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Home » ECHR Cases

Batayev and Others – Tovsultanova v. Russia

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Batayev and Others – Tovsultanova v. Russia

The ECHR cases of Batayev and Others v. Russia (application no. 11354/05 and 32952/06) and Tovsultanova v. Russia (application no. 26974/06).

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EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

490

17.06.2010

Press release issued by the Registrar

Two Chamber judgments against Russia concerning disappearances in Chechnya and Ingushetia

The European Court of Human Rights has today notified in writing two Chamber judgments concerning Russia, neither of which is final. The applicants in both cases alleged that their close relatives were abducted and killed by Russian servicemen in Chechnya and Ingushetia, respectively, following unacknowledged security operations. They complained 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.  Batayev and Others v. Russia (application nos. 11354/05 and 32952/06):

The ten applicants are Russian nationals and belong to six families. Their seven male relatives were detained in two separate incidents in 2000 in Grozny or the Grozny district and subsequently disappeared. The applicants’ account of the events is based on witnesses’ statements.

In the afternoon of 18 September 2000, Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev were taken away from Khasan Batayev’s home in Grozny by a group of men, armed with machine guns, wearing camouflage uniforms and speaking unaccented Russian, who had burst inside the house. Neither of the applicants’ relatives have been seen or heard of since. The Government did not contest the facts as presented by the applicants but submitted that there was no evidence that the abductors had been servicemen.

On 8 January 2000, Usman Mavluyev, walking from Grozny towards the village, where his wife, the tenth applicant, was staying with their children, was stopped at a checkpoint for a document inspection by servicemen, dragged into a military vehicle and taken away. He has not been heard of since. The Government did not challenge most of the facts as presented by the applicant, but referred to the abductors as ‚Äúunidentified persons‚ÄĚ.

The first nine applicants enquired with the prosecutors and other authorities, asking for assistance and details of the investigation into the disappearances, but received almost no information. Between October 2000 and April 2001, the Grozny town prosecutor opened criminal investigations into the kidnapping of the first nine applicants’ relatives. The investigations were suspended and resumed on several occasions and have produced no tangible results. The applicants’ claim for compensation for their relatives’ abduction was dismissed by the domestic courts.

Although the tenth applicant applied to the district department of the Federal Security Service a few days after her husband’s disappearance and repeatedly enquired with the Deputy Prosecutor of Chechnya, a criminal investigation was only opened more than four years later, in April 2004. The investigation was suspended and resumed on several occasions, and has so far failed to identify the perpetrators. In September 2008, the applicant’s request to study the case file was granted

The Government did not disclose most of the contents of the files of the criminal investigation into the first nine applicants’ relatives, stating that the investigation was in progress and that disclosure of the documents would be in violation of domestic criminal procedural legislation since the file contained information of a military nature and personal data concerning the witnesses or other participants in the criminal proceedings.

Violation of Article 2 (right to life) in respect of the applicants’ seven relatives

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

Violation of Article 3 (inhuman and degrading treatment) in respect of the applicants

Violation of Article 5 (unacknowledged detention) in respect of the applicants’ seven relatives

Violation of Article13 (right to an effective remedy) in conjunction with Article 2

The Court held that Russia is to pay, in respect of pecuniary damage, 745 euros (EUR) to the parents of Khasan Batayev and between EUR 745 and 12,000 to the fourth to tenth applicant individually; in respect of non-pecuniary damage, EUR 60,000 respectively to the parents of Khasan Batayev, to the mother and wife of Zaur Ibragimov, to the mother and wife of Magomed Temurkayev, to the mother of Rizvan Ismailov and to the wife of Usman Mavluyev, and EUR 120,000 to the mother of Sayd-Ali and Kharon Musayev; for costs and expenses, EUR 4,150 to the first nine applicants jointly and EUR 3,500 to the tenth applicant.

2.  Tovsultanova v. Russia (application no. 26974/06):

The applicant, a Russian national, currently lives in the village of Katar-Yurt in Chechnya. She is the mother of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov, born in 1970.

According to witnesses’ statements, on 13 or 14 June 2004, her son was apprehended in the village of Sleptsovskaya in Ingushetia, where he was staying with relatives, by a group of armed masked men in camouflage uniforms, who took him away in a car.

With the help of relatives, the applicant contacted various official bodies, such as the Russian President, the Chechen administration, departments of the interior and prosecutors’ offices, asking for help in establishing the whereabouts of her son. In June 2005, the prosecutor opened a criminal investigation and took a number of steps. In particular, witnesses were questioned, the crime scene was inspected and information requests were forwarded to a number of law-enforcement authorities. The investigation was subsequently suspended for failure to identify the perpetrators. In February and March 2008, the applicant complained to the district prosecutor and to the district court about the ineffectiveness of the investigation and requested access to the investigation file. Both of her complaints were rejected.

The Government did not challenge the facts as presented by the applicant, but submitted that she had not witnessed the events, that her son’s body had not been found and that the involvement of State representatives in his abduction and death had not been established. Despite requests by the Court for a copy of the investigation file, the Government produced only part of the investigation file.

No violation of Article 2 (right to life) in its substantive limb in respect of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov

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

The Court held that Russia is to pay the applicant EUR 30,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 5,500 for costs and expenses.

Additional information concerning the Court’s findings in these cases

In the case Batayev and Others, the Court noted that despite its requests for a copy of the investigation file into the abduction and disappearance of the first nine applicants’ relatives, the Government had produced hardly any documents from the case file, referring to the incompatibility of such disclosure with domestic legislation. In previous cases the Court had already found that explanation insufficient to justify the withholding of key information it had requested. The Court found that it could draw the inference from the Government’s conduct that the applicants’ allegations were well founded. Moreover the fact that a large group of armed men in uniform, equipped with military vehicles, was able to move freely through military roadblocks in broad daylight strongly supported the applicants’ claim that these had been State servicemen.

According to the uncontested evidence submitted by the ten applicants, their seven relatives had not been seen or heard of after their abduction. Having regard to previous cases before it concerning disappearances in Chechnya, the Court found that in the context of the situation in the region, the detention of a person by unidentified servicemen without any subsequent acknowledgment of the detention could be regarded as life-threatening. In the absence of the applicants’ relatives or of any news about them for many years, the Court found that the applicants’ relatives had to be presumed dead following their unacknowledged detention by state servicemen and that their death could be attributed to the State. There had accordingly been a violation of Article 2 in respect of the applicants’ seven relatives.

The Court further held that there had been a violation of Article 2 on account of the authorities’ failure to carry out an effective investigation into the circumstances in which the applicants’ relatives had disappeared.

The Court also found that the applicants had suffered mental suffering as a result of the disappearance of their relatives and the lack of any plausible information about what happened to them, in violation of Article 3.

The Court found that the applicants’ relatives had been held in unacknowledged detention without any of the safeguards contained in Article 5, which constituted a particularly grave violation of the right to liberty and security enshrined in that Article.

The Court further held that as the criminal investigations into the disappearances had been ineffective and the effectiveness of any other remedy that may have existed, including civil remedies as suggested by the Government, had consequently been undermined, the State had failed in its obligation under Article 13 of the Convention. Consequently there had been a violation of Article 13 in conjunction with Article 2.

In the case Tovsultanova, the Court noted that in other cases concerning disappearances of civilians it had found the Russian authorities responsible primarily on the basis of witness statements and based on the fact that the areas in question had been in exclusive control of the State, in view of security operations being carried out there. However, the present case differed from those cases in that the account of the events submitted by the applicant was based entirely on the summary of third persons’ anonymous statements. Moreover, the applicant’s statements before the investigators and the Court differed substantially and she had raised the issue of the possible involvement of State agents in her son’s abduction only after she had lodged her application with the Court. The applicant had further not alleged that there had been any military vehicles in the vicinity of the crime scene. The Court concluded that the information before it did not establish beyond reasonable doubt that State agents were involved in the abduction of the applicant’s son. As a consequence, it did not find a violation of the substantive limb of Article 2.

The Court noted that the investigation into the abduction had been instituted almost a year after the events in question, with part of the delay being attributable to the applicant herself. After the first steps the investigators had become inactive and failed to follow up important leads, such as by questioning the officers who had been on duty at a relevant checkpoint on the day of the events. The investigation had been suspended for almost three and a half years without an explanation, and was resumed only after the case before the European Court of Human Rights had been communicated to the Government. In conclusion, the Court found that the authorities failed to carry out an effective criminal investigation into the disappearance of the applicant’s son, in violation of Article 2 in its procedural aspect.

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CASE OF BATAYEV AND OTHERS v. RUSSIA

(Applications nos. 11354/05 and 32952/06)

JUDGMENT

STRASBOURG

17 June 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 Batayev and Others v. Russia,

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

Christos Rozakis, President,
Nina Vajińá,
Anatoly Kovler,
Dean Spielmann,
Sverre Erik Jebens,
Giorgio Malinverni,
George Nicolaou, judges,
and S√łren Nielsen, Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 27 May 2010,

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

PROCEDURE

1.¬†¬†The case originated in two applications (nos. 11354/05 and 32952/06) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (‚Äúthe Convention‚ÄĚ) by ten Russian nationals listed below (‚Äúthe applicants‚ÄĚ), on 15 March 2005 and 12 July 2006 respectively.

2.¬†¬†The applicants were represented by Ms L.¬†Khamzayeva and Mr¬†D.¬†Itslayev, lawyers practising in Moscow and in Nazran respectively. The applicants in application no.¬†11354/05 were granted legal aid. The Russian Government (‚Äúthe Government‚ÄĚ) were represented by Mrs¬†V.¬†Milinchuk, the former Representative of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights, and subsequently by their new representative, Mr G. Matyushkin.

3.  The applicants alleged that their seven male relatives had disappeared after their detention by the security forces in Grozny in 2000. They invoked Articles 2, 3, 5 and 13 of the Convention, as well as Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.

4.  On 3 October 2007 and on 21 April 2009 respectively the Court decided to apply Rule 41 of the Rules of Court and to grant priority treatment to the applications, and to give notice of the applications to the Government. It also decided to examine the merits of the applications at the same time as their admissibility (Article 29 § 3 of the Convention).

5.  The Government objected to the joint examination of the admissibility and merits of application no. 11354/05. Having considered the Government’s objection, the Court dismissed it.

THE FACTS

I.  THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE

6.  The applicants in application no. 11354/05 are:

1.      Mr Khuseyn Batayev,

2.      Mr Vakha Batayev,

3.      Ms Razet Sambiyeva,

4.      Ms Layla Ibragimova, born in 1950,

5.      Ms Elisa Ibragimova, born in 1977,

6.      Ms Baret Ilyasova,

7.      Ms Luiza Temurkayeva, born in 1975,

8.      Ms Zura Ismailova, born in 1955, and

9.      Ms Briliant Musayeva, born in 1951.

The applicant in application no. 32952/06 is:

10.      Ms Zemfira Alayeva, born in 1973.

7. All applicants live in the Chechen Republic (Chechnya), Russia.

A.  The applicants’ relatives’ disappearance

8.  The applicants belong to six families. Their seven male relatives were detained in two separate incidents in 2000 in Grozny or the Grozny district and subsequently disappeared. None of the applicants had witnessed the detention of their family members and their account is based on the witnesses’ accounts. The first nine applicants have been conducting the search for their relatives together.

1.  Apprehension of Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev

9.  The second and third applicants are the parents of the first applicant and of Khasan Batayev, who was born in 1979. The fourth applicant is the mother of Zaur Ibragimov, who was born in 1975. The fifth applicant is his wife. The sixth applicant is the mother of Magomed Temurkayev, who was born in 1974 and is married to the seventh applicant. The eighth applicant is the mother of Rizvan Ismailov, who was born in 1974. The ninth applicant is the mother of Sayd-Ali Musayev, born in 1973, and Kharon Musayev, born in 1976.

10.  On 18 September 2000 Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev, Kharon Musayev and Khasan Batayev were at Khasan Batayev’s home at 44 Vostochnaya Street, Grozny. Two cars, a VAZ-21099 used by Magomed Temurkayev and a VAZ-2106 driven by Zaur Ibragimov, were parked in the courtyard.

11.¬†¬†At about 4 p.m. two armoured personnel carriers (‚ÄúAPCs‚ÄĚ) and a UAZ vehicle with the registration number 480-20-RUS arrived at 44¬†Vostochnaya Street. A group of men wearing camouflage uniforms and armed with machine guns got out of the vehicles and burst inside. They seized Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev and took them away. The armed men also took the two VAZ cars. The men spoke unaccented Russian.

12.  The applicants have had no news of Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev since 18 September 2000.

13.¬†¬†The Government in their observations did not dispute most of the facts as presented by the applicants. They stated that on 18¬†September 2000 ‚Äúunidentified persons wearing camouflage uniforms‚ÄĚ had entered the house at 44¬†Vostochnaya Street in Grozny and taken away Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev, whose whereabouts remained unknown. The Government denied that the stolen cars had belonged to Magomed Temurkayev and Zaur Ibragimov. They also challenged certain aspects of the applicants‚Äô version of the events with reference to the documents from the criminal investigation file (see details below).

2.  Apprehension of Usman Mavluyev

14.  The tenth applicant is the wife of Usman Mavluyev, who was born in 1972.

15.  In the autumn of 1999, during the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya, she lived with her husband and their two sons at 81 Zabolotnogo Street in Grozny.

16.  In November 1999, fearing for her sons’ safety, the applicant went with them to stay with her mother, who lived in the village of Zakan-Yurt in the Achkhoy-Martan District. Her husband remained in Grozny.

