article 14 they alleged that they had been discriminated against on the grounds of their ethnic origin.

122.  Article 8 of the Convention, in so far as relevant, provides:

“1. Everyone has the right to respect for his … family life, his home …

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

Article 14 of the Convention provides:

“The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in [the] Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.”

123.  In their observations on admissibility and merits of the application the applicants stated that they no longer wished their complaints under Articles 8 and 14 of the Convention to be examined.

124.  The Court, having regard to Article 37 of the Convention, finds that the applicants do not intend to pursue this part of the application, within the meaning of Article 37 § 1 (a). The Court also finds no reasons of a general character affecting respect for human rights as defined in the Convention, which require further examination of the present complaints by virtue of Article 37 § 1 of the Convention in fine (see, for example, among other authorities, Stamatios Karagiannis, cited above).

125.  It follows that this part of the application must be struck out in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention.

VIII. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION

126.  Article 41 of the Convention provides:

“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”

A.  Damage

127.  The applicants did not submit any claims in respect of pecuniary damage. As regards non-pecuniary damage, they claimed 70,000 euros (EUR) jointly for the suffering they had endured as a result of the loss of their son, the indifference shown by the authorities towards them and the failure to provide any information about the fate of their close relative.

128.  The Government found the amounts claimed exaggerated.

129.  The Court has found a violation of Articles 2, 5 and 13 of the Convention on account of the unacknowledged detention and disappearance of the applicants’ son. The applicants themselves have been found to have been victims of a violation of Article 3 of the Convention. The Court thus accepts that they have suffered non-pecuniary damage which cannot be compensated for solely by the findings of violations. It awards to the applicants jointly EUR 60,000, plus any tax that may be chargeable thereon.

B.  Costs and expenses

130.  The applicants were represented by the SRJI. They submitted an itemised schedule of costs and expenses that included research and interviews in Ingushetia and Moscow, at a rate of EUR 50 per hour for the work in the area of exhausting domestic remedies and of EUR 150 per hour for the drafting of submissions to the Court. The aggregate claim in respect of costs and expenses related to the applicants’ legal representation amounted to EUR 6,066.

131.  The Government did not dispute the reasonableness and justification for the amounts claimed under this heading.

132.  The Court has to establish first whether the costs and expenses indicated by the applicants’ representatives were actually incurred and second whether they were necessary (see McCann and Others v. the United Kingdom, 27 September 1995, § 220, Series A no. 324).

133.  Having regard to the details of the information and legal representation contracts submitted by the applicants, the Court is satisfied that these rates are reasonable and reflect the expenses actually incurred by the applicants’ representatives.

134.  As to whether the costs and expenses were necessary, the Court notes that this case was rather complex and required a certain amount of research and preparation. It notes at the same time, that due to the application of Article 29 § 3 in the present case, the applicants’ representatives submitted their observations on admissibility and merits in one set of documents. The Court thus doubts that legal drafting was necessarily time-consuming to the extent claimed by the representatives.

135.  Having regard to the details of the claims submitted by the applicants, the Court awards them the amount of EUR 5,500 together with any value-added tax that may be chargeable to the applicants, the net award to be paid into the representatives’ bank account in the Netherlands, as identified by the applicants.

C.  Default interest

136.  The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest should be based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which should be added three percentage points.

FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY

1.  Decides to join to the merits the Government’s objection as to non-exhaustion of domestic remedies and rejects it;

2.  Declares the complaints under Article 2, Article 3 in respect of the applicants, Article 5 in respect of Zurab Iriskhanov and Article 13 of the Convention admissible;

3.  Holds that there has been a substantive violation of Article 2 of the Convention in respect of Zurab Iriskhanov;

4.  Holds that there has been a violation of Article 2 of the Convention in respect of the failure to conduct an effective investigation into the circumstances in which Zurab Iriskhanov disappeared;

5.  Holds that there has been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in respect of the applicants;

6.  Holds that there has been a violation of Article 5 of the Convention in respect of Zurab Iriskhanov;

7.  Holds that there has been a violation of Article 13 of the Convention in conjunction with Article 2 of the Convention;

8.  Holds that no separate issues arise under Article 13 of the Convention in respect of the alleged violations of Articles 3 and 5;

9.  Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention in so far as it concerns the applicants’ complaints under Articles 3 and 5 in respect of Gilani Iriskhanov and the complaints under Articles 8 and 14 of the Convention;

10.  Holds

(a)  that the respondent State is to pay, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, the following amounts, to be converted into Russian roubles at the date of settlement, save in the case of the payment in respect of costs and expenses:

(i)  EUR 60,000 (sixty thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage to the applicants jointly;

(ii)  EUR 5,500 (five thousand five hundred euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicants, in respect of costs and expenses, to be paid into the representatives’ bank account in the Netherlands;

(b)  that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;

11.  Dismisses the remainder of the applicants’ claim for just satisfaction.

Done in English, and notified in writing on 18 February 2010, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.

SÞren Nielsen Christos Rozakis
Registrar President

*********

CASE OF ALIYEVA v. RUSSIA

(Application no. 1901/05)

JUDGMENT

STRASBOURG

18 February 2010

This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Aliyeva v. Russia,

The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:

Christos Rozakis, President,
Anatoly Kovler,
Elisabeth Steiner,
Dean Spielmann,
Sverre Erik Jebens,
Giorgio Malinverni,
George Nicolaou, judges,
and SĂžren Nielsen, Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 28 January 2010,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

PROCEDURE

1.  The case originated in an application (no. 1901/05) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by a Russian national, Ms Khava Aliyeva, on 4 December 2004.

2.  The applicant, who was granted legal aid, was represented by lawyers of the International Protection Centre, an NGO based in Moscow. The Russian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Ms V. Milinchuk, the former Representative of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights.

3.  On 17 September 2007 the Court decided to apply Rule 41 of the Rules of Court and to grant priority treatment to the application and to give notice of the application to the Government. Under the provisions of Article 29 § 3 of the Convention, it decided to examine the merits of the application at the same time as its admissibility.

4.  The Government objected to the joint examination of the admissibility and merits of the application. Having considered the Government’s objection, the Court dismissed it.

THE FACTS

I.  THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE

5.  The applicant, Khava Aliyeva, was born in 1967 and lives in Grozny.

A.  Disappearance of Mr Abu Aliyev

1.  The applicant’s account

6.  At the material time the applicant, her husband, Mr Abu Aliyev, born in 1962, and their five children lived in flat no. 77 at 141 Khmelnitskaya Street, Grozny, in the Chechen Republic. Mr Abu Aliyev was disabled as he had had one leg amputated.