17.¬†¬†On 7 January 2000 Ms Z.A., a friend and a remote relative of the Mavluyevs who also lived in Grozny, heard from other residents that, owing to the intensification of the military operations, on 8 January¬†2000 a ‚Äúhumanitarian corridor‚ÄĚ would be arranged for civilians so as to let them escape from the fighting in Grozny. In the evening Ms Z.A. and Usman Mavluyev agreed to use that corridor and to leave for Zakan-Yurt.

18.  At approximately 10 a.m. on 8 January 2000 Usman Mavluyev, Ms Z.A., Ms S., Ms R.G. and Ms L.G. walked towards the southern exit from Grozny through the village of Chernorechye. At a certain point they were joined by Mr V. At the checkpoint in Chernorechye they were stopped for a document inspection by servicemen of the Russian interior troops. At that moment Usman Mavluyev and Mr V. were the only men in the group of civilians trying to leave Grozny. They presented their passports to the servicemen. After that the servicemen tied their hands, put bags on their heads and dragged them to an APC. The servicemen did not put any questions to them. Usman Mavluyev did not want to go and obeyed the servicemen reluctantly. Then they hit him with the butt of an assault rifle and forced him and Mr V. into the APC. Usman Mavluyev has never been seen again.

19.  A few minutes after the APCs had left, bombing began. In panic, Ms Z.A., together with other residents, ran back to Grozny. On 12 January 2000 she managed to leave Grozny and arrive in Zakan-Yurt. There she related to the tenth applicant the circumstances of her husband’s detention. Ms Z.A.’s written account dated 5 September 2006 was enclosed with the application. In her further submissions the tenth applicant also referred to Ms Z.A. as Ms A.A.

20.  The tenth applicant has had no news of Usman Mavluyev since 8 January 2000.

21.¬†¬†The Government in their observations did not challenge most of the facts as presented by the applicant. They stated that on 8 January 2000 Usman Mavluyev had been apprehended by ‚Äúunidentified persons‚ÄĚ at the checkpoint in Chernorechye and taken away to an unknown destination. The Government disputed the involvement of State agents in Usman Mavluyev‚Äôs disappearance.

B.  Search for the applicants’ relatives and the investigation

22.  The accounts in this subsection are mainly based on the information provided by the applicants. It appears that all of them sent numerous letters to the prosecutors and other authorities, describing the circumstances in which their relatives had been detained and asking for assistance and details of the investigation. The first nine applicants submitted a significant number of replies from the authorities forwarding their requests to different prosecution services. They received hardly any substantive information from the official bodies about the investigation into the disappearances. As regards the tenth applicant, she received information on the subsequent course of the investigation in 2008, after her request to study the case file had been granted by the domestic courts (see paragraphs 147-156 below). Below is a summary of the letters kept by the applicants and the replies they received from the authorities, and of other relevant developments.

23.  In their observations the Government submitted some additional important details on the progress of the investigation, which are summarised separately in part C below.

1. Search for Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev

24.  It appears that shortly after the abduction of the six men their relatives started complaining about it and the theft of the two cars to various State officials.

25.¬†¬†On 2 October 2000 criminal investigation file no.¬†12199 into Khasan Batayev‚Äôs kidnapping was opened under Article 126¬†¬ß¬†2 of the Russian Criminal Code (‚Äúaggravated kidnapping‚ÄĚ) by the Grozny town prosecutor‚Äôs office (‚Äúthe town prosecutor‚Äôs office‚ÄĚ).

26.¬†¬†On 11 November 2000 the town prosecutor‚Äôs office instituted an investigation into Magomed Temurkayev‚Äôs kidnapping under Article¬†126¬†¬ß¬†2 of the Russian Criminal Code (‚Äúaggravated kidnapping‚ÄĚ). The case was assigned number 12256.

27.  On 16 November 2000 the town prosecutor’s office launched criminal investigation file no. 12263 into Rizvan Ismailov’s kidnapping.

28.  In their observations the Government submitted that on 2 December 2000 the investigation in case no. 12199 had been suspended on account of the failure to identify the perpetrators. The Government submitted no relevant documents.

29.  On 8 January 2001 the town prosecutor’s office suspended the proceedings in case no. 12263 for the same reason.

30.  On 9 January 2001 the town prosecutor’s office opened criminal investigation file no. 11012 into Zaur Ibragimov’s kidnapping.

31.¬†¬†On 1 February 2001 the prosecutor‚Äôs office of the Chechen Republic (‚Äúthe Chechnya prosecutor‚Äôs office‚ÄĚ) forwarded the sixth applicant‚Äôs complaint to the town prosecutor‚Äôs office and commented that Magomed Temurkayev had been taken away by ‚Äúunidentified military servicemen in masks‚ÄĚ.

32.¬†¬†On 9 February 2001 the Chechnya prosecutor‚Äôs office forwarded to the town prosecutor‚Äôs office the seventh applicant‚Äôs complaint about the disappearance of her son, who had been apprehended by ‚Äúunidentified military servicemen‚ÄĚ.

33.¬†¬†On 2 April 2001 the town prosecutor‚Äôs office instituted a criminal investigation into the kidnapping of the ninth applicant‚Äôs sons, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev, under Article 126 ¬ß 2 of the Russian Criminal Code (‚Äúaggravated kidnapping‚ÄĚ). The case was assigned number 11107.

34.  On 26 April 2001 the investigation in criminal case no. 12199 was resumed. On the same day cases nos. 12256, 12263 and 11012 were joined to it.

35.  On 16 July 2002 the Chechnya prosecutor’s office informed the applicants, including the ninth applicant, that the investigation in case no. 12199 had been suspended and then resumed and that the case file had been transferred to the town prosecutor’s office.

36.¬†¬†On 19 August 2002 the Chechen Department of the Ministry of the Interior, pursuant to the rules on territorial jurisdiction, forwarded the eighth applicant‚Äôs complaint about Rizvan Ismailov‚Äôs apprehension ‚Äúby military servicemen‚ÄĚ to the department of the interior of the Leninskiy District of Grozny.

37.  On 5 November 2002 the applicants’ counsel requested the Main Department for the Execution of Sentences to inform him whether Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev had been in detention since September 2000. On 29 November 2002 the Main Information Centre of the Ministry of the Interior replied that it had no information concerning the six missing men.

38.  On 25 November 2002 the town prosecutor’s office granted victim status to the ninth applicant in case no. 11107 in relation to her sons’ kidnapping.

39.  On 19 December 2002 the town prosecutor’s office suspended the proceedings in case no. 11107 on account of the failure to identify the perpetrators and ordered the police to pursue more actively the search for Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev.

40.¬†¬†On 15 October 2003 the prosecutor‚Äôs office of the Leninskiy District of Grozny (‚Äúthe district prosecutor‚Äôs office‚ÄĚ) granted victim status in case no. 12199 to the following five applicants: the second, eighth and ninth applicants in relation to their sons‚Äô kidnapping; and the fourth and sixth applicants in relation to their sons‚Äô kidnapping and the theft of their cars. The decision referred to the registration number of the car which had belonged to Zaur Ibragimov, but only referred to the type of vehicle ‚Äď VAZ-21099 ‚Äď used by Magomed Timurkayev. The first, third, fifth and seventh applicants were not granted victim status.

41.¬†¬†On 24 October 2003 the district prosecutor‚Äôs office suspended the proceedings in case no. 12199 because the term of the preliminary investigation had expired and ordered the police to pursue more actively the search for the disappeared men. According to the decision, the six men had been apprehended by ‚Äúunidentified persons‚ÄĚ wearing camouflage uniforms and armed with machine guns.

42.  In their observations the Government submitted that on 7 April 2005 case no. 11107 had been joined to case no. 12199.

43.  On 14 December 2005 the district prosecutor’s office resumed the investigation in case no. 12199.

44.  On 15 January 2006 the district prosecutor’s office stayed the investigation in case no. 12199 on account of the failure to identify the perpetrators and establish their whereabouts.

45.  On 12 November 2007 the district prosecutor’s office resumed the investigation in case no. 12199.

46.  It appears that the investigation in criminal case no. 12199 has remained pending thereafter.

2. Search for Usman Mavluyev

(a)  Criminal proceedings

47.¬†¬†On 13 January 2000 the tenth applicant went to Gudermes, since all administrative and law-enforcement agencies were located there during the hostilities in Grozny. She submitted written applications concerning her husband‚Äôs unlawful detention to the military prosecutor, the department of the interior and the department of the Federal Security Service (‚Äúthe FSB‚ÄĚ). She was promised that necessary measures would be taken.

48.  The tenth applicant has not enclosed copies of her applications. She enclosed a certificate of 6 June 2000 issued by the Achkhoy-Martan district department of the FSB stating that in January 2000 she had applied to that department in connection with her husband’s disappearance. The certificate also stated that, according to the check that had been conducted, Usman Mavluyev had been a missing person since 8 January 2000. The Government in their observations disputed the authenticity of this document.

49.  According to the tenth applicant, since January 2000 she went to Gudermes approximately every three days to find out whether there was any news about her husband. Several times she met the Deputy Prosecutor of the Chechen Republic, who each time asked her to submit a written application, which she did. He also took from the applicant her husband’s photo and copies of their children’s birth certificates.

50.  In the end of March 2000 and in February 2001 the tenth applicant went to prisons in Pyatigorsk and in Voronezh since she had heard that detainees from Chechnya were held there. However, prison officials told the applicant that her husband was not being held there.

51.¬†¬†Since the tenth applicant submitted numerous applications to State authorities concerning her husband‚Äôs disappearance and then regularly met with State officials in this connection, she believed that an official investigation was under way. However, when in January 2004 she applied in person to the prosecutor‚Äôs office of the Zavodskoy District of Grozny ‚Äď the district where her husband‚Äôs detention had taken place ‚Äď she found out that no criminal investigation had been initiated. She then lodged a request for the institution of criminal proceedings.

52.¬†¬†On 16 April 2004 the Zavodskoy District Prosecutor‚Äôs Office (‚Äúthe district prosecutor‚Äôs office‚ÄĚ) instituted criminal investigation no. 31036 into Usman Mavluyev‚Äôs abduction under Article 126 ¬ß 2 of the Russian Criminal Code (‚Äúaggravated kidnapping‚ÄĚ).

53.  On 18 April 2004 the tenth applicant was granted victim status in the criminal proceedings.

54.  The applicant received information on the subsequent course of the investigation in 2008, after her request to study the case file had eventually been granted by the domestic courts (see paragraphs 147-156 below).

55.  On 19 April 2004 Ms A.A., also referred to by the tenth applicant as Ms Z.A., was questioned. She submitted that when she had been trying to leave Grozny with other civilians on 8 January 2000, servicemen at the checkpoint in Chernorechye had apprehended Usman Mavluyev and Mr V.

56.¬†¬†On 1 May 2004 the district prosecutor‚Äôs office requested the military commander of the Urus-Martan district to provide information about the military units deployed in Chernorechye in January 2000. Similar requests were sent to other military commanders in the Chechen Republic, the head of the Operational Search Bureau no. 2 (‚Äúthe ORB-2‚ÄĚ) and the head of the Chechnya FSB Department.

57.  On the same date the district prosecutor’s office requested the head of the Achkhoy-Martan district department of the interior (ROVD) to identify close relatives of Usman Mavluyev residing in Zakan-Yurt and to check whether he had been a member of an illegal armed group. At the same time the head of the Zavodskoy ROVD was requested to establish which units of the federal forces had been deployed at the checkpoint in Chernorechye, which officers had been on duty at the checkpoint on 8 January 2000, to identify close relatives of Usman Mavluyev and witnesses to his abduction and to summon them to the district prosecutor’s office.

58.  On 8 May 2004 the district prosecutor’s office sent requests to the heads of remand prisons in the Northern Caucasus for information as to whether Usman Mavluyev was detained in any of their detention facilities.

59.  In May and June 2004 the military commanders of the Zavodskoy and Urus-Martan districts and the Chechnya FSB department replied that their offices had no information about Usman Mavluyev’s involvement in an illegal armed group. They also had no information about his abduction by federal servicemen or about the deployment of the federal forces in Chernorechye on 8 January 2000.

60.  On 25 May 2004 Ms R.G. and Ms L.G. were questioned. Their statements corroborated that of Ms A.A.

61.  On 1 June 2004 Ms S. was questioned. Her statement corroborated those of other witnesses.

62.  On 16 June 2004 the district prosecutor’s office suspended the investigation on account of the failure to identify the perpetrators.

63.  On 22 June 2004 the head of the ORB-2 replied that officers of the ORB-2 had not detained Usman Mavluyev.

64.¬†¬†On 10 August 2004 the assistant to the head of the United Group Alignment (‚Äúthe UGA‚ÄĚ) replied that he had no information about Usman Mavluyev‚Äôs detention and whereabouts and that documents concerning the UGA‚Äôs activities in 2000 were stored in the archives of the Ministry of Defence.

65.  In September 2004 the applicant went to the FSB headquarters in Moscow. She left a written application addressed to the head of the FSB in which she set out the circumstances of her husband’s detention. She received no reply.

66.  On 26 April 2006 the Achkhoy-Martan District Court declared Usman Mavluyev a missing person as from 9 January 2000. It noted that a criminal investigation into his abduction had been pending since April 2004.

67.  On 20 November 2006 the district prosecutor’s office resumed the proceedings and ordered certain investigative measures. The decision stated, in particular:

‚ÄúIn the course of the preliminary investigation it has been established that on 8¬†January 2000 [Mr] Usman Mavluyev, born in 1972, was apprehended at the checkpoint of the federal forces at the exit from the village of Chernorechye and taken to an unknown destination…‚ÄĚ

68.  On 30 November 2006 the district prosecutor’s office requested the FSB department in the Southern Federal Circuit to conduct a search for Usman Mavluyev. Requests for information as to Usman Mavluyev’s whereabouts were also sent to the district military commanders in Grozny and the FSB departments in Grozny and in the Chechen Republic.

69.  On the same date the district prosecutor’s office requested the penitentiary service departments in the Southern Federal Circuit to provide information as to whether Usman Mavluyev had ever been admitted to custodial facilities in these regions. The heads of remand prisons in the region were also requested to provide information as to whether Usman Mavluyev had been held in any such facilities at any time after January 2000. The requests specified that he had been detained at the checkpoint of the federal forces.

70.  Also on 30 November 2006 the district prosecutor’s office requested the Zavodskoy ROVD to identify witnesses to Usman Mavluyev’s abduction and to establish which units of the federal forces had been deployed at the checkpoint in Chernorechye on 8 January 2000. Requests were also sent to all district and town prosecutors’ offices to check whether criminal proceedings had been instituted into the discovery of an unidentified body resembling Usman Mavluyev. At the same time the heads of the district departments of the interior in Chechnya were requested to check whether any unidentified bodies resembling Usman Mavluyev had been found within their departments’ jurisdiction after 8 January 2000.

71.  On the same date the district prosecutor’s office requested the ORB-2 to take steps to establish the perpetrators of Usman Mavluyev’s abduction. The Leninskiy ROVD in Grozny was requested to take measures to establish Usman Mavluyev’s whereabouts and to check whether any unidentified bodies that resembled him had been discovered.

72.  On 20 December 2006 the district prosecutor’s office again suspended the investigation on account of the failure to identify the perpetrators.

73.  In January and February 2007 the Gudermes and Kurchaloy district law-enforcement authorities replied to the district prosecutor’s office that they had no information concerning Usman Mavluyev and that no criminal proceedings had been instituted in connection with the discovery of unidentified bodies resembling him.

74.  On 15 January 2007 the head of the Federal Penitentiary Service department in Kalmykiya replied that registers of custodial facilities in the republic contained no information about Usman Mavluyev’s detention after 8 January 2000.

75.¬†¬†On 24 July 2009 Special Investigation Unit No. 2 (–ě—ā–ī–Ķ–Ľ –Ņ–ĺ —Ä–į—Ā—Ā–Ľ–Ķ–ī–ĺ–≤–į–Ĺ–ł—é –ĺ—Ā–ĺ–Ī–ĺ –≤–į–∂–Ĺ—č—Ö –ī–Ķ–Ľ ‚ĄĖ 2) of the Chechnya Prosecutor‚Äôs Office (‚Äúthe SIU-2‚ÄĚ) was entrusted with the investigation in case no. 31036. On the same day the SIU-2 reopened the investigation.

76.¬†¬†On 28 July 2009 the SIU-2 amended the surname of the tenth applicant‚Äôs husband for investigation purposes and indicated his correct surname to the Chechnya prosecutor‚Äôs office (his name was spelled ‚ÄúMovluyev‚ÄĚ in some of the documents).

77.  On 24 November 2009 the SIU-2 suspended the investigation because the term of the preliminary investigation had expired and ordered the district prosecutor’s office to pursue the search for the perpetrators.

(b) Leave to study the investigation file, request for legal aid and the grant of the status of a civil claimant

78.  On 14 September 2006 the tenth applicant applied to the district prosecutor’s office, seeking leave to study the investigation file and to make copies of it.

79.  On 26 September 2006 she applied to the same prosecutor’s office with a request for legal aid.

80.  On 3 November 2006 the tenth applicant again applied to the district prosecutor’s office, this time seeking leave to be granted the status of a civil claimant.

81.  On 30 November 2006 the district prosecutor’s office granted the tenth applicant the status of a civil claimant in case no. 31036 but refused her leave to study the case file until the completion of the investigation.

82.  On 1 December 2006 the district prosecutor’s office issued a formal decision to grant the tenth applicant the status of a civil claimant.

83.  On 8 December 2006 the applicant requested a copy of the decision of 1 December 2006.

84.  On 14 December 2006 the applicant asked the district prosecutor’s office about the outcome of the examination of her request for legal aid.

85.  On 28 December 2006 the district prosecutor’s office informed her that the reply had been sent to her on 28 September 2006. It appeared that the request had been refused.

C. Information about the investigation submitted by the Government

1.  Investigation into the kidnapping of Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev

86.  Despite specific requests by the Court the Government did not disclose most of the contents of the criminal investigation files. Thus, they submitted 50 pages from criminal investigation files nos. 11012, 11107, 12199, 12256 and 12263. The documents submitted included decisions to open, suspend and resume the investigations and to grant victim status, as well as letters to the relatives informing them of the adjournment and reopening of the proceedings. No other documents, such as witness statements or expert reports, were produced by the Government.

87.  Relying on the information obtained from the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Government stated that the investigation was in progress and that disclosure of the documents would be in violation of Article 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, since the files contained information of a military nature and personal data concerning the witnesses or other participants in the criminal proceedings.

88.  The documents, as well as the Government’s submissions with regard to the investigation, can be summarised as follows.

89.¬†The Government did not dispute the information provided by the applicants as regards most of the starting dates of the investigation into the applicants‚Äô relatives‚Äô abduction by ‚Äúunidentified men in camouflage uniforms‚ÄĚ on 18 September 2000. The Government submitted that the investigation had started with the opening of case no. 12199 in respect of Khasan Batayev on 2 October 2000; of case no. 12256 in respect of Magomed Temurkayev on 11 November 2000; and of case no. 12263 in respect of Rizvan Ismailov on 16 November 2000.

90.  At the same time, the Government stated that the criminal investigation in case no. 11012 in respect of Zaur Ibragimov had been opened on 9 November 2000 and not on 9 January 2001 as the applicants asserted. It also follows from the documents produced by the Government, in particular from the town prosecutor’s reply to the fourth applicant dated 27 April 2001, that criminal investigation no. 11012 was instituted on 9 November 2000 in respect of both Rizvan Ismailov and Zaur Ibragimov. The Chechnya prosecutor’s reply to the eighth applicant dated 20 November 2001 states that investigation no. 12263 had been launched on 8 November 2000.

91.  The Government further submitted that on 2 April 2001 the town prosecutor’s office had opened criminal investigation no. 11107 into the kidnapping of Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev. On 26 April 2001 cases no. 11012, 12256 and 12263 had been joined to case no. 12199. On 7 April 2005 case no. 11107 was joined to case no. 12199.

92.  On 15 October 2003 the second, eighth and ninth applicants were granted victim status in relation to their sons’ kidnapping. On the same day the fourth and sixth applicants were granted victim status in relation to their sons’ kidnapping and the theft of the cars. The first, third, fifth and seventh applicants were not granted victim status. The Government submitted that after October 2003 only the applicants who had victim status had been duly informed of all decisions taken during the investigation.

93.  The Government stated that after October 2003 the applicants and a number of witnesses were questioned by the investigation. The Government provided a brief outline of their accounts, without appending copies of the transcripts or specifying the dates of the questioning. Their submissions can be summarised as follows.

94.  The second applicant was questioned as a victim. He testified that his son, Khasan Batayev, had not participated in illegal armed groups. He had been involved in oil-extraction activities. On 18 September 2000 Khasan had gone to the Oktyabrskiy District of Grozny, in order to search for oil. The second applicant had not seen him thereafter. On 19 September 2000 an unknown boy had come to the applicant’s house and said that on the previous day a group of armed men had seized seven or eight persons, including his son, at 44 Vostochnaya Street in Grozny and had driven them away. Some time later the applicant learnt that a certain Ms Mosha had let the house to young police officers. The applicant did not know his son’s friends. He was unaware of why his son had gone to their home.

95.  The eighth applicant gave a similar account of the events.

96.¬†¬†It appears that the ninth applicant was questioned at least twice, once as a witness and once as a victim. As a witness, she testified that her sons, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev, had left the family residence in September 2000. She had not seen them thereafter. On 19 September 2000 the special police force unit (–ě–ú–ěN) had informed her that on the previous day her sons had been apprehended by masked men wearing camouflage uniforms at 44 Vostochnaya Street in Grozny. She also found out that a certain Ms Mosha had let the house to the police officers, who, together with her son, had been apprehended and taken away that day.

97.  The sixth applicant’s statements corroborated those of the ninth applicant.

98.  Further questioned as a victim, the ninth applicant mentioned that her sons had worked as law-enforcement officers and rented the house at 44 Vostochnaya Street in Grozny, close to their workplace. On 18 September 2000 two or three APCs and a UAZ vehicle had arrived at their place of residence. A group of armed men had got out of the cars and burst into the house. The men had seized her sons and some other persons, put them in one of the APCs and driven them away.

99.¬†¬†The fourth applicant testified that on 18 September 2000 her son, Zaur Ibragimov, had been at Sayd-Ali Musayev‚Äôs home at 44 Vostochnaya Street, together with Magomed Temurkayev, Kharon Musayev, Rizvan Ismailov and Khasan Batayev. An APC and three other vehicles (a VAZ, a grey UAZ and a white Zhiguli ‚Äď all without registration numbers) arrived at the house. A group of masked men wearing military uniforms got out of the cars, entered the house and seized the above-mentioned persons, forcing them out blindfolded with their hands tied.

100.¬†¬†The investigation also questioned Ms Ma. (also referred to as ‚ÄúMs¬†Mosha‚ÄĚ by the applicants) as a witness. She testified that house no. 44 in Vostochnaya Street belonged to her brother, who had lived abroad. In the summer of 2000 she had let the house to a young man called ‚ÄúKharon‚ÄĚ. He had settled in together with his family. On 18 September 2000 neighbours had told her that some young men had been apprehended at the house by a group of armed persons in two APCs and several UAZ vehicles. The armed persons had then driven them to an unknown destination. A car had also been taken away.

101.  The Government also referred to the testimony of Ms Mu., a neighbour residing at 39 Vostochnaya Street. Ms Mu. stated that in the middle of September 2000 she had seen servicemen arrive and encircle houses nos. 44 and 46 in Vostochnaya Street. They had ordered the persons outside to return to their houses. Some time later she had looked down the street and seen persons being forced out from house no. 44 and into an APC and a UAZ vehicle.

102.  According to the Government, the investigation also questioned another ten relatives and neighbours of the disappeared persons, including the fifth applicant and Rizvan Ismailov’s cousin. None of them had witnessed the abduction and they had learnt about the events several days later. Rizvan Ismailov’s cousin submitted that in 2000 Rizvan had worked as a security agent for the mayor of Grozny. The Government submitted that the criminal investigation file contained Rizvan Ismailov’s record of employment, according to which he had served as a security agent of the Deputy Envoy of the President of the Russian Federation in the Southern Federal Circuit.

103.  The investigation also questioned some officials. Officer D., who at the time had worked at the OMON, testified that on 18 September 2000 an unknown woman at a checkpoint had told him that she had heard machine-gun firing in Vostochnaya Street. A group of police officers went there. Upon arrival, they had learnt about the six men’s disappearance. Zaur Ibragimov and Sayd-Ali Musayev had been trainee police officers at the special police force unit. They had been dismissed during probation for unsatisfactory performance.

104.  The Government submitted that the investigation had taken steps to establish the whereabouts of Mr B., the former head of the FSB in the Chechen Republic, and Mr D., his deputy, in order to question them about the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping.

105.  The Government also stated that on an unspecified date an investigator had inspected the scene of the crime. No relevant record was produced by the Government.

106.  The Government submitted that a number of queries had been sent to various State bodies by those investigating the six men’s disappearance. No copies thereof were provided by the Government.

107.¬†¬†The Government referred to information provided by the ‚ÄúORB-2‚ÄĚ, according to which there was no information about any special operations having taken place in Grozny on 18 September 2000. This document was not included in the case file.

108.¬†¬†The Government also submitted that the law-enforcement authorities of Chechnya had not arrested or detained Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev on 18 September 2000, and that their whereabouts remained unknown. With reference to documents provided by the Chechnya FSB department and the ORB-2, the Government stated that there was no ‚Äúdiscrediting information‚ÄĚ about the six men. Copies of these documents were not produced by the Government.

109.¬†¬†According to the Government, the head of the Road Safety Department in the Chechen Republic failed to establish the provenance of the UAZ vehicle with the registration number ‚Äú480-20‚ÄĚ, since the department archives collected before 2000 had been destroyed during the counter-terrorist operation.

110.  The documents and additional information provided by the Government indicate that between October 2000 and November 2007 the investigation was adjourned on several occasions, and that it has so far failed to identify who was guilty.

2. Investigation into the kidnapping of Usman Mavluyev

111. Further to the Court’s request, the Government provided about 300 pages of documents from criminal investigation file no. 31036, including copies of the decisions to open, suspend and resume the investigation and to grant victim status to the tenth applicant; letters informing her of the course of the proceedings; witness statements; and copies of requests for information sent by the investigating authorities to various State bodies. The Government also submitted documents from the court proceedings relating to the decision to grant her access to the case file and legal aid (see paragraphs 147-156 below). These documents and the Government’s observations can be summarised as follows.

112.  The Government contested that prior to April 2004 the tenth applicant had submitted any applications concerning her husband’s disappearance. They in particular denied that in January 2000 she had lodged written applications with the prosecutor and the department of the interior, or with the FSB departments in the Gudermes and Achkhoy-Martan districts. The Government insisted that no copies of those documents had been produced by the tenth applicant. They referred to information provided by the Ministry of the Interior on 15 April 2004, according to which from 2000 to 2003 no applications in connection with Usman Mavluyev’s disappearance had been registered. They also appended a letter from the Achkhoy-Martan district FSB department dated 11 August 2009, which stated that it was unable to establish whether the applicant had lodged such an application in 2000 because the relevant archives had been destroyed following the expiry of their storage limit.