7.  At 2.00 a.m. on 29 October 2002 several armoured personnel carriers (“APCs”) and UAZ vehicles arrived at 141 Khmelnitskaya Street and around thirty armed men wearing camouflage uniforms and masks got out of the vehicles. They broke down the door of the Aliyevs’ flat and entered. The men did not identify themselves but the applicant believed that they belonged to the Russian military because they spoke unaccented Russian and had blue eyes.

8.  The servicemen searched the flat and took money in the amount of 1,500 roubles, certain personal items and books on Islam. Then they dragged Mr Abu Aliyev out of the bed, forced him onto the floor and beat him. Meanwhile some of them ordered the applicant to go into the kitchen. She obeyed; once in the kitchen she grabbed a knife, but the servicemen threatened to shoot her unless she dropped it. The men tied the applicant up with adhesive tape and threw her on to the floor. Then they took with them Mr Abu Aliyev, who was wearing only his underwear, and left.

9.  The applicant’s neighbour, Ms B., looked through the window and saw masked men in camouflage uniforms dragging out the half-naked Mr Abu Aliyev. She rushed to the Aliyevs’ flat and found the applicant tied up with adhesive tape and her children crying. After Ms B. had untied the applicant they rushed into the street, but heard only the sound of the vehicles. The applicant has enclosed a written statement by Ms B. to corroborate her account of the events.

10.  The next day relatives of Mr Yu. A., who lived in the neighbouring district of Grozny, came to see the applicant. She had never met them before and believed that her husband did not know Mr Yu. A. either. They said that Mr Yu. A. had also been abducted the previous might by armed men in APCs and asked her whether she had any information about the captives. The applicant replied that she had no information. The applicant has not furnished any statements by the relatives of Mr Yu. A. concerning the latter’s alleged abduction.

2.  The Government’s account

11.  According to the Government, on 1 November 2002 the Grozny Prosecutor’s Office received from the Prosecutor’s Office of the Chechen Republic the applicant’s request to take measures to find her husband, Mr Abu Aliyev, taken on 29 October 2002 to an unknown destination by unidentified men in camouflage uniforms armed with automatic weapons and who had UAZ vehicles.

B. Official investigation into Mr Abu Aliyev’s disappearance

12.  On 30 October 2002 the applicant, requesting assistance in the search for her husband, reported his abduction to various State agencies, such as the prosecutors’ offices of Grozny and the Chechen Republic, the Security Council of the Chechen Republic and the Chechen Administration.

13.  On 11 November 2002 the Chechen Administration informed the applicant that her complaint had been forwarded to the Grozny Prosecutor’s Office.

14.  On 12 November 2002 the Grozny Prosecutor’s Office informed the applicant that an investigation into her husband’s kidnapping had been instituted on 11 November 2002 under Article 126 § 2 of the Russian Criminal Code (“aggravated kidnapping”). The decision to institute the investigation stated, inter alia:

“On 29 October 2002 at approximately 2 a.m. unidentified men armed with automatic weapons in masks and camouflage uniforms, having broken down the entrance door, entered apartment no. 77 at Bogdana Khmelnitskogo street, house 141, building 5 in the Leninskiy Distict of Grozny and forcibly took [Mr] Abu Adamovich Aliyev, born in 1962, residing at the above stated address, to an unknown destination.”

15.  On 4 December 2002 the Grozny Prosecutor’s Office granted the applicant victim status in case no. 48193. It appears that she was questioned on the same date. According to the Government, she stated that on the night of 29 October 2002 she had been woken up by noise from the stairwell. She had got dressed and when she had approached the door she had heard her neighbour telling somebody not to break down the door. She had wanted to go out and see what was happening, however at that moment armed men wearing camouflage uniforms and masks had broken down the door and burst into the apartment. Without giving any explanations they had searched the apartment. They had put adhesive tape on her mouth, tied up her hands and feet and thrown her on to the kitchen floor. Then, having taken some minor personal things, books on Islam, subha (Muslim prayer beads) and money in the amount of RUB 1,500 they had left, taking her husband with them. When she ran outside she saw an APC and a UAZ vehicle with its lights off going towards the veterinary clinic. She has had no information about her husband since.

16.  On an unspecified date Ms B. was questioned. According to the Government she submitted that on the night of 29 October 2002 she had heard noise and had gone out to the stairway enclosure. There she had seen somebody breaking down the door between the lobby and the staircase. She had said not to break down the door as she would open it herself. However, unknown persons had broken down the door and entered. They were armed men in masks with automatic guns. One of them had said to her in Russian “Stand back!” and had closed the door to her apartment. She had heard them breaking down the door of the Aliyevs’ apartment. When she looked out into the street she saw a man in camouflage uniform with an automatic weapon sitting there. Then she opened the door again and saw an armed man in a mask who noticed her and turned towards her. She got frightened and closed the door. Then she heard the noise in the stairway enclosure and went to the kitchen window to see what was going on in the yard. There she saw a group of approximately ten men in camouflage uniforms walking fast towards Bogdana Khmelnitskogo Street. Two of them were carrying Mr Abu Aliyev. There was nobody else in the street. She left her apartment and went to see the applicant to find out what had happened. The applicant told her that those men had been looking for her husband. They had tied her up but had not touched the children.

17.  On 13 January 2003 the Grozny Prosecutor’s Office informed the applicant that the investigation into her husband’s kidnapping had been stayed for a failure to identify those responsible.

18.  On 17 and 23 January 2003 the Grozny Prosecutor’s Office informed the Special Envoy of the Russian President in Chechnya for Rights and Freedoms and the applicant that an investigation in case no. 48193 had been instituted on 11 November 2002.

19.  On 9 March 2003 the Grozny Prosecutor’s Office informed the applicant that the investigation in case no. 48193 had been stayed for a failure to identify those responsible and that investigative measures were being taken to resolve the crime.

20.  On 23 June 2003 the applicant was again questioned. According to the Government, she submitted no new information.

21.  On 27 August 2003 the investigating authorities sent instructions to district prosecutors in the Chechen Republic to intensify search measures.

22.  On 7 October 2003 the applicant asked the Grozny Prosecutor’s Office to clarify what stage the investigation into her husband’s kidnapping had reached. She further requested that, if the proceedings had been stayed, the decision to suspend the investigation be quashed.