113.  The Government also challenged the authenticity of the certificate issued by the Chechnya FSB department on 6 June 2000, which stated that in January 2000 the tenth applicant had applied to the FSB district department in Achkhoy-Martan in connection with her husband’s disappearance. The Government pointed out that the certificate was written on plain paper and did not contain information as to the name and surname of the issuing officer. If the tenth applicant had really submitted such an application, it would have been transferred to the competent authorities for a check.

114.¬†¬†The Government thus submitted that the tenth applicant had first filed a written request for the institution of criminal proceedings on 16 April 2004. On the same day the Zavodskoy ROVD of Grozny forwarded her application to the Zavodskoy district prosecutor‚Äôs office. Thereafter the district prosecutor‚Äôs office instituted criminal investigation no.¬†31036 into Usman Mavluyev‚Äôs abduction under Article¬†126 ¬ß 2 of the Russian Criminal Code (‚Äúaggravated kidnapping‚ÄĚ).

115.  On 16 April 2004 the tenth applicant and Ms A.A., also referred to by the applicant as Ms Z.A., submitted written statements as witnesses. The Government provided copies of the transcripts.

116.  The tenth applicant testified that in autumn 1999, during the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya, she had lived with her husband at 81 Zabolotnogo Street in Grozny. On 20 October 1999, when heavy bombing had started, they had moved to her parents to the Achkhoy-Martan district. On 4 January 2000 Usman Mavluyev had gone to Grozny in order to check their dwellings. On 10 January 2000 Ms Z.A. had visited the tenth applicant’s family in Zakan-Yurt. She had told the applicant that on 8 January 2000 Usman Mavluyev and herself had left Grozny for Zakan-Yurt on foot. Servicemen had stopped them at the Chernorechye checkpoint for a document check. Once the check had been completed, they had let Ms Z.A. go but retained the tenth applicant’s husband.

117.  Ms A.A. submitted that she had been the Mavluyevs’ neighbour in the Voykovo settlement in Grozny before the military operations had started in Chechnya. On 8 January 2000 she had walked through the humanitarian corridor from Grozny together with Usman Mavluyev. At the checkpoint in Chernorechye they had been stopped for a document check by servicemen. Ms A.A. had shown her passport. Usman had been arrested. She and the other women had waited for Usman. Some time later a serviceman had told the women to return to Grozny and threatened to open fire if they did not. In panic, Ms A.A. and the other women had left the place.

118.  On 18 April 2004 the tenth applicant was granted victim status in the criminal proceedings. Questioned as a victim on 18 April 2004 and on 1 December 2006, she provided the same description of the events as in her submissions given on 16 April 2004.

119.¬†¬†The tenth applicant was further questioned on 28 July 2009. She clarified that Ms A.A. had informed her of her husband‚Äôs abduction. She submitted that a twenty-year-old man called ‚ÄúArbi‚ÄĚ had been detained together with her husband. Both of them had had bags put on their heads, and, flailed with a rifle butt, had been forced into an APC and taken away. The tenth applicant emphasised that she had started complaining to the authorities about her husband‚Äôs abduction at the end of January 2000, when she had lodged applications with different authorities located in Gudermes, including the prosecutor‚Äôs office, the FSB department and the Department of the Interior.

120.¬†¬†On 19 April 2004 Ms A.A. had been questioned as a witness. She submitted that on 8 January 2000 she had left Grozny together with Usman Mavluyev, Ms R.G., Ms L.G., a woman called ‚ÄúKhadizhat‚ÄĚ and a young man. At 9 a.m. they had been stopped by servicemen at the Chernorechye checkpoint for a document inspection. Once the check had been completed, they had been told that a bus from the Ministry of Emergency Situations would soon bring them to Zakan-Yurt. Usman and the young man had been ordered to stay for a computerised identity check. The women had asked the servicemen to let the two men go; they had offered money to them. The women had been waiting for the bus for the next six hours but it had not come. The women had then gone to the Voykovo settlement. On the following day they had returned to the checkpoint and asked the servicemen to release the two men. A serviceman called ‚ÄúIgor‚ÄĚ had told them that the men had been released the day before. He was wearing a chevron embroidered ‚ÄúVV MVD RF‚ÄĚ (the abbreviation for Internal Troops of the Ministry of the Interior of the Russian Federation). Ms A.A. recalled that ‚ÄúIgor‚ÄĚ had been among the servicemen who had stopped them for a document inspection on 8 January 2000. On 11 January 2000 Ms A.A. had gone to Zakan-Yurt, where she had related the events to the tenth applicant. Ms A.A. also provided a detailed physical description of ‚ÄúIgor‚ÄĚ and the tenth applicant‚Äôs husband, as well as of the clothes they had been wearing that day.

121.  With reference to Ms Z.A.’s written statements of 5 September 2006 appended to the tenth applicant’s application to the Court, the Government submitted that it bore the signature of Ms Z.A., and not that of A.A. They also questioned the credibility and veracity of Ms Z.A.’s written statements since they contrasted with the statements given by Ms A.A. as a witness on 16 and 19 April 2004. Ms Z.A. in particular testified that once apprehended, Usman Mavluyev and the young man had had their hands tied by the servicemen, who had then put bags on their heads and dragged them to an APC. As Usman Mavluyev had been reluctant to go, the servicemen had hit him with the butt of an assault rifle and forced the two men into the APC.

122.¬†¬†On 21 October 2009 Ms A.A. was questioned again. Contrary to her previous submissions, she stated that on 8 January 2000 she had not noticed any details of the servicemen‚Äôs clothes or any specific names they had used between themselves. Neither had she recalled whether the servicemen had put something on Usman Mavluyev‚Äôs and the young man‚Äôs heads or whether the servicemen had used violence against them, including while getting them into the APC. Ms A.A. finally communicated ‚ÄúKhadizhat‚ÄĚ‚Äės address to the investigator.

123.  On 15 May and 25 May 2004 respectively the investigation questioned witnesses Ms L.G. and Ms R.G. Their statements corroborated those of Ms A.A. given on 16 and 19 April 2004.

124.¬†¬†On 1 June 2004 the investigation questioned Ms S., who had been trying to leave Grozny on 8 January 2000 together with Usman Mavluyev, the young man, Ms A.A., Ms L.G. and Ms R.G. She noted that at the Chernorechye checkpoint they had met an elderly woman called ‚ÄúGalina‚ÄĚ, who had arrived there before them. At around 3¬†p.m. four servicemen had asked Usman Mavluyev and the young man to show their passports. The servicemen had promised to release the two men as soon as they checked the computer database. Shortly afterwards the four women had gone home, whereas ‚ÄúGalina‚ÄĚ had remained there together with the two men. Ms S. had met ‚ÄúGalina‚ÄĚ a week after the events. ‚ÄúGalina‚ÄĚ had told her that after the four women had left, the servicemen had driven her, Usman Mavluyev and the young man in the direction of Urus-Martan. ‚ÄúGalina‚ÄĚ had submitted that the two men had bags on their heads. She had unsuccessfully pleaded with the servicemen to release them. The servicemen had dropped ‚ÄúGalina‚ÄĚ off at the Alkhan-Kala settlement and taken the two men to an unknown destination. Ms S. submitted that she knew where ‚ÄúGalina‚ÄĚ lived and could identify her.

125.¬†¬†On 29 July 2009 witness ‚ÄúGalina‚ÄĚ was questioned. She related that on 8 January 2000 she had left Grozny together with Mr Ta. and Mr E. They had arrived at the Chernorechye checkpoint at about 9 a.m. There had been a large number of civilians. By the end of the day, many of them had gone. ‚ÄúGalina‚ÄĚ recalled that only Mr Ta., Mr E., two other men and a woman had remained waiting. Between 5 and 7 p. m. she had noticed an APC arrive. She had not seen the number plate. Four masked servicemen wearing camouflage uniforms had got out of the APC. One of them had checked ‚ÄúGalina‚ÄĚ‚Äės, Mr¬†Ta.‚Äôs, Mr E.‚Äôs and the other woman‚Äôs passports and after ten or fifteen minutes had handed them back. Thereafter another two servicemen had put bags on the heads of the two men and put them into the APC. The servicemen had pointed guns in their direction, without using violence against them. The servicemen had offered ‚ÄúGalina‚ÄĚ, Mr Ta., Mr E. and the other woman a lift in the same APC. They had dropped the four of them off on the Rostov-Baku road in the vicinity of the village of Goyty, promising to release the two men after an identity check. Thereafter the servicemen had driven in the direction of the village of Mesker-Yurt.

126.¬†¬†Mr Ta., questioned on 4 August 2009, confirmed the statements given by the witness ‚ÄúGalina‚ÄĚ. He added that Ms U. had also accompanied them from Grozny to the village of Goyty. He did not remember whether the woman whom they had met in Chernorechye had been with them in the APC.

127.¬†¬†Mr E., questioned on 28 August 2009, corroborated ‚ÄúGalina‚ÄĚ‚Äės and Mr Ta.‚Äôs statements. He submitted that Ms U., who had accompanied them from Grozny to Goyty, had died some two years before. He also stated that, apart from him, the APS had transported ‚ÄúGalina‚ÄĚ, Ms U., Mr Ta. and the two men. No other women had been present.

128.  On 8 June 2004 the investigation had questioned Mr M., Usman Mavluyev’s brother. He gave a similar account of the events to that given by the tenth applicant on 16 and 18 April 2004. He added that Usman Mavluyev had not been involved in military action in Chechnya and had no enemies.

129.  On 28 July 2009 Mr M. was questioned again. He gave some new details concerning his brother’s disappearance. He submitted in particular that on 8 January 2000 the 15th regiment of the internal troops of the Russian Ministry of the Interior had been on duty at the Chernorechye checkpoint. In the spring of 2001 Mr M. had found out that between April and July 2000 his brother had been detained in cell no. 161 of the remand prison at 56 Zhelyabova Street in Voronezh. His inmate, Mr To., had told Mr M. that Usman Mavluyev had previously been detained in Pyatigorsk, in the Stavropol Region. Mr M. provided the investigator with Mr To.’s contact details and those of the family of the second disappeared person, whom he had referred to as Mr Sh. and not Mr V. as submitted by the tenth applicant. Mr M. lastly specified that the Mavluyevs’ family had submitted requests for information to the detention facilities of Pyatigorsk and Voronezh but this had not yielded tangible results.

130.  On 29 May and on 16 September 2009 the investigation questioned Mr Sh.’s sister. She had heard about Mr Sh.’s disappearance from eyewitnesses whose names she did not recall. Mr Sh.’s family had never requested the prosecuting authorities to investigate his disappearance.

131.  In November 2009 the investigation questioned Mr To.’s sister and a local police officer at Mr To.’s former place of residence in the Voronezh Region. They stated that Mr To. had moved to Voronezh some three or five years before. They had had no news of him thereafter.

132.  The Government also submitted three testimonies by the Mavluyevs’ neighbours in Grozny, collected in December 2006. Two of them denied having had any information about Usman Mavluyev’s abduction. The third neighbour confirmed having heard about his disappearance from residents of the Voykovo settlement.

133.  On 20 and 21 November 2009 the investigator asked Ms A.A., Mr Ta. and Mr E. to identify Mr Sh. on a photograph. Neither of the witnesses identified Mr Sh.

134.  The investigation was unable to establish the whereabouts of other witnesses.

135.  On 20 April 2004 an investigator had inspected the scene of the crime, namely a section of the Rostov-Baku road between the exit from Grozny and the entry to the village of Chernorechye.

136.¬†¬†In June 2004 Usman Mavluyev was described by the Zakan-Yurt police as a law-abiding person who had not taken part in illegal armed groups and had no ‚Äúdiscrediting connections‚ÄĚ.

137.¬†¬†The Government stated that the investigating authorities had sent queries to various State bodies, asking them to provide information concerning Usman Mavluyev‚Äôs apprehension, detention, any requests for medical assistance or any ‚Äúdiscrediting‚ÄĚ information about him, as well as information on the deployment of federal forces in Chernorechye on 8¬†January 2000. In their letters the prosecutor‚Äôs office stated that ‚Äúit has been established that on 8 January 2000 Usman Mavluyev was apprehended at the federal checkpoint in Chernorechye and then taken away‚ÄĚ. The Government produced copies of these requests and the replies to them, which can be summarised as follows.

138.¬†¬†In 2004 and in 2007 the military commanders of the Zavodskoy and Staropromyslovskiy districts of Grozny and of the Urus-Martan district stated that they had neither any ‚Äúdiscrediting‚ÄĚ information about Usman Mavluyev, including his alleged involvement in illegal armed groups, nor any information on the deployment of federal forces in Chernorechye in January 2000. Similar replies were received from the Special Unit on Counter-terrorist Operations in the Northern Caucasus.

139.¬†¬†In June and July 2004, January 2007 and August 2009 the Chechnya FSB department stated that that it had no information about Usman Mavluyev‚Äôs whereabouts and his alleged involvement in illegal armed groups. The office also submitted that no special operation had been carried out in Chernorechye on 8 January 2000 and that it had been unable to establish which federal units had been deployed there. In September, October and November 2009 the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Defence, the FSB Headquarters and the Federal Penitentiary Service replied that a search of their archives had revealed no information about the deployment of military units in Chernorechye in January 2000, any special operation conducted by ‚Äúpower structures‚ÄĚ (—Ā–ł–Ľ–ĺ–≤—č–Ķ —Ā—ā—Ä—É–ļ—ā—É—Ä—č) in the Zavodskoy District of Grozny or any servicemen who could have participated in Usman Mavluyev‚Äôs abduction.

140.  The investigating authorities were unable to establish the whereabouts of Usman Mavluyev. In June and July 2004, January 2007 and August 2009 the Chechnya FSB department had informed the investigators that it had no information relevant to the case. FSB departments in the Southern Federal Circuit produced similar replies. The local bodies of the Ministry of the Interior and the prosecutor’s offices had never detained Usman Mavluyev on criminal or administrative charges and had not carried out any criminal investigation in respect of him. A number of operational-search measures had been taken to establish his whereabouts. Thus, in January 2007 house-to-house enquiries were conducted in Voykovo and Chernorechye, and several persons were summoned for questioning in connection with Usman Mavluyev’s disappearance. In September 2009 internal databases were checked for information concerning his prospects of leaving the Chechen Republic and the Russian Federation by any means of transport. The prosecutor’s offices had not instituted any criminal proceedings in connection with the discovery of any unidentified bodies resembling Usman Mavluyev. Finally, in May and June 2004 as well as in January 2007 the remand centres in the Southern Federal Circuit and local departments of the Federal Penitentiary Service informed the investigation that Usman Mavluyev had never been detained there. In May 2004 and in January 2007 several hospitals in the Southern Federal Circuit submitted that he had never been admitted for treatment.

141.  The Government further submitted that the tenth applicant had been duly informed of the decisions taken during the investigation.

142.¬†¬†According to the documents submitted by the Government, between April 2004 and November 2009 the investigation was suspended on three occasions and reopened twice upon the orders of the supervising prosecutors on account of the ‚Äúincomplete nature of the investigative measures‚ÄĚ. As appears from the SIU-2 investigation plan dated 28 July 2009, the investigators considered three possible versions of Usman Mavluyev‚Äôs abduction. According to the first version, the crime had been committed by servicemen deployed in the Chernorechye settlement. According to the second version, it had been committed by members of special units deployed there. Thirdly, the crime could have been committed by members of an illegal armed group.

143.  The investigation in case no. 31036, last adjourned on 24 November 2009, has so far failed to identify who was guilty.

D.  Proceedings against law-enforcement officials

1. Court proceedings instituted by the first nine applicants

144.  On an unspecified date the first nine applicants filed a claim against the Russian Ministry of Finance, seeking compensation for the non-pecuniary damage caused by their relatives’ abduction by Russian servicemen. The claim contained no mention of the fourth and sixth applicants’ property claims.

145.¬†¬†On 30 March 2004 the Basmannyy District Court of Moscow dismissed the claims on the ground that ‚Äúthe evidence in the case file [had] not proved that there [had been] a causal link between [the applicants‚Äô] loss of their sons and any unlawful acts of the State agencies of Russia‚ÄĚ.

146.  On 8 December 2004 the Moscow City Court upheld the first-instance judgment, reproducing its reasoning verbatim.

2. Court proceedings instituted by the tenth applicant

147.  On 8 February 2007 the tenth applicant appealed to the Zavodskoy District Court of Grozny against the refusals of her requests for legal aid and access to the case file (see paragraphs 78- 85 above).

148.  On 5 March 2007 the Zavodskoy District Court dismissed the complaint. According to the applicant, she had not been notified of the hearing and, therefore, was not present in the courtroom. Furthermore, the court’s decision was not sent to her either.

149.  Since the applicant was not aware of the hearing of 5 March 2007, on 14 June 2007 she complained to the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic about the failure to examine her complaint of 8 February 2007.

150.  On 1 October 2007 the applicant was provided with a copy of the Zavodskoy District Court’s decision of 5 March 2007.

151.  On 2 October 2007 the applicant appealed against the decision of 5 March 2007 and requested that the time-limits for appeal be restored.

152.  On 6 February 2008 the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic quashed the decision of 5 March 2007 on the ground that the applicant had not been summoned to the hearing.

153. On 21 February 2008 the Zavodskoy District Court re-examined the complaint. The applicant was not present at the hearing, but she was represented by her counsel. The court again dismissed the complaint. The applicant appealed.

154.  On 26 March 2008 the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic quashed the decision of 21 February 2008 and remitted the complaint for a fresh examination. It found that the applicant had the right to study the case file, whereas her request for legal aid was unsubstantiated.

155.  On 8 April 2008 the Zavodskoy District Court upheld the applicant’s complaint in the part relating to the refusal to grant her access to the case file, but dismissed it in the part relating to the refusal to grant her legal aid.

156.  On 16 September 2008 the applicant’s counsel studied the investigation file and made copies of the material in the case file, which have been provided to the Court.

II.  RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW

157.  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.  JOINDER OF THE APPLICATIONS

158.  In accordance with Rule 42 § 1 of the Rules of Court, the Court decided to join the applications, given their similar factual and legal background.

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

A.  The parties’ submissions

159.  The Government contended that the complaints should be declared inadmissible for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies. They submitted that the investigation into the disappearance of Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev, Kharon Musayev and Usman Mavluyev had not yet been completed. They further argued that it had been open to the applicants to lodge court complaints about the allegedly unlawful detention of their relatives or to challenge in court any acts or omissions of the investigating or other law-enforcement authorities, but that the applicants had not availed themselves of that remedy.

160.  The applicants contested that objection. They stated that the criminal investigations had proved to be ineffective and that their complaints to that effect had been futile. Any other remedies in such a situation would be ineffective. The first nine applicants referred to the decision of the Basmannyy District Court of Moscow of 2004, as confirmed on appeal, by which their civil claim against the State had been dismissed as manifestly ill-founded, in the absence of any conclusions from the criminal investigation.

B.  The Court’s assessment

161.  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).

162.  The Court first notes, having regard to the Government’s objection concerning the applicants’ failure to complain about the detention of their relatives, that the authorities denied responsibility for the missing persons. In such circumstances, and in particular in the absence of any proof to confirm the very fact of the detention, even assuming that the remedy referred to by the Government was accessible to the applicants, it is more than questionable whether a court complaint would have had any prospects of success. Moreover, the Government have not demonstrated that the remedy indicated by them would have been capable of providing redress in the applicants’ situation, namely that it would have led to the release of Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev, Kharon Musayev and Usman Mavluyev and the identification and punishment of those responsible (see Musayeva and Others v. Russia, no. 74239/01, § 69, 26 July 2007). Accordingly, the Government’s objection in the part concerning non-exhaustion of domestic remedies must be dismissed.

163.  As regards criminal-law remedies provided for by the Russian legal system, the Court observes that criminal investigations were opened upon the applicants’ complaints and are currently pending. The parties dispute the effectiveness of those investigations.

164.  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.

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

A.  The parties’ arguments

1.  In respect of the disappearance of Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev

(a) The applicants’ account

165.¬†¬†The applicants maintained that it was beyond reasonable doubt that the men who had taken away Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev had been State agents. In support of their complaint they referred to the following facts. The men who had abducted their relatives had arrived in military vehicles ‚Äď APCs ‚Äď which could not have been available to anyone except State servicemen. They had acted in a manner similar to that of special forces carrying out identity checks. They had been wearing camouflage uniforms and had been armed with automatic weapons. All the information disclosed from the criminal investigation file supported their assertion as to the involvement of State agents in the abduction. Since their relatives had been missing for a very lengthy period, they could be presumed dead. That presumption was further supported by the circumstances in which they had been arrested, which should be recognised as life-threatening.

(b) The Government’s account

166.  The Government submitted that unidentified armed men had kidnapped Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev. They further contended that the investigation of the incident was pending, that there was no evidence that the men had been State agents and that there were therefore no grounds for holding the State liable for the alleged violations of the applicants’ rights. They further argued that there was no convincing evidence that the applicants’ relatives were dead.

167.  The Government raised a number of objections to the applicants’ presentation of the facts. Relying on the testimonies given to the domestic criminal investigation, of which no copies have been submitted to the Court, they argued that the statements made by the applicants and other witnesses were contradictory and inconsistent. The applicants had not been eyewitnesses to the abduction. They had failed to indicate the exact number of abductors and to explain the reason for their relatives gathering together at 44 Vostochnaya Street on 18 September 2000. The Government further argued that the testimonies as to the number of the cars seen parked at the house in question differed to some extent.

168.  The Government questioned the weight of the statements by Ms Mu., who had witnessed the abduction of the six men. She had failed to specify the names of those abducted and the exact date of their abduction. She had not indicated why she thought that the APCs and the UAZ vehicles had been driven by servicemen. Finally, she had not recalled that the abductors had spoken Russian, whereas the applicants had insisted on that point.

169.  The Government further contended that various weapons, camouflage uniforms without insignia and even military vehicles had been stolen or unlawfully obtained by members of illegal paramilitary structures in the Northern Caucasus in the 1990s and should therefore not be taken as proof that these were State servicemen.

170.  The Government concluded that the applicants’ allegations that the abductors had belonged to State agencies could not be confirmed. The applicants had not recalled any details of the clothes, weapons or markings on the abductors’ uniforms. With reference to Zaur Ibragimov’s and Sayd-Ali Musayev’s service at the OMON prior to 18 September 2000, the Government asserted that they could have been aware of the abduction if it had indeed been organised by State agencies. The Government lastly argued that the applicants’ relatives could have been abducted by illegal armed groups. Alternatively, they could have staged the kidnapping themselves.

2.  In respect of the disappearance of Usman Mavluyev

171.  The tenth applicant insisted that the State was responsible for the disappearance and death of her husband, Usman Mavluyev. She pointed out that all the witness testimonies clearly stated that he had been detained by servicemen who had manned the checkpoint in Chernorechye on 8 January 2000 and placed inside an APC. The servicemen had been wearing camouflage uniforms and insignia of the Russian military forces and had been armed with automatic weapons. Since her husband 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.

172.  The Government disputed the State’s responsibility for Usman Mavluyev’s abduction and the fact that he was dead, since none of this had been established in the domestic proceedings. The reference by the investigators in some documents to the fact that Usman Mavluyev had been detained by servicemen was attributed by the Government to the officials’ negligence, since it had only been established that he had been abducted by unidentified armed persons. The Government drew the Court’s attention to the discrepancies in the submissions made by the witness A.A. (Z.A.) and argued that the Court should not rely on her testimony dated 5 September 2006 which was attached to the tenth applicant’s application form.

B.  The Court’s evaluation of the facts

1.  In respect of the disappearance of Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev

173.  The Court observes that in its extensive jurisprudence it has developed a number of general principles relating to the establishment of facts in dispute, in particular when faced with allegations of disappearances 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).

174.  The Court notes that despite its requests for a copy of the file on the investigation into the abduction of Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev, the Government produced hardly any 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 found this explanation insufficient to justify the withholding of key information requested by it (see Imakayeva v. Russia, no. 7615/02, § 123, ECHR 2006-XIII (extracts)).

175.  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’ relatives can be presumed dead and whether their deaths can be attributed to the authorities.

176.  The applicants alleged that the persons who had taken Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev away on 18 September 2000 and then killed them had been State agents.

177.  The Government suggested in their submissions that the abductors of Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev might have been members of paramilitary groups. However, this allegation was not specific and the Government did not submit any material to support it. The Court takes note of the Government’s allegation that the military vehicles, firearms and camouflage uniforms had probably been stolen by insurgents from Russian arsenals in the 1990s. Nevertheless, it considers it very unlikely that several military vehicles, such as APCs and UAZ vehicles, unlawfully in the possession of members of illegal armed groups could have moved freely through Russian military checkpoints in Grozny without being noticed. In the absence of any information about the investigation of such an event, the Court is unable to attribute this occurrence to unlawful paramilitaries. The Court would further stress in this connection 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).

178.  The Court notes that little evidence has been submitted by the applicants, which is quite understandable in the light of the investigators’ reluctance to provide the relatives of the missing men with copies of important documents from the investigation. Nevertheless, it observes that the applicants’ allegation is supported by all the available evidence. It finds that the fact that a large group of armed men in uniform, equipped with military vehicles, was able to move freely through military roadblocks in broad daylight and apprehended several persons at their home strongly supports the applicants’ allegation that these were State servicemen conducting a security operation. In their applications to the authorities the applicants consistently maintained that Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev had been detained by unknown servicemen and requested the investigation to look into that possibility. The domestic investigation also accepted factual assumptions as presented by the applicants and took steps to check whether law-enforcement agencies had been involved in the kidnapping. The investigation was unable to establish which precise military or security units had carried out the operation, but it does not appear that any serious steps were taken to that end.

179.  The Government questioned the credibility of the applicants’ statements in view of certain discrepancies relating to the exact circumstances of the arrest. The Court notes in this connection that no essential elements underlying the applicants’ submissions as to the facts have been disputed by the Government. In any event, the Government did not provide to the Court the witness statements to which they referred in their submissions.

180.¬†¬†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 Tońücu v.¬†Turkey, no.¬†27601/95, ¬ß¬†95, 31 May 2005, and Akkum and Others v.¬†Turkey, no.¬†21894/93, ¬ß¬†211, ECHR 2005-II).

181.  Taking into account the above elements, the Court is satisfied that the applicants have made a prima facie case that their relatives were apprehended 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 or their general reference to the possibility of illegal insurgents’ involvement in the crime 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 Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev were arrested on 18 September 2000 by State servicemen during an unacknowledged security operation.

182.  There has been no reliable news of Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev since the date of the kidnapping. Their names have not been found in any official detention facility records. Finally, the Government have not submitted any explanation as to what happened to them after their arrest.

183.  Having regard to the previous cases concerning disappearances in Chechnya which have come before it (see, among other authorities, Bazorkina, cited above; Imakayeva, cited above; Luluyev and Others v. Russia, no. 69480/01, ECHR 2006-XIII (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 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 Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev or of any news of them for many years supports this assumption.

184.  Accordingly, the Court finds that the evidence available permits it to establish that Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev must be presumed dead following their unacknowledged detention by State servicemen.

2.  In respect of the disappearance of Usman Mavluyev

185.  The applicants alleged that Usman Mavluyev had been arrested by the servicemen at the checkpoint in Chernorechye on 8 January 2000 and then killed. The Government did not dispute any of the factual elements underlying the applications and did not provide any other explanation of the events.