23.  On 8 October 2003 Ms Sh., the applicant’s neighbour, was questioned. According to the Government, she stated that on the night of the abduction she had been woken up by the noise. However, she had noticed nothing else and had fallen asleep again. The next morning she had learned that Mr Abu Aliyev had been abducted.

24.  On 9 October 2003 Mr B., another neighbour of the applicant, was questioned. According to the Government, he submitted that he was living with his ex-wife in the apartment next to the Aliyevs. On 29 October 2002 she had been woken up by loud noise in the stairway enclosure. He had thought that it was thieves, but his wife had said that it was servicemen. She had asked him not to go out and had gone to the window herself. They had heard noise from apartment no. 77 but had not been able to understand what was going on there. In about ten minutes everything had calmed down and they had gone to apartment no. 77 to find out what had happened. There in the kitchen he had seen the applicant who had said that the armed men in camouflage uniforms had taken away her husband. His wife had confirmed that she had seen armed men in camouflage uniforms.

25.  On 10 October 2003 the Leninskiy District Prosecutor’s Office informed the applicant that the decision to suspend the investigation in case no. 48193 was compatible with domestic law and thus there were no reasons to quash it.

26.  On 13 October 2003 Ms G., who apparently also lived in Bogdana Khmelnitskogo Street, was questioned. According to the Government, she stated that she had no close relationship with the Aliyevs. She had learned about the abduction a few days later from her neighbours. Mr G., questioned on the same date, made a similar statement.

27.  On 16 October 2003 Ms S., the applicant’s neighbour, was questioned. According to the Government, she submitted that on the night of 29 October 2002 she had been woken up by the noise. She had opened the door to the balcony and had called out to the applicant since she had thought that the noise had been coming out from their apartment. She had heard no reply and had gone down to the applicant’s apartment. There she had seen the applicant who had just been untied by her daughter. Later Ms S. had learned that armed men had taken away Mr Abu Aliyev.

28.  On 17 October 2003 Ms A., the applicant’s daughter, was questioned. According to the Government, she stated that on the night of 29 October 2002 she had been woken up by a horrible noise. Her three-year-old brother had also woken up and they had got frightened and started to cry. The armed people burst into their apartment. One of them ordered her to stop crying and to calm down her brother. They had left in approximately ten to fifteen minutes. Then she had heard her mother calling her. Ms A. had gone to the kitchen and found her mother there, tied up with adhesive tape. Ms A. had untied her, and her mother had run outside. Ms A. had not seen her father being taken away.

29.  On the same date the applicant requested the Prosecutor’s Office of the Chechen Republic that she be permitted to copy the investigation file, at her own expense.

30.  On 27 October 2003 the applicant requested the Prosecutor’s Office of the Chechen Republic to help her find her husband, who had been kidnapped by armed men in camouflage uniforms.

31.  On 5 November 2003 the Prosecutor’s Office of the Chechen Republic denied the applicant access to the case file, giving the reason that the investigation had not been completed.

32.  On 9 February 2004 the Leninskiy District Prosecutor’s Office informed the applicant that the investigation into her husband’s kidnapping had been resumed and invited her to visit their premises on 14 February 2004 for additional questioning as a victim.

33.  On 14 February 2004 Mr A., Mr Abu Aliyev’s brother, was questioned. According to the Government, he submitted that he had learned of his brother’s abduction from his cousin. He had been surprised because the day before his brother had visited him and they had been planting apple trees together.

34.  On 9 March 2004 the investigation in case no. 48193 was again suspended; the applicant was not promptly informed of the decision.

35.  On 16 June 2004 the applicant requested the Leninskiy District Prosecutor’s Office to inform her of recent developments in the investigation and to allow her access to the case file.

36.  On 26 June 2004 she repeated the request.

37.  According to the Government, in the course of the investigation measures were taken to establish the whereabouts of Mr Abu Aliyev and to identify the perpetrators. In particular, requests for information were sent to Departments of the Interior and prosecutors of different levels in Chechnya and Dagestan, the FSB Department in Chechnya, the Chechen penitentiary and passport-visa authorities, the Ministry of the Interior and other bodies. As a result of those measures it was established that Mr Abu Aliyev had not been detained by State authorities and had not been placed in either remand or administrative detention facilities. He was not found in hospitals, nor was his body to be found in any morgue either. No special operations were being conducted by the federal forces in Grozny on the date in question. The investigation did not establish that servicemen were involved in the crime. Operational search measures were being taken in the criminal case.

38.  The Government provided documents related to the investigation on ten pages, including copies of the decisions to institute the investigation and to grant the applicant victim status and of notifications sent to he application concerning the institution, suspension and resumption of the investigation. The Government enclosed no transcripts of questioning and no other documents concerning the investigative measures allegedly taken.

C. Judicial proceedings against the investigators

On 22 December 2003 the applicant lodged a complaint with the Leninskiy District Court of Grozny. She requested that the decision on suspension of the investigation be quashed and that the investigators’ inactivity be found unlawful.

On 16 June 2004 the applicant requested the Leninskiy District Court of Grozny to inform her whether the complaint of 22 December 2003 had been examined.

On 15 July 2004 the Leninskiy District Court of Grozny dismissed the applicant’s complaint having found that the investigators had taken all requisite measures to resolve the crime.

On 22 July 2004 the applicant appealed against the court’s decision.

On 15 September 2004 the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic dismissed the applicant’s appeal, finding no flaws in the investigation.

II  RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW

39.  For a summary of the relevant domestic law see Akhmadova and Sadulayeva v. Russia (no. 40464/02, §§ 67-69, 10 May 2007).

THE LAW

I  THE GOVERNMENT’S OBJECTION REGARDING NON-EXHAUSTION OF DOMESTIC REMEDIES

40.  The Government contended that the complaint should be declared inadmissible for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies since the investigation into the disappearance of Mr Abu Aliyev had not yet been completed. The applicant stated that the criminal investigation had proved to be ineffective and that her complaints to that effect, including her application to the district court, had been futile.

41.  The Court will examine the arguments of the parties in the light of the provisions of the Convention and its relevant practice (for a relevant summary, see Estamirov and Others v. Russia, no. 60272/00, §§ 73-74, 12 October 2006). The Court observes that the applicant complained to the law enforcement authorities shortly after the kidnapping of Mr Abu Aliyev and that an investigation has been pending since 11 November 2002. The applicant and the Government dispute the effectiveness of the investigation of the kidnapping.

42.  The Court considers that the Government’s objection raises issues concerning the effectiveness of the investigation which are closely linked to the merits of the applicant’s complaints. Thus, it decides to join this objection to the merits of the case and considers that the issue falls to be examined below.