186.  It clearly follows from the evidence submitted by the parties and uncontested by them that on 8 January 2000 Usman Mavluyev was detained by armed men at the checkpoint in Chernorechnye in Grozny, placed inside an APC and driven away (see, for example, paragraphs 21, 55, 60, 61, 67, 120 and 125-127 above). The domestic investigation also accepted factual assumptions as presented by the tenth applicant and took steps to check whether law-enforcement agencies had been involved in the kidnapping. He has not been seen since that day and his family have had no news of him. In such circumstances the Government’s reference to the absence of final conclusions from the criminal investigation is insufficient to absolve the Government from their responsibility to account for the fate of detainees last seen alive in their hands (see Akkum and Others, cited above, § 211).

187.  The Government questioned the credibility of certain testimonies in view of discrepancies relating to the exact circumstances of the arrest. The Court notes in this connection that no other elements underlying the applicant’s submissions as to the facts have been disputed by the Government. In the Court’s view, the fact that over a period of several years the witnesses’ recollection of an event differed in rather insignificant details does not in itself suffice to cast doubt on the overall veracity of their statements.

188.  The Court observes that the situation in which Usman Mavluyev was arrested should be regarded as life-threatening (see paragraph 183 above). The absence of Usman Mavluyev or of any news of him for ten years supports this assumption. The Court also remarks that, as follows from the documents contained in the file, the fate of another man who had been detained together with the tenth applicant’s husband was investigated and remains unknown (see paragraph 130 above). This sequence of events strongly suggests that the two men were treated together.

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

IV.  ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 2 OF THE CONVENTION

190.  The applicants complained under Article 2 of the Convention that their relatives had been deprived of their lives 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.‚ÄĚ

A.  The parties’ submissions

1.  In respect of the disappearance of Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev

191.  The Government contended that the domestic investigation had obtained no evidence to the effect that Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev were dead or that any servicemen of the federal law-enforcement agencies had been involved in their kidnapping or alleged killing. The Government claimed that the investigation into the kidnapping of the applicants’ relatives met the Convention requirement of effectiveness, as all measures available under national law were being taken to identify those responsible.

192.  The applicants argued that Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev had been detained by State servicemen and should be presumed dead in the absence of any reliable news of them 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. 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.

2.  In respect of the disappearance of Usman Mavluyev

193.  The Government referred to the absence of conclusions from the domestic investigation as to the fate and whereabouts of Usman Mavluyev. They further contested that prior to April 2004 the tenth applicant had filed any applications concerning her husband’s disappearance. They in particular denied that in January 2000 she had lodged written applications with the Gudermes military prosecutor and the department of the interior, or with the FSB departments in the Gudermes and Achkhoy-Martan districts. The Government insisted that no copies of those documents had been produced by the tenth applicant. The Government also challenged the authenticity of the certificate issued by the Chechnya FSB department on 6 June 2000 (see paragraph 113 above).

194.  The tenth applicant reiterated her claims. She insisted that she had travelled to Gudermes and submitted her complaints in person by the end of January 2000. She also maintained that the document issued to her by the Achkhoy-Martan district FSB department on 6 June 2000 had been valid proof of this, despite the Government’s challenge to its validity. She pointed out that it had borne the stamp of the district department and the signature of the deputy head of that department. It had been included in the criminal investigation file. In any event, she argued that the investigation had been ineffective and that after April 2004 it had failed to take the steps necessary to identify the perpetrators of the crime and to establish the whereabouts of her husband.

B.  The Court’s assessment

1.  Admissibility

195.  The Court considers, in the light of the parties’ submissions, that the complaints raise 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. The complaints under Article 2 of the Convention must therefore be declared admissible.

2.  Merits

(a)  Alleged violation of the right to life of Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev, Kharon Musayev and Usman Mavluyev

196.  The Court has already found that the applicants’ relatives must be presumed dead following their unacknowledged detention by State servicemen and that the deaths can be attributed to the State. In the absence of any justification in respect of the use of lethal force by State agents, the Court finds that there has been a violation of Article 2 in respect of Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev, Kharon Musayev and Usman Mavluyev.

(b)  Alleged inadequacy of the investigation of the kidnapping

(i)  As regards Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev

197.  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).

198.  In the present case, the kidnapping of Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev was investigated. The Court must assess whether that investigation met the requirements of Article 2 of the Convention.

199.  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 few documents produced by the parties and the information about its progress submitted by the Government.

200.¬†¬†The Court notes that the authorities were immediately made aware of the abduction through the applicants‚Äô submissions. The investigation in case no. 12199 concerning Khasan Batayev was initiated on 2 October 2000, that is, two weeks after the abduction. It then took between one and six months to open criminal investigations into the disappearance of the other five men. Such a postponement per se was liable to affect the investigation of a 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 seriously delayed. The files concerning one criminal act were not joined until April 2001 in respect of the first four files, and in April 2005 in respect of the criminal investigation into the abduction of Said-Ali and Kharon Musayev. While it is unclear when the applicants and other witnesses were questioned, the granting of victim status took place only on 25 November 2002 and 15 October 2003. 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. Such delays, for which there has been no explanation in the instant case, not only demonstrate the authorities‚Äô 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 √ĖneryńĪldńĪz v. Turkey [GC], no. 48939/99, ¬ß 94, ECHR 2004-XII).

201.  A number of essential steps were never taken. Most notably, it does not appear that the investigation tried to find out whether any special operations had been carried out at 44 Vostochnaya Street, Grozny, on the day in question, or identified and questioned any of the servicemen who had carried them out.

202.  The Court also notes that even though the applicants were eventually granted victim status in the investigation concerning the abduction of their relatives, they were 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.

203.  Lastly, 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.

204.  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 without producing any tangible results. 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. However, the Court notes that the effectiveness of the investigation had already been undermined in its early stages by the authorities’ failure to take necessary and urgent investigative measures. The investigation was repeatedly suspended and resumed, but it appears that no significant investigative measures were taken to identify those responsible for the kidnapping. Nor were the applicants properly informed of the progress of the proceedings. In such circumstances, the Court considers that the applicants could not be required to challenge in court every single decision of the district prosecutor’s office. 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.

205.  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 Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev, in breach of Article 2 in its procedural aspect.

(ii)  As regards Usman Mavluyev

206.  Firstly, the Court notes that the parties disagreed as to when the crime had been brought to the authorities’ attention. Having regard to the material in its possession, the Court is satisfied that the tenth applicant immediately brought the information about her husband’s arrest and disappearance to the attention of the State authorities. The Court notes the tenth applicant’s consistent statements to that effect, including those made to the domestic investigation authorities (see paragraph 119 above). The Court further notes that the document of 6 June 2000 bears the stamp of the FSB department for the Achkhoy-Martan district and the signature of an official of that department, that it has not been subjected to any expert examination which has found it invalid and that it has been included as part of the criminal investigation file; therefore it is unable to support the Government’s challenge to its authenticity.

207.  In view of this, the Court finds that the investigation into Usman Mavluyev’s abduction was opened after a delay of over four years since the relevant information had been submitted to the competent authorities. The Court reiterates its above conclusions about the significance of delays in the investigation of a crime as serious as the present one (see paragraph 200 above).

208.  The Court further notes that despite the delay in opening the investigation, the investigative authorities collected a sizeable body of evidence attesting to the involvement of servicemen in the crime. However, the district prosecutor’s office failed to take steps to identify the military units that had been deployed at the checkpoint in question, such as, for example, contacting the archives of the Ministry of Defence (see paragraph 64 above), or taking other relevant actions to pursue this lead, such as identifying and questioning senior military or security officers who had been in charge of the operation in Grozny on the day in question.

209.  The Court also notes the numerous decisions to adjourn and resume the investigation, resulting in periods of inactivity when no proceedings were pending. For the same reasons as above (see paragraph 204), the Court finds that the Government’s objection as to non-exhaustion of domestic remedies in the context of the criminal investigation should be dismissed.

210.  In the light of the foregoing, the Court holds that the authorities failed to carry out an effective criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding Usman Mavluyev’s disappearance, in breach of Article 2 in its procedural aspect.

V.  ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 3 OF THE CONVENTION

211.  The applicants relied on Article 3 of the Convention, submitting that as a result of their relatives’ disappearance 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:

‚ÄúNo one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.‚ÄĚ

A.  The parties’ submissions

212.  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.

213.  The applicants maintained their submissions.

B.  The Court’s assessment

1.  Admissibility

214.  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

215.¬†¬†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 ‚Äúdisappearance‚ÄĚ of the family member but rather concerns the authorities‚Äô reactions and attitudes to the situation when it is brought to their attention (see Orhan v. Turkey, no.¬†25656/94, ¬ß¬†358, 18 June 2002, and Imakayeva, cited above, ¬ß¬†164).

216.  In the present case the Court notes that the applicants are close relatives of the disappeared persons. For ten years they have not had any news of the missing men. During this period the applicants have made enquiries of various official bodies, both in writing and in person, about their missing relatives. Despite their attempts, the applicants have never received any plausible explanation or information about what became of them following their detention. The responses they received mostly denied State responsibility for their relatives’ 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.

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

VI.  ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 5 OF THE CONVENTION

218.  The applicants further stated that Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev, Kharon Musayev and Usman Mavlueyav had been detained in violation of the guarantees contained in Article 5 of the Convention, which reads, in so far as relevant:

‚Äú1.¬†¬†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.‚ÄĚ

A.  The parties’ submissions

219.  The Government asserted that no evidence had been obtained by the investigators to confirm that Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev, Kharon Musayev and Usman Mavluyev had been deprived of their liberty. They were not listed among the persons held in detention centres and none of the regional law-enforcement agencies had any information about their detention.

220.  The applicants reiterated the complaint.

B.  The Court’s assessment

1.  Admissibility

221.  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

222.  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 and Others, cited above, § 122).

223.  The Court has found that Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev were apprehended by State servicemen on 18 September and Usman Mavluyev on 8 January 2000 and that they have not been seen since these dates. Their detention was not acknowledged and was not logged in any custody records, and there exists no official trace of their 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).

224.  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 relatives 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 them against the risk of disappearance.

225.  In view of the foregoing, the Court finds that Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev, Kharon Musayev and Usman Mavluyev were 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.

VII.  ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 13 OF THE CONVENTION

226.  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:

‚ÄúEveryone 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.‚ÄĚ

A.  The parties’ submissions

227.  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. They 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.

228.  The applicants reiterated the complaint.

B.  The Court’s assessment

1.  Admissibility

229.  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

230.  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 v. Russia, nos. 57942/00 and 57945/00, § 183, 24 February 2005).

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

232.  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 those two Articles (see Kukayev v. Russia, no. 29361/02, § 119, 15 November 2007, and Aziyevy v. Russia, no. 77626/01, § 118, 20 March 2008).

VIII.  ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 1 OF PROTOCOL No. 1 TO THE CONVENTION

233.  The fourth and sixth applicants contended that their disappeared family members had been deprived of their property, in violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. This provision reads, in the relevant part:

‚Äú1.¬†Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law. …‚ÄĚ

234.  The fourth and sixth applicants argued that on 18 September 2000 the armed men who had taken away their sons, Zaur Ibragimov and Magomed Temurkayev, had also taken away two VAZ cars which had belonged to them.

235.  The Government argued that the applicants had failed to submit any proof of their relatives’ ownership of the cars in question. They further disputed that the alleged wrongdoing had been committed by State agents.

236.  The Court notes that even though the fourth and sixth applicants complained about the loss of two vehicles, they failed to produce any documents or other evidence supporting their claim of ownership. The sixth applicant could not even indicate the registration number of the car which had been used by her son on the day of his abduction (see paragraph 39 above). At the same time, the Court notes that, since all vehicles are subject to registration in the relevant State authorities, it should have been relatively simple to obtain such evidence. The applicants failed to indicate whether such proof existed or to furnish an explanation as to why it was unavailable to them. The Court further notes that in the civil proceedings brought by the applicants in relation to the disappearance of their relatives they had not claimed any damages in connection with the vehicles allegedly stolen on that day (see paragraph 144 above). In such circumstances, the Court is unable to find that the applicants had any property rights over the two cars in question.

237.  It follows that this complaint is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

IX.  APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION

238.  Article 41 of the Convention provides:

‚ÄúIf 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.‚ÄĚ

A.  Pecuniary damage

1.  The parties’ submissions

239.  All the applicants, except for the first applicant, claimed damages in respect of loss of earnings by their relatives after their arrest and subsequent disappearance.

240.  The second to ninth applicants claimed that Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev would have supported them and their other dependants. They submitted that Zaur Ibragimov and Magomed Temurkayev each had three minor children. They claimed that their relatives had been unemployed at the time of their arrest, or that they were unable to obtain salary statements for them, and that in such cases the calculation should be made on the basis of the subsistence level established by national law. They calculated their earnings for the period. Taking the average life expectancy in Russia to be 70 years, the applicants assumed that they could have been financially dependent on Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev and Kharon Musayev for periods ranging between ten and forty-seven years. The applicants assumed that the parents could have counted on 10% of that sum and the wives with dependent children on 80%. Based on these calculations, they claimed sums ranging from 745 to 30,000 euros (EUR).

241.  In addition, the fourth applicant claimed EUR 4,000 and the sixth applicant EUR 1,000 in compensation for the two cars stolen on 18 September 2000.

242.  The tenth applicant claimed that in 2000 Usman Mavluyev had been employed as a driver and that the monthly wage of a driver in Chechnya amounted to 15,000 Russian roubles (RUB). She had two sons with him, born in 1993 and 1995. She estimated that she, until reaching the age of retirement, and her children, until they reached the age of majority, could have received a substantial part of his earnings. She claimed a total of EUR 55,289 under this heading.

243.  The Government regarded these claims as based on suppositions and unfounded. They also pointed to the existence of domestic statutory machinery for the provision of a pension for the loss of the family breadwinner, which the tenth applicant had applied for and obtained.

2.  The Court’s assessment

244.  The Court reiterates that there must be a clear causal connection between the damage claimed by the applicants and the violation of the Convention, and that this may, in an appropriate case, include compensation in respect of loss of earnings. The Court further finds that the loss of earnings also applies to dependent children and, in some instances, to elderly parents and that it is reasonable to assume that their missing relatives would eventually have had some earnings from which the applicants would have benefited (see, among other authorities, Imakayeva, cited above, § 213). Having regard to its above conclusions, it finds that there is a direct causal link between the violation of Article 2 in respect of the applicants’ sons and husbands and the loss by the applicants of the financial support which they could have provided. Having regard to the parties’ submissions and the absence of any conclusive evidence as to the applicants’ missing relatives’ earnings, Court awards the following sums to the applicants in respect of pecuniary damage, plus any tax that may be chargeable on these amounts:

(i) EUR 745 to the second and third applicants jointly;

(ii) EUR 1,490 to the fourth applicant;

(iii) EUR 12,000 to the fifth applicant;

(iv) EUR 745 to the sixth applicant;

(v) EUR 12,000 to the seventh applicant;

(vi) EUR 1,865 to the eighth applicant;

(vii) EUR 3,130 to the ninth applicant;

(viii) EUR 11,000 to the tenth applicant.

245.  In so far as the fourth and sixth applicants sought compensation for the two cars, the Court observes that it has concluded that this complaint is manifestly ill-founded, in the absence of any proof of the applicants’ property rights. This part of the claim is therefore dismissed.

B.  Non-pecuniary damage

246.  The applicants (except for the first applicant) claimed amounts ranging from EUR 100,000 to EUR 500,000, depending on the closeness of their family ties with the missing men, in respect of non-pecuniary damage for the suffering they had endured as a result of the loss of their family members, the indifference shown by the authorities towards them and the failure to provide any information about the fate of their close relatives.

247.  The Government found the amounts claimed exaggerated.

248.  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’ relatives. 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 the following amounts to the applicants, plus any tax that may be chargeable thereon:

(i) EUR 60,000 to the second and third applicants, jointly;

(ii) EUR 60,000 to the fourth and fifth applicants jointly;

(iii) EUR 60,000 to the sixth and seventh applicants jointly;

(iv) EUR 60,000 to the eight applicant;

(v) EUR 120,000 to the ninth applicant; and

(vi) EUR 60,000 to the tenth applicant.

C.  Costs and expenses

249.  The first nine applicants claimed EUR 7,800 jointly for the costs and expenses incurred before the domestic authorities and the Court. They submitted that the lawyer had charged EUR 150 per hour of legal work. Her fees included EUR 3,900 for the time spent on the preparation of legal submissions for the Court and EUR 3,900 for the criminal and civil proceedings conducted in Russia.

250.  The tenth applicant claimed under this heading EUR 9,037 for 60.25 hours of legal work, also at a rate of EUR 150 per hour. She submitted a detailed breakdown of the time spent by her representative. In addition, she claimed reimbursement of postal and administrative costs in the amount of EUR 155 and of translation costs in the amount of EUR 440, as certified by an invoice. She also submitted a copy of the legal representation agreement of 1 February 2008. She requested the Court to order the payment of the fees awarded under this heading directly into the representative’s account in Chechnya, Russia.

251.  The Government contested those claims.

252.  The Court may make an award in respect of costs and expenses in so far that they were actually and necessarily incurred and were 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). Making its own estimate based on the information available, the Court awards the first nine applicants the total sum of EUR 5,000, less the sum of EUR 850 received in legal aid from the Council of Europe, and the tenth applicant the sum of EUR 3,500, together with any value-added tax that may be chargeable to the applicants. The net award to the tenth applicant made under this heading is to be paid into the representative’s bank account in Russia, as identified by that applicant.

D.  Default interest

253.  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 the applications;

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

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

4.  Holds that there has been a substantive violation of Article 2 of the Convention in respect of Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev, Kharon Musayev and Usman Mavluyev;

5.  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 Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev, Kharon Musayev and Usman Mavluyev disappeared;

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

7.  Holds that there has been a violation of Article 5 of the Convention in respect of Khasan Batayev, Zaur Ibragimov, Magomed Temurkayev, Rizvan Ismailov, Sayd-Ali Musayev, Kharon Musayev and Usman Mavluyev;

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

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

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:

(i) in respect of pecuniary damage:

őĪ.¬†¬†EUR¬†745 (seven hundred and forty-five euros) to the second and third applicants jointly;

ő≤.¬†¬†EUR¬†1,490 (one thousand four hundred and ninety euros) to the fourth applicant;

ő≥.¬†¬†EUR¬†12,000 (twelve thousand euros) to the fifth applicant;

őī.¬†¬†EUR¬†745 (seven hundred and forty-five euros) to the sixth applicant;

őĶ.¬†¬†EUR¬†12,000 (twelve thousand euros) to the seventh applicant;

ő∂.¬†¬†EUR¬†1,865 (one thousand eight hundred and sixty-five euros) to the eighth applicant;

ő∑.¬†¬†EUR¬†3,130 (three thousand one hundred and thirty euros) to the ninth applicant; and

őł.¬†¬†EUR¬†11,000 (eleven thousand euros) to the tenth applicant;

(ii)   in respect of non-pecuniary damage:

őĪ.¬†¬† EUR¬†60,000 (sixty thousand euros) to the second and third applicants jointly;

ő≤.¬†¬†EUR¬†60,000 (sixty thousand euros) to the fourth and fifth applicants jointly;

ő≥.¬†¬†EUR¬†60,000 (sixty thousand euros) to the sixth and seventh applicants jointly;

őī.¬†¬†EUR¬†60,000 (sixty thousand euros) to the eight applicant;

őĶ.¬†¬†EUR¬†120,000 (one hundred and twenty thousand euros) to the ninth applicant; and

ő∂.¬†¬†EUR¬†60,000 (sixty thousand euros) to the tenth applicant;

(iii)  EUR 4,150 (four thousand one hundred and fifty euros) to the first nine applicants jointly and EUR 3,500 (three thousand five hundred euros) to the tenth applicant, plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicants, in respect of costs and expenses; the net award to the tenth applicant made under this heading is to be paid into the representative’s bank account in Russia, as identified by the applicant;

(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 17 June 2010, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.

S√łren Nielsen¬†Christos Rozakis
Registrar President

****

CASE OF TOVSULTANOVA v. RUSSIA

(Application no. 26974/06)

JUDGMENT

STRASBOURG

17 June 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 Tovsultanova v. Russia,

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

Christos Rozakis, President,
Nina Vajińá,
Anatoly Kovler,
Khanlar Hajiyev,
Dean Spielmann,
Giorgio Malinverni,
George Nicolaou, judges,
and S√łren Nielsen, Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 27 May 2010,

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

PROCEDURE

1.¬†¬†The case originated in an application (no. 26974/06) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (‚Äúthe Convention‚ÄĚ) by a Russian national, Ms Liza Tovsultanova (‚Äúthe applicant‚ÄĚ), on 21 May 2006.

2.¬†¬†The applicant was represented by Mr¬†D.¬†Itslayev, a lawyer practising in Nazran. The Russian Government (‚Äúthe Government‚ÄĚ) were represented by Mr G. Matyushkin, Representative of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights.

3.  On 2 March 2009 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 was born in 1951. She is the mother of Said-Magamed (also spelled as Said-Magomed) Tovsultanov, who was born in 1970. At the material time she lived in Sleptsovskaya (also known as Ordzhenikidzovskaya), Ingushetia. Currently she lives in Katar-Yurt (also spelled as Katyr-Yurt), Chechnya.

A.  Disappearance of the applicant’s son

1.  The applicant’s account

6.  The applicant did not witness the disappearance of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov. The account below is based on the anonymous statements of third persons summarised by the applicant and submitted by her to the Court.

7.  In September 1999, before the beginning of the large-scale military operations in Chechnya, the applicant and Said-Magamed Tovsultanov moved from Katar-Yurt, Chechnya, to the village of Sleptsovskaya in Ingushetia. The applicant and her son, who were registered as forced migrants in the village, stayed with their relatives, the family of Ms Zh.S. In 2002 the applicant returned to Katar-Yurt, whereas her son Said-Magamed Tovsultanov stayed on in Sleptsovskaya with their relatives.

8.  On 14 June 2004 (in the submitted documents the date was also referred to as 13 June 2004) the applicant was at home in Katar-Yurt. At about 3 p.m. a woman came to her house and told her that her son had been abducted in Sleptsovskaya. The applicant immediately went to her relative’s home in that village. The applicant and Mrs Zh.S. were in the yard when a woman named Roza, who was from Roshni-Chu in Chechnya, stopped by. She told the women that on 14 June 2004 she had been in the forced migrants’ tent camp when one of her female acquaintances had told her that at about 1 p.m. on the same day a group of armed masked men in camouflage uniforms in five VAZ and UAZ cars had apprehended a young Chechen man in a white VAZ-2107 car with registration number C897 ME. The incident had taken place in the centre of Sleptsovskaya, on the corner of Pobeda and Rabochaya Streets. During the apprehension, right before he had been put in one of the cars, the man, who had been dressed in a white shirt, had managed to shout out to the bystanders that his name was Said-Magamed Tovsultanov and that he was from Katar-Yurt. After that the group of armed men had driven away with him and his car.

9.¬†¬†The applicant immediately went to the centre of Sleptsovskaya to obtain information about her son, but to no avail. On the following day she left for Katar-Yurt. A day later she went to Sleptsovskaya again. On the way there she got out of the vehicle at the crossroads in the vicinity of the village of Assinovskaya in Chechnya, next to the ‚ÄúKavkaz‚ÄĚ motorway. The applicant was standing there when she saw a convoy of five VAZ cars of different colours driving quickly on the motorway from the direction of the ‚ÄúKavkaz‚ÄĚ checkpoint located on the border of Chechnya and Ingushetia. A white VAZ-2107 car without a registration number was in the middle of it.

10.  When the convoy was passing by the applicant, she saw that in one of the cars a man in white shirt moved towards the car window. The applicant recognised the man as her son Said-Magamed Tovsultanov.

11.¬†¬†Immediately after that the applicant boarded a bus and went to Sleptsovskaya through the ‚ÄúKavkaz‚ÄĚ checkpoint. On her way there, before the checkpoint, she saw a black velvet pillow on the ground. The applicant recognised it at once as the pillow that had belonged to her son Said-Magamed Tovsultanov, who had used it as a seat cushion in his car. The applicant thought that the men who had driven by her in the convoy must have thrown the cushion out of her son‚Äôs car.

2.  Information submitted by the Government

12.  The Government did not challenge the facts as presented by the applicant. At the same time they submitted that she had not witnessed the events and had obtained the information from third persons, that the body of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov had not been found and that the involvement of State representatives in his abduction and death had not been established.

B.  The search for Said-Magamed Tovsultanov and the investigation

1.  The applicant’s account

13.  With the help of her relatives, the applicant contacted, both in person and in writing, various official bodies, such as the Russian President, the Chechen administration, departments of the interior and prosecutors’ offices at different levels, asking for help in establishing the whereabouts of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov. She retained copies of a number of those complaints and submitted them to the Court. An official investigation was opened by the local prosecutor’s office. The relevant information is summarised below.

14.  The applicant did not retain copies of her written complaints lodged with various State authorities from the middle of June 2004 to the beginning of April 2005.

15.  On 22, 25 April 2005 and 27 January 2007 the Chechnya prosecutor’s office forwarded the applicant’s complaints about her son’s abduction to the Ingushetia prosecutor’s office for examination.

16.  On 2 June 2005 the Sunzhenskiy district prosecutor’s office (the district prosecutor’s office) instituted an investigation into the disappearance of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov under Article 126 § 1 of the Criminal Code (kidnapping). The case file was assigned the number 05600034.

17.  On 27 June 2005 the district prosecutor’s office granted the applicant victim status in the criminal case.

18.¬†¬†On 2 November 2005 the district prosecutor‚Äôs office suspended the investigation in the criminal case for failure to identify the perpetrators. The decision stated that the investigators had: questioned three neighbours of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov, as well as several salespersons from the kiosks located next to the place of his abduction; put Said-Magamed Tovsultanov‚Äôs VAZ-2107 car on the search list; checked the registration log of the ‚ÄúVolga-20‚ÄĚ border police checkpoint concerning the passage of vehicles on the day of the abduction; and forwarded information requests to various law-enforcement agencies in various regions of the Northern Caucasus. The applicant was informed about the suspension of the investigation on the same date.

19.  On 29 January 2007 the Chechnya prosecutor’s office informed the applicant that they had forwarded her complaint about the abduction to the Ingushetia prosecutor’s office for examination.

20.  On 7 February 2007 the Ingushetia prosecutor’s office forwarded the applicant’s complaint about her son’s abduction to the district prosecutor’s office.

21.  On 14 February 2007 the district prosecutor’s office informed the applicant that on 2 November 2005 they had suspended the investigation of her son’s abduction.

22.  On 12 February 2008 the applicant complained to the district prosecutor’s office about the ineffectiveness of the investigation of the abduction and requested to be provided with access to the investigation file.

23.  On 28 February 2008 the district prosecutor’s office rejected the applicant’s complaint, stating that under Articles 215 and 217 of the Criminal Procedure Code a victim in a criminal case could be provided with access to an investigation file only upon completion of the investigation.

24.  On 15 April 2008 the applicant complained to the district prosecutor’s office about the ineffectiveness of the investigation into her son’s abduction and requested to be provided with access to the investigation file. She received no reply.