II.  ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 2 OF THE CONVENTION

The applicants complained under Article 2 of the Convention that their relative had been deprived of his life by Russian servicemen and that the domestic authorities had failed to carry out an effective investigation of the matter. Article 2 reads:

“1.  Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.

2.  Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary:

(a)  in defence of any person from unlawful violence;

(b)  in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;

(c)  in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection.”

A.  The parties’ submissions

43.  The Government pointed out a number of inconsistencies in the applicant’s submissions. In the first place, whereas she alleged that there had been approximately thirty abductors, Ms B. referred only to ten. The applicant’s allegations that they had arrived and left in APCs was not supported by any other witness. The Government considered that the abductors’ conduct, as described by the applicant, had not been typical for servicemen. Furthermore, the applicant failed to mention any specific military insignia, whereas weapons and camouflage uniforms could have been accessible to offenders other than servicemen. The applicant’s allegations that a certain Mr Yu. A. had been detained by the same persons is irrelevant. Moreover, she had never mentioned it to the domestic investigating authorities. The Government also submitted that there had been no curfew in Grozny on the date of Mr Abu Aliyev’s abduction, but conceded that checkpoints had been operating. They enclosed a letter of the commander of the United Group Alignment (UGA) in this respect.

44.  The Government argued that the investigation into the abduction of the applicant’s husband had met the Convention requirement of effectiveness. It was promptly instituted, and all measures available under national law were being taken to identify those responsible, which was supported by findings of domestic courts with respect to the applicant’s complaint.

45.  The applicant submitted that at the relevant time the district where she lived with her husband was under the full control of Russian federal troops. She argued that, on the contrary, the abductors’ conduct clearly showed that they were servicemen, since they had acted openly, clearly convinced of their impunity. In the applicant’s view, her account of the events was supported by other witnesses. She also stated that at the time of the abduction Grozny was under curfew. To support her statement she referred to several cases where the Court had found that there had been curfew in different parts of the Chechen Republic in the autumn – winter of 2002, in particular, to Dangayeva and Taramova v. Russia, no. 1896/04, § 81, 8 January 2009, and Dokayev and Others v. Russia, no. 16629/05, § 72, 9 April 2009, where the Court had established that there had been curfew in Grozny on 23 October and 10 December 2002 respectively.

46.  The applicant also argued that the investigation had not met the effectiveness and adequacy requirements laid down by the Court’s case-law. In particular, necessary investigative measures were either not taken promptly enough or not taken at all. She had not been properly informed of the most important investigative measures. The fact that the investigation had been pending for such a long period of time without producing any known results was further proof of its ineffectiveness. The applicant invited the Court to draw conclusions from the Government’s unjustified failure to submit the documents from the case file to her or to the Court.

B.  The Court’s assessment

1.  Admissibility

47.  The Court considers, in the light of the parties’ submissions, that the complaint raises serious issues of fact and law under the Convention, the determination of which requires an examination of the merits. Further, the Court has already found that the Government’s objection concerning the alleged non-exhaustion of domestic remedies should be joined to the merits of the complaint (see paragraph 42 above). The complaint under Article 2 of the Convention must therefore be declared admissible.

2.  Merits

(a)  The alleged violation of the right to life of Mr Abu Aliyev

i.  General principles

48.  The Court reiterates that, in the light of the importance of the protection afforded by Article 2, it must subject deprivations of life to the most careful scrutiny, taking into consideration not only the actions of State agents but also all the surrounding circumstances. Detained persons are in a vulnerable position and the obligation on the authorities to account for the treatment of a detained individual is particularly stringent where that individual dies or disappears thereafter (see, among other authorities, Orhan v. Turkey, no. 25656/94, § 326, 18 June 2002, and the authorities cited therein). Where the events in issue lie wholly or in large part within the exclusive knowledge of the authorities, as in the case of persons within their control in detention, strong presumptions of fact will arise in respect of injuries and death occurring during that detention. Indeed, the burden of proof may be regarded as resting on the authorities to provide a satisfactory and convincing explanation (see Salman v. Turkey [GC], no. 21986/93, § 100, ECHR 2000-VII, and Çakıcı v. Turkey [GC], no. 23657/94, § 85, ECHR 1999-IV).

ii.  Establishment of the facts

49.  The Court observes that it has developed a number of general principles relating to the establishment of facts in dispute, in particular when faced with allegations of disappearance under Article 2 of the Convention (for a summary of these, see Bazorkina v. Russia, no. 69481/01, §§ 103-109, 27 July 2006). The Court also notes that the conduct of the parties when evidence is being obtained has to be taken into account (see Ireland v. the United Kingdom, 18 January 1978, § 161, Series A no. 25).

50.  The applicant alleged that on the night of 29 October 2002 her husband, Mr Abu Aliyev, was abducted by Russian servicemen and then disappeared. She invited the Court to draw inferences as to the well-foundedness of her allegations from the Government’s failure to provide the documents requested from them. She said that she had witnessed Mr Abu Aliyev’s abduction and provided a coherent account of the sequence of events. The applicant also enclosed a witness statement by her neighbour Ms B. to support her account of the events.

51.  The Government conceded that Mr Abu Aliyev had been abducted by unknown armed men on the night of 29 October 2002. However, they denied that the abductors were State servicemen and, consequently, that the State was responsible for the disappearance of the applicant’s husband.

52.  The Court notes that despite its repeated requests for a copy of the investigation file into the abduction of Mr Abu Aliyev, the Government, relying on Article 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, have produced no documents from the case files apart from several copies of procedural decisions. The Court observes that in previous cases it has already found this explanation insufficient to justify the withholding of key information requested by the Court (see Imakayeva v. Russia, no. 7615/02, § 123, ECHR 2006-… (extracts)).

53.  In view of this, and bearing in mind the principles cited above, the Court finds that it can draw inferences from the Government’s conduct in this respect. It considers that the applicant has presented a coherent and convincing picture of her husband’s abduction on the night of 29 October 2002. It observes that the Government did not deny that Mr Abu Aliyev had been abducted by armed men, although they did deny that the men were State agents.

54.  The Government argued that the applicant’s submissions were inconsistent. In particular, while according to her there had been approximately thirty abductors, Ms B. stated that she had seen only ten armed men. However, the Court sees no contradiction in that when Ms B. had glanced out the window she had only seen ten out of the thirty abductors.

55.  The Government further asserted that the applicant’s allegations that the abductors had arrived in APCs were not supported by other witnesses. Furthermore, she did not mention any specific military insignia and, in the Government’s view, the described conduct of the abductors did not correspond to that of servicemen. The Court notes with regard to the first argument that, indeed, no other witness had seen the APCs. Several witnesses had only heard the sound of unspecified vehicles. However, the Court considers that neither argument refutes the applicant’s contention that the abductors were servicemen, for the following reasons.

56.  The Court notes that the parties disagreed as to whether there had been curfew in Grozny at the time of the abduction. The Government submitted that there had been none, but conceded that checkpoints had been operating. They enclosed a letter from the UGA commander to corroborate their submissions. The applicant maintained that there had been curfew and referred to, in particular, the cases of Dangayeva and Taramova (cited above, § 81) and Dokayev and Others (cited above, § 72) where the Court had established that curfew had been operating in Grozny on 23 October and 10 December 2002 respectively. Having regard to the cases cited, the Court finds it unlikely that the curfew in Grozny should be lifted and re-imposed during such a relatively short period in 2002. It also notes that the Government did not provide copies of any relevant orders. However, the Court is not called upon to decide on this issue in the present case since it is not in dispute between the parties that checkpoints in Grozny were operating at the time of the abduction.

57.  The Court observes that, apart from the applicant’s account, the circumstances of Mr Abu Aliyev’s abduction were described in concordant statements of several witnesses, including Ms B., the applicant’s neighbour, and Ms A., the applicant’s daughter. In the Court’s view, the fact that a large group of armed men in uniform in several vehicles, even if those were not the APCs, was able to pass freely through checkpoints, proceeded to search the apartment and spoke unaccented Russian suffices to corroborate the applicant’s allegation that they were State servicemen.

58.  The Court also notes that in her applications to the authorities the applicant consistently maintained that Mr Abu Aliyev had been detained by unknown servicemen and requested the investigating authorities to look into that possibility. It further notes that after seven years the domestic investigation has produced no tangible results.

59.  The Court reiterates that where the applicant makes out a prima facie case and the Court is prevented from reaching factual conclusions owing to the lack of such documents, it is for the Government to argue conclusively why the documents in question cannot serve to corroborate the allegations made by the applicant, or to provide a satisfactory and convincing explanation of how the events in question occurred. The burden of proof is thus shifted to the Government and if they fail in their arguments, issues will arise under Article 2 and/or Article 3 (see Toğcu v. Turkey, no. 27601/95, § 95, 31 May 2005, and Akkum and Others v. Turkey, no. 21894/93, § 211, ECHR 2005-II).

60.  Taking into account the above elements, the Court is satisfied that the applicant has made out a prima facie case that her husband was detained by State servicemen. The Government’s statement that the investigation did not find any evidence to support the involvement of the special forces in the abduction is insufficient to discharge them from the above-mentioned burden of proof. Drawing inferences from the Government’s failure to submit the documents which were in their exclusive possession or to provide a plausible explanation of the events in question, the Court finds it established that Mr Abu Aliyev was abducted on 29 October 2002 from his home in Grozny by State servicemen during an unacknowledged security operation.

61.  The Court further notes that there has been no reliable news of Mr Abu Aliyev since October 2002. His name has not been found in the official records of any detention facilities. Finally, the Government have not submitted any explanation as to what happened to him after his abduction.

62.  Having regard to the previous cases concerning disappearances of people in Chechnya which have come before the Court (see, for example, Imakayeva, cited above, and Luluyev and Others v. Russia, no. 69480/01, ECHR 2006-… (extracts)), the Court considers that, in the context of the conflict in the Chechen Republic, when a person is detained by unidentified servicemen without any subsequent acknowledgement of the detention, this can be regarded as life-threatening. The absence of Mr Abu Aliyev or any news of him for over seven years corroborates this assumption. Furthermore, the Government have failed to provide any explanation of his disappearance and the official investigation into his abduction, which has gone on for over seven years, has produced no tangible results.

63.  Accordingly, the Court finds that the evidence available permits it to establish to the requisite standard of proof that Mr Abu Aliyev was abducted on 29 October 2002 by State servicemen and that he must be presumed dead following his unacknowledged detention.

iii.  The State’s compliance with Article 2

64.  Article 2, which safeguards the right to life and sets out the circumstances when deprivation of life may be justified, ranks as one of the most fundamental provisions in the Convention, to which no derogation is permitted. In the light of the importance of the protection afforded by Article 2, the Court must subject deprivation of life to the most careful scrutiny, taking into consideration not only the actions of State agents but also all the surrounding circumstances (see, among other authorities, McCann and Others v. the United Kingdom, judgment of 27 September 1995, Series A no. 324, pp. 45-46, §§ 146-147, and AvƟar v. Turkey, no. 25657/94, § 391, ECHR 2001-VII (extracts)).

65.  The Court has already found it established that the applicant’s husband must be presumed dead following unacknowledged detention by State servicemen. Noting that the authorities do not rely on any ground of justification in respect of any use of lethal force by their agents, it follows that liability for his presumed death is attributable to the respondent Government.

66.  Accordingly, the Court finds that there has been a violation of Article 2 in respect of Mr Abu Aliyev.

(b)  The alleged inadequacy of the investigation of the kidnapping

67.  The Court reiterates that the obligation to protect the right to life under Article 2 of the Convention, read in conjunction with the State’s general duty under Article 1 of the Convention to “secure to everyone within [its] jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in [the] Convention”, also requires by implication that there should be some form of effective official investigation when individuals have been killed as a result of the use of force (see, mutatis mutandis, McCann and Others, cited above, § 161, and Kaya v. Turkey, judgment of 19 February 1998, § 86, Reports 1998-I). The essential purpose of such an investigation is to secure the effective implementation of the domestic laws which protect the right to life and, in those cases involving State agents or bodies, to ensure their accountability for deaths occurring under their responsibility. This investigation should be independent, accessible to the victim’s family and carried out with reasonable promptness and expedition. It should also be effective in the sense that it is capable of leading to a determination of whether or not the force used in such cases was lawful and justified in the circumstances, and should afford a sufficient element of public scrutiny of the investigation or its results (see Hugh Jordan v. the United Kingdom, no. 24746/94, §§ 105-109, 4 May 2001, and Douglas-Williams v. the United Kingdom (dec.), no. 56413/00, 8 January 2002).

68.  The Court notes at the outset that no documents from the investigation file were disclosed by the Government, apart from copies of two procedural decisions and notifications sent to the applicant on ten pages. It therefore has to assess the effectiveness of the investigation on the basis of the few documents submitted by the parties and the information about its progress presented by the Government.

69.  Turning to the facts of the present case, the Court notes that, according to the applicant, she notified the authorities about the abduction on 30 October 2002. This is not disputed by the Government. The investigation into the abduction was instituted on 11 November 2002, that is twelve days after Mr Abu Aliyev’s abduction. Such a delay per se was liable to affect the investigation of the kidnapping in life-threatening circumstances, where crucial action has to be taken in the first days after the event.

70.  The Court further has to assess the scope of the investigative measures taken. According to the Government, apart from the applicant, six other witnesses were questioned. Ms B. was questioned on an unspecified date and five other witnesses were questioned in October 2003. Furthermore, a number of requests were sent to various State authorities with a view to establishing Mr Abu Aliyev’s whereabouts. However, the Government have produced no documents, such as inspection reports, transcripts of questioning or copies of the requests and responses, to corroborate their submissions. Accordingly, not only is it impossible to establish how promptly some of those measures were taken, but whether they were taken at all.

71.  Even assuming the accuracy of the Government’s submissions, the Court notes that five witnesses, including the applicant’s neighbours and her daughter, were questioned for the first time a year after the events. It is obvious that these investigative measures, if they were to produce any meaningful results, should have been taken immediately after the crime was reported to the authorities, and as soon as the investigation commenced.

72.  Furthermore, it appears that a number of crucial steps were never taken. In particular, there is no evidence that the crime scene was ever inspected or that any officials of local law-enforcement and military authorities were questioned. Neither the identity of the owners of the vehicles that had moved around Grozny on the night of 29 October 2002 nor their itinerary were established.

73.  The delays and omissions, for which there has been no explanation in the instant case, not only demonstrate the authorities’ failure to act of their own motion but also constitute a breach of the obligation to exercise exemplary diligence and promptness in dealing with such a serious crime (see Paul and Audrey Edwards v. the United Kingdom, no. 46477/99, § 86, ECHR 2002-II).

74.  The Court also notes that even though the applicant was granted victim status in the investigation concerning the abduction of their relative, she was only informed of the suspensions and resumptions of the proceedings, and not of any other significant developments. Accordingly, the investigators failed to ensure that the investigation received the required level of public scrutiny, or to safeguard the interests of the next of kin in the proceedings.

75.  Finally, the Court notes that the investigation was adjourned and resumed on several occasions. It also appears that there were lengthy periods of inactivity on the part of the prosecuting authorities when no investigative measures were being taken.

76.  Having regard to the limb of the Government’s preliminary objection that was joined to the merits of the complaint, the Court notes that the investigation, having being repeatedly suspended and resumed and plagued by inexplicable delays, has been pending for many years, having produced no tangible results. Accordingly, the Court finds that the remedy relied on by the Government was ineffective in the circumstances and dismisses their preliminary objection.

77.  In the light of the foregoing, the Court holds that the authorities failed to carry out an effective criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Mr Abu Aliyev, in breach of Article 2 in its procedural aspect.

III.  ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 3 OF THE CONVENTION

78.  The applicant relied on Article 3 of the Convention, submitting that Mr Abu Aliyev had been subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment prohibited by Article 3 of the Convention and that no effective investigation had been conducted in this respect. She also complained that as a result of her husband’s disappearance and the State’s failure to investigate it properly she had endured mental suffering in breach of Article 3 of the Convention. Article 3 reads:

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

A.  The parties’ submissions

79.  The Government disagreed with these allegations and argued that the investigation had not established that Mr Abu Aliyev had been subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment prohibited by Article 3 of the Convention by State agents. Likewise, since it had not been established by the domestic investigation that Mr Abu Aliyev had been abducted by State agents, the applicant’s mental suffering could not be imputable to the State.

80.  The applicant maintained her submissions.

B.  The Court’s assessment

1.  Admissibility

81.  The Court notes that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. It further notes that the complaint is not inadmissible on any other grounds and must therefore be declared admissible.

2.  Merits

(a)  The complaint concerning Mr Abu Aliyev

i.  General principles

82.  In so far as the applicant complained that her husband had been ill-treated when abducted, the Court reiterates that allegations of ill-treatment must be supported by appropriate evidence. To assess this evidence, the Court adopts the standard of proof “beyond reasonable doubt” but adds that such proof may follow from the coexistence of sufficiently strong, clear and concordant inferences or of similar unrebutted presumptions of fact (see Ireland v. the United Kingdom, judgment of 18 January 1978, Series A no. 25, pp. 64-65, § 161 in fine).

83.  The Court reiterates that “where an individual makes a credible assertion that he has suffered treatment infringing Article 3 at the hands of the police or other similar agents of the State, that provision, read in conjunction with the State’s general duty under Article 1 of the Convention to ‘secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in … [the] Convention’, requires by implication that there should be an effective official investigation” (see Labita v. Italy [GC], no. 26772/95, § 131, ECHR 2000-IV).

ii.  The alleged ill-treatment

84.  The Court notes that the applicant herself and her neighbour, Ms B., witnessed her husband’s abduction. They saw that the servicemen took Mr Abu Aliyev, who had had one leg amputated, and dragged him into the street in the night in late October in only his underwear.

85.  It further notes the Government’s submission that the domestic investigation had not established that Mr Abu Aliyev had been subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. The Court observes, however, that despite its repeated requests the Government did not provide a copy of the investigation file, having failed to adduce sufficient reasons for the refusal (see paragraph 52 above), and finds that it can draw inferences from the Government’s conduct in this respect.

86.  The Court reiterates that ill-treatment must attain a minimum level of severity if it is to fall within the scope of Article 3. The assessment of this minimum is relative: it depends on all the circumstances of the case, such as the duration of the treatment, its physical and/or mental effects and, in some cases, the sex, age and state of health of the victim (see, amongst other authorities, the Tekin v. Turkey judgment of 9 June 1998, Reports 1998-IV, § 52).

87.  The Court has found it established that Mr Abu Aliyev was abducted on 29 October 2002 by State agents. The evidence submitted shows that he, a disabled person, was dragged outside by armed men at night in cold weather with only his underwear on. The Court considers that, in the circumstances of the present case, this treatment reached the threshold of “inhuman and degrading” since it not only made Abu Aliyev suffer from cold, but must have made him feel humiliated, defenceless and caused fear and anguish as to what might happen to him.

88.  There has therefore been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in respect of Mr Abu Aliyev.

iii.  Effective investigation

89.  The Court notes that the domestic investigation instituted in relation to Mr Abu Aliyev’s abduction produced no tangible results.  For the reasons stated above in paragraphs 67-77 in relation to the procedural obligation under Article 2 of the Convention, the Court concludes that the Government has failed to conduct an effective investigation into the ill-treatment of Mr Abu Aliyev.

90.  Accordingly, there has been a violation of Article 3 also in this respect.

(b)  The complaint concerning the applicant’s mental suffering

91.  The Court has found on many occasions that in a situation of enforced disappearance close relatives of the victim may themselves be victims of treatment in violation of Article 3. The essence of such a violation does not mainly lie in the fact of the “disappearance” of the family member but rather concerns the authorities’ reactions and attitudes to the situation when it is brought to their attention (see Orhan v. Turkey, no. 25656/94, § 358, 18 June 2002, and Imakayeva, cited above, § 164).

92.  In the present case the Court notes that the applicant is the wife of the disappeared person and that she witnessed his abduction. For seven years she has not had any news of him. During this period the applicant has made enquiries to various official bodies, both in writing and in person, about her husband. Despite her attempts, the applicant has never received any plausible explanation or information about what became of him following his detention. The responses she received mostly denied State responsibility for her husband’s arrest or simply informed her that the investigation was ongoing. The Court’s findings under the procedural aspect of Article 2 are also of direct relevance here.

93.  The Court therefore concludes that there has been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention also in respect of the applicant.

IV.  ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 5 OF THE CONVENTION

94.  The applicant further stated that Mr Abu Aliyev had been detained in violation of the guarantees contained in Article 5 of the Convention, which reads, in so far as relevant:

“1.  Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:…

(c)  the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so;

2.  Everyone who is arrested shall be informed promptly, in a language which he understands, of the reasons for his arrest and of any charge against him.

3.  Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 (c) of this Article shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial.

4.  Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful.

5.  Everyone who has been the victim of arrest or detention in contravention of the provisions of this Article shall have an enforceable right to compensation.”

A.  The parties’ submissions

95.  The Government asserted that no evidence had been obtained by the investigators to confirm that Mr Abu Aliyev had been deprived of his liberty by State agents. He was not listed among the persons kept in detention centres and none of the regional law enforcement agencies had information about his detention.

96.  The applicant reiterated the complaint.

B.  The Court’s assessment

1.  Admissibility

97.  The Court notes that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. It further notes that the complaint is not inadmissible on any other grounds and must therefore be declared admissible.

2.  Merits

98.  The Court has previously noted the fundamental importance of the guarantees contained in Article 5 to secure the right of individuals in a democracy to be free from arbitrary detention. It has also stated that unacknowledged detention is a complete negation of these guarantees and discloses a very grave violation of Article 5 (see Çiçek v. Turkey, no. 25704/94, § 164, 27 February 2001, and Luluyev, cited above, § 122).

99.  The Court has found that Mr Abu Aliyev was abducted by State servicemen on 29 October 2002 and has not been seen since. His detention was not acknowledged, was not logged in any custody records and there exists no official trace of his subsequent whereabouts or fate. In accordance with the Court’s practice, this fact in itself must be considered a most serious failing, since it enables those responsible for an act of deprivation of liberty to conceal their involvement in a crime, to cover their tracks and to escape accountability for the fate of a detainee. Furthermore, the absence of detention records, noting such matters as the date, time and location of detention and the name of the detainee as well as the reasons for the detention and the name of the person effecting it, must be seen as incompatible with the very purpose of Article 5 of the Convention (see Orhan, cited above, § 371).

100.  The Court further considers that the authorities should have been more alert to the need for a thorough and prompt investigation of the applicant’s complaints that her relative had been detained and taken away in life-threatening circumstances. However, the Court’s findings above in relation to Article 2 and, in particular, the conduct of the investigation leave no doubt that the authorities failed to take prompt and effective measures to safeguard him against the risk of disappearance.

101.  In view of the foregoing, the Court finds that Mr Abu Aliyev was held in unacknowledged detention without any of the safeguards contained in Article 5. This constitutes a particularly grave violation of the right to liberty and security enshrined in Article 5 of the Convention.

V.  ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 13 OF THE CONVENTION

102.  The applicant complained that she had been deprived of effective remedies in respect of the aforementioned violations, contrary to Article 13 of the Convention, which provides:

“Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in [the] Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.”

A.  The parties’ submissions

103.  The Government contended that the applicant had had effective remedies at her disposal as required by Article 13 of the Convention and that the authorities had not prevented her from using them. She had been granted victim status in the criminal proceedings and had had an opportunity to challenge the acts or omissions of the investigating authorities in court and had availed herself of it. The Government added that participants in criminal proceedings could also claim damages in civil proceedings and referred to cases where victims in criminal proceedings had been awarded damages from state bodies and, in one instance, the prosecutor’s office. In sum, the Government submitted that there had been no violation of Article 13.

104.  The applicant reiterated the complaint.

B.  The Court’s assessment

1.  Admissibility

105.  The Court notes that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. It further notes that it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.

2.  Merits

106.  The Court reiterates that Article 13 of the Convention guarantees the availability at the national level of a remedy to enforce the substance of the Convention rights and freedoms in whatever form they might happen to be secured in the domestic legal order. According to the Court’s settled case-law, the effect of Article 13 of the Convention is to require the provision of a remedy at the national level allowing the competent domestic authority both to deal with the substance of a relevant Convention complaint and to grant appropriate relief, although Contracting States are afforded some discretion as to the manner in which they comply with their obligations under this provision. However, such a remedy is only required in respect of grievances which can be regarded as “arguable” in terms of the Convention (see, among many other authorities, Halford v. the United Kingdom, judgment of 25 June 1997, § 64, Reports 1997-III).

107.  As regards the complaint of a lack of effective remedies in respect of the applicants’ complaints under Article 2 concerning the disappearance of Mr Abu Aliyev and under Article 3 concerning the ill-treatment he was subjected to, the Court emphasises that, given the fundamental importance of the right to protection of life, Article 13 requires, in addition to the payment of compensation where appropriate, a thorough and effective investigation capable of leading to the identification and punishment of those responsible for the deprivation of life and infliction of treatment contrary to Article 3, including effective access for the complainant to the investigation procedure leading to the identification and punishment of those responsible (see Anguelova v. Bulgaria, no. 38361/97, §§ 161-162, ECHR 2002-IV, and SĂŒheyla Aydın v. Turkey, no. 25660/94, § 208, 24 May 2005). The Court further reiterates that the requirements of Article 13 are broader than a Contracting State’s obligation under Article 2 to conduct an effective investigation (see Khashiyev and Akayeva v. Russia, nos. 57942/00 and 57945/00, § 183, 24 February 2005).

108.  It follows that in circumstances where, as here, the criminal investigation into the disappearance and ill-treatment has been ineffective and the effectiveness of any other remedy that may have existed, including civil remedies suggested by the Government, has consequently been undermined, the State has failed in its obligation under Article 13 of the Convention.

109.  Consequently, there has been a violation of Article 13 in conjunction with Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention.

110.  As regards the violation of Article 3 of the Convention found on account of the applicant’s mental suffering as a result of the disappearance of her husband, her inability to find out what had happened to him and the way the authorities had handled her complaints, the Court notes that it has already found a violation of Article 13 of the Convention in conjunction with Article 2 of the Convention on account of the authorities’ conduct that led to the suffering endured by the applicant. The Court considers that, in the circumstances, no separate issue arises in respect of Article 13 in connection with Article 3 of the Convention.

111.  As regards the applicant’s reference to Article 5 of the Convention, the Court reiterates that, according to its established case-law, the more specific guarantees of Article 5 §§ 4 and 5, being a lex specialis in relation to Article 13, absorb its requirements and in view of its above findings of a violation of Article 5 of the Convention as a result of unacknowledged detention, the Court considers that no separate issue arises in respect of Article 13 read in conjunction with Article 5 of the Convention in the circumstances of the present case.

VI.  APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION

112.  Article 41 of the Convention provides:

“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”

A.  Pecuniary damage

113.  The applicant claimed pecuniary damage in the amount of 120,000 euros (EUR), that is EUR 12,000 for each of the ten years during which she had and would still have to be bringing up her five children alone.

114.  The Government regarded these claims as totally unsubstantiated.

115.  The Court reiterates that under Rule 60 of the Rules of Court any claim for just satisfaction must be itemised and submitted in writing together with the relevant supporting documents or vouchers, “failing which the Chamber may reject the claim in whole or in part”. Since the applicant has failed to produce any calculations regarding the pecuniary damage claimed, the Court decides to make no award under this head (see Elmurzayev and Others v. Russia, no. 3019/04, § 156, 12 June 2008).

B.  Non-pecuniary damage

116.  The applicant claimed EUR 100,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage for the suffering she had endured as a result of the loss of her husband, the indifference shown by the authorities towards him and the failure to provide any information about his fate.

117.  The Government found the amounts claimed exaggerated.

118.  The Court has found a violation of Articles 2, 3, 5 and 13 of the Convention on account of the unacknowledged detention, ill-treatment and disappearance of the applicant’s husband. The applicant herself has been found to have been a victim of a violation of Article 3 of the Convention. The Court thus accepts that she has suffered non-pecuniary damage which cannot be compensated for solely by the finding of violations. It awards the applicant EUR 60,000, plus any tax that may be chargeable thereon.

C.  Costs and expenses

119.  The applicant also claimed EUR 4,000 for the costs and expenses incurred before the Court on account of the work performed by lawyers of the International Protection Centre. She enclosed no documents to support the amount claimed.

120.  The Government pointed out that the applicant should be entitled to the reimbursement of their costs and expenses only in so far as it had been shown that they had been actually incurred and were reasonable as to quantum (see Skorobogatova v. Russia, no. 33914/02, § 61, 1 December 2005).

121.  The Court may make an award in respect of costs and expenses in so far that they were actually and necessarily incurred and are reasonable as to quantum (see Bottazzi v. Italy [GC], no. 34884/97, § 30, ECHR 1999-V, and Sawicka v. Poland, no. 37645/97, § 54, 1 October 2002).

122.  The Court notes that the applicant enclosed no documents to corroborate the amount claimed. At the same time it observes that the applicant issued authority forms for lawyers of the International Protection Centre, who submitted an application form and observations on her behalf. Therefore, the Court is satisfied that the applicant’s representatives did carry out a certain amount of legal work in relation to the present application.

123.  The Court further notes that this case was rather complex and required a certain amount of research and preparation. It notes at the same time, that due to the application of Article 29 § 3 in the present case, the applicants’ representatives submitted their observations on admissibility and merits in one set of documents. Furthermore, the case involved little documentary evidence, in view of the Government’s refusal to submit most of the case file. The Court thus doubts that research was necessary to the extent claimed by the representatives.

124.  Having regard to the details of the claims submitted by the applicants, the Court awards them the amount of EUR 2,500, less EUR 850 received by way of legal aid from the Council of Europe, together with any value-added tax that may be chargeable to the applicants.

D.  Default interest

125.  The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest should be based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which should be added three percentage points.

FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY

1.  Decides to join to the merits the Government’s objection as to non-exhaustion of criminal domestic remedies and rejects it;

2.  Declares the complaints under Articles 2, 3, 5 and 13 of the Convention admissible and the remainder of the application inadmissible;

3.  Holds that there has been a violation of Article 2 of the Convention in respect of Mr Abu Aliyev;

4.  Holds that there has been a violation of Article 2 of the Convention in respect of the failure to conduct an effective investigation into the circumstances in which Mr Abu Aliyev disappeared;

5.  Holds that there has been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in respect of Mr Abu Aliyev on account of the ill-treatment to which he had been subjected;

6.  Holds that there has been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in respect of the failure to conduct an effective investigation into the ill-treatment of Mr Abu Aliyev;

7.  Holds that there has been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in respect of the applicant on account of her mental suffering;

8.  Holds that there has been a violation of Article 5 of the Convention in respect of Mr Abu Aliyev;

9.  Holds that there has been a violation of Article 13 of the Convention in respect of the alleged violations of Article 2 and Article 3 of the Convention on account of the ill-treatment of Mr Abu Aliyev;

10.  Holds that no separate issues arise under Article 13 of the Convention in respect of the alleged violations of Article 3 on account of the applicant’s mental suffering and Article 5 of the Convention;

11.  Holds

(a)  that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, the following amounts, to be converted into Russian roubles at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:

(i)  EUR 60,000 (sixty thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage;

(ii)  EUR 1,650 (one thousand six hundred fifty euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicant, in respect of costs and expenses;

(b)  that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;

12.  Dismisses the remainder of the applicant’s claim for just satisfaction.

Done in English, and notified in writing on 18 February 2010, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.

SÞren Nielsen Christos Rozakis
Registrar President

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