2.  Information submitted by the Government

25.  The Government submitted that on 14 February 2005 the applicant had complained about the abduction to the Russian President and not the competent law-enforcement authorities.

26.  On 6 May 2005 the district prosecutor’s office requested the Sunzhenskiy district department of the Federal Security Service (the FSB) and the Ingushetia FSB to inform them whether they had arrested or detained the applicant’s son. According to their replies of 16 and 18 May 2005 no special operations in respect of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov had been conducted and no criminal proceedings had been pending against him.

27.  On the same date the district prosecutor’s office requested the Information Centre of the Ministry of the Interior (the MVD) to inform them whether Said-Magamed Tovsultanov was on the authorities’ search list and whether they had information concerning his whereabouts.

28.  On 1 June 2005 the applicant complained about her son’s abduction to the district prosecutor’s office.

29.  On 2 June 2005 the district prosecutor’s office initiated a criminal investigation of the abduction.

30.  On 27 June 2005 the applicant was granted victim status in the criminal case and questioned. She stated that on 14 June 2004 a boy had come by her house in Katar-Yurt and handed her a note. According to the boy, this note had been given to him by someone from a passing bus who had asked him to pass it on to the relatives of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov. The applicant had gone straight to her son’s flat in Sleptsovskaya and then to the scene of the incident, where she had learnt from eyewitnesses, who had been primarily teenagers and salespersons from the nearby kiosks, that her son, who had been driving a VAZ-2107 car, had been blocked by two UAZ vehicles and a VAZ-21099 car and been taken away by armed men in camouflage uniforms and masks. During the abduction he had managed to shout out his name, asking the onlookers to inform his family about the abduction. The applicant further stated that at the time she had not thought of writing down the names and addresses of the eyewitnesses, as she was illiterate. She had informed her relatives about the events and it appears that they complained to various law-enforcement bodies in Chechnya in their search for Said-Magamed Tovsultanov.

31.¬†¬†The Government pointed out that the applicant had not mentioned to the investigators any of the events which had taken place after her son‚Äôs abduction in the vicinity of the ‚ÄúKavkaz‚ÄĚ checkpoint (see paragraphs 9-11 above).

32.  On 15 June 2005 the investigators requested the Northern Ossetia FSB and the Chechnya FSB to inform them whether these agencies had arrested the applicant’s son or opened criminal proceedings against him. On 28 June the Chechnya FSB replied that they had neither detained the applicant’s son nor initiated criminal proceedings against him.

33.  On 30 June 2005 the Sunzhenskiy district department of the interior (the ROVD) informed the investigators that they had not arrested or detained the applicant’s son.

34.  On an unspecified date in July 2005 the deputy Ingushetia prosecutor issued orders for the investigators in the criminal case. The relevant part of the document stated:

‚Äú… No investigation plan was prepared by the investigators who, in addition, also failed to examine a number of factual circumstances of the crime.

In order to conduct a full investigation of the criminal case I order the investigators to take the following measures:

‚Äď identify the woman who, according to L. Tovsultanova [the applicant], had eye witnessed the abduction and had told the boy about it … and question her about the events;

‚Äď identify and question the employees of the nearby kiosks who, according to the applicant, had witnessed the unidentified men in two UAZ cars and a VAZ-21099 detain S.-M. Tovsultanov, who had been driving a VAZ-2107, and take him away to an unknown destination;

‚Äď establish the registration numbers of the VAZ-2107 which had belonged to the abducted man and put this information on the search list;

‚Äď identify those who had been on duty on 14 June 2004 at the ‚ÄėVolga-20‚Äô checkpoint located on the border with Chechnya and question them about the circumstances of the case. In particular, it is necessary to find out whether a UAZ and VAZ-2107 carrying State officials had passed through the checkpoint on that date;

‚Äď examine the registration log of vehicles passing through the ‚ÄėVolga-20‚Äôcheckpoint;

‚Äď inspect the household … where the abducted man had lived;

‚Äď in order to establish the whereabouts of S.-M. Tovsultanov, … forward requests to various prosecutors‚Äô offices in [various regions] in the Northern Caucasus;

‚Äď forward information requests to [various…] detention centres in the Northern Caucasus and the military prosecutor‚Äôs office of military unit no.¬†04062;

‚Äď forward information requests to various medical institutions in order to find out whether S.-M. Tovsultanov had applied for medical help and/or whether his body had been discovered;

‚Äď establish whether S.-M. Tovsultanov had purchased train or airplane tickets;

‚Äď receive replies from [various departments of the interior and the FSB];

‚Äď reply to the applicant‚Äôs complaint of 5 June 2005;

‚Äď take other investigative measures, when necessary …‚ÄĚ

35.¬†¬†On 7 July 2005 the investigators requested the Ingushetia Ministry of the Interior (the MVD) to provide them with the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the officers who had been on duty at the ‚ÄúVolga-20‚ÄĚ checkpoint on 13 and 14 June 2004.

36.  On various dates in July and August 2005 the investigators requested that various prosecutors’ offices in the Northern Caucasus provide them with information as to whether the applicant’s son had been arrested, detained or taken to hospital or had obtained temporary residential registration in their regions and whether his car had been registered or confiscated by local law-enforcement agencies.

37.  On 12 July 2005 the investigators questioned Ms L.Kh., a neighbour of S.-M. Tovsultanov, who stated that on 13 June 2004 she had been at home when at about 1 p.m. a Chechen woman had arrived at her house looking for the relatives of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov. She had explained that Said-Magamed had been apprehended and taken away by men in masks and camouflage uniforms and that the abduction had taken place on the corner of Pobeda and Rabochaya Streets, not far away from the district hospital. Then both women had gone to the house where Said-Magamed Tovsultanov had lived with his relatives. In the house the women had found a boy who was at home alone and asked him to inform his relatives about the abduction of S.-M. Tovsultanov. The boy had immediately gone to the local bus station and through passengers of a bus going from Sleptsovskaya to Katar-Yurt had passed on a note to his relatives in the village informing them about the abduction.

38.  On 13 July 2005 the investigators forwarded a number of information requests to various airports and train stations in the Northern Caucasus asking whether Said-Magamed Tovsultanov had purchased airplane or train tickets. In August 2005 three regional airplane companies replied in the negative.

39.  On 14 July 2005 the investigators requested that the ROVD establish the identity of the Chechen woman who had informed Ms L.Kh. about the abduction and the identities of the teenagers and the kiosk employees who had witnessed the abduction, as well as of the driver of the bus/taxi by which the note about the abduction had been delivered to Katar-Yurt.

40.  On the same date the investigators forwarded information requests to a number of detention centres in the Northern Caucasus asking whether Said-Magamed Tovsultanov was detained on their premises and whether criminal proceedings had been brought against him. On the same date the investigators forwarded requests to a number of Information Centres of the MVD in the Northern Caucasus asking whether they had any information as to whether Said-Magamed Tovsultanov’s body had been found. On various dates in August 2005 the Dagestan MVD, the UVD of the Stavropol region, and the Kabardino-Balkaria MVD replied that they had no information concerning Said-Magamed Tovsultanov.

41.  On various dates in August 2005 the investigators requested a number of departments of the interior in the Northern Caucasus, including the Northern Ossetia MVD, the UVD of the Rostov Region and the Kabardino-Balkaria MVD, to take operational-search measures aimed at establishing the whereabouts of the applicant’s son, his car and the perpetrators of his abduction. They also asked to be informed whether the corpse of a man with features similar to Said-Magamed Tovsultanov had been found, whether his car had been registered in their regions or had been involved in any road accidents, whether he had applied for medical assistance; whether he had stayed in local hotels as of 14 June 2004, whether he had been arrested by the local law-enforcement bodies and whether any charges had been brought against him. Between July and September 2005 a number of law-enforcement agencies replied that they had no information concerning either the applicant’s son or his car.

42.  On 8 August 2005 the investigators conducted a crime scene examination at the place of the abduction. No evidence was collected from the scene.

43.  On 8 August 2005 the investigators questioned Ms P.M. who stated that at the material time she had been working in a kiosk located on the corner of Pobeda and Rabochaya Streets. However, she had not witnessed the abduction, but from her customers she had learnt that on 14 June 2004 a Chechen man, Tovsultanov, who had been an alleged member of illegal armed groups, had been arrested and taken away either by representatives of the ROVD or the representatives of the Security Service of the Chechen President and that the abductors had been wearing camouflage uniforms and had been driving two VAZ cars and a UAZ car.

44.  On the same date the investigators questioned Ms A.A. and Mr I.A, employees from kiosks on the corner Pobeda and Rabochaya Streets, who stated that they had not witnessed the events.

45.  On 10 August 2005 the ROVD informed the investigators that they had established that between 14 June 2004 and the present Said-Magamed Tovsultanov had not applied for medical help in the area and that his car had not been stopped at the local traffic police stations, and also that they had summoned the employees of the kiosks located in the vicinity of the place of the incident to be questioned by the investigators.

46.  On 15 August 2005 the investigators requested the Achkhoy-Martan district prosecutor’s office in Chechnya to take investigative steps to question relatives and neighbours of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov about the following: the reasons for his move from Chechnya to Ingushetia, how often he had visited Katar-Yurt, how he had earned his living, who his friends and enemies had been, whether his relatives had any theories concerning the reasons for his abduction and his possible whereabouts, whether they had been asked to pay a ransom for his release and what the results of their search for him had been.

47.¬†¬†On 16 August 2005 the investigators requested that the Ingushetia MVD inform them whether on 14 June 2004 a white VAZ car with registration number C897 ME06, or VAZ-21099 and UAZ cars carrying representatives of law-enforcement bodies had been registered in the registration logs as having passed through the ‚ÄúVolga-20‚ÄĚ police checkpoint or any traffic police stations in Ingushetia. They also requested that the officers who had been on duty at the checkpoint on that date report to the district prosecutor‚Äôs office for questioning.

48.¬†¬†On the same date the investigators examined the registration log of the vehicles passing through the ‚ÄúVolga-20‚ÄĚ police checkpoint. The document was dated ‚Äúfrom 4 June to 18 June 2004‚ÄĚ and comprised 99 pages. As a result of the examination it was established that pages 70 to 74 contained information concerning the passage of cars through the checkpoint on 14 June 2004:

‚Äú… page 70 contains a handwritten note about the passage of a UAZ car with registration number A717 BK95, whose driver, Mr V.K., had produced his service identity document no.¬†121884 … the note concerning this car is linked with a [note recording the] passage of a VAZ-21099 vehicle … no information about the latter car was recorded. This link provides grounds to presume that the two vehicles had moved through the checkpoint as a convoy and that therefore only the UAZ driver‚Äôs name was noted …‚ÄĚ

49.  On 9 September 2005 the investigators wrote to the Achkhoy-Martan district prosecutor’s office stating the following:

‚Äú… the preliminary investigation established that the abductors of S.-M.¬†Tovsultanov had been driving a UAZ and a VAZ-21099 car.

During the examination of the registration log of the ‚ÄėVolga-20‚Äô checkpoint it was established that on 14 June 2004 at 7.16 two cars ‚Äď a VAZ-21099 and a UAZ with registration number A717 B…/95 had passed through the checkpoint; the driver had been captain V.K., who had produced service identification document no.¬†121884; the cars had been travelling in the direction of Achkhoy-Martan-Nazran …

[in the light of this information] we ask you [to take the following measures]:

1. Establish whether Mr V.K. is an employee of a law-enforcement agency in the Achkhoy-Martan district and whether he has service identification document no. 121884.

2. Question Mr V.K. as a witness about the following:

‚Äď the purpose of his trip to Ingushetia on 14 June 2004;

‚Äď who accompanied him on this trip and their names;

‚Äď whether he knows S.-M. Tovsultanov;

‚Äď whether he participated in operational-search measures against S.-M.¬†Tovsultanov and if so, what the reasons for S.-M. Tovsultanov‚Äôs arrest were and what his current whereabouts are.

3. Question the persons who accompanied Mr V.K. on his trip [on 14 June 2004] and ask them the same questions …‚ÄĚ

It is unclear whether any reply was given to this request.

50.  On 17 August 2005 the investigators questioned Ms P.T. who stated that she owned a kiosk located on the corner of Pobeda and Rabochaya Streets, that she had not witnessed the abduction and that at some point in the summer of 2004 a Chechen woman had arrived at her kiosk and asked her for help in establishing the circumstances of the abduction.

51.  On 19 August 2005 the investigators forwarded a number of additional information requests concerning the possible detention of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov, discovery of his body or registration of his car to various law-enforcement agencies in Kabardino-Balkaria.

52.  On 8 September 2005 the investigators again questioned the applicant, who provided a statement similar to the one given on 27 June 2005 and added that Said-Magamed Tovsultanov had not been a member of illegal armed groups, that he had not had enemies and that she had not been asked to pay a ransom.

53.  On various dates in September and October 2005 the investigators questioned four neighbours of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov, Ms Kh.D., Mr. S.Kh., Mr Z.A. and Mr I.Dzh., who gave positive character references for the applicant’s son and stated that they had no knowledge pertaining to the circumstances of his abduction.

54.  On 2 November 2005 the investigation in the criminal case was suspended for failure to identify the perpetrators. The applicant was informed about it on the same date.

55.  On 28 April 2009 the investigation in the criminal case was resumed by a decision of the head of the investigations department. The document stated:

‚Äú… on 2 November 2005 the investigation in the criminal case was suspended for failure to identify the perpetrators.

As it follows from the investigation file, the above decision was taken prematurely and should be overruled for the following reasons.

For instance, the investigation failed to establish [the identity of] the person who had informed S.-M. Tovsultanov’s neighbours about his abduction and the person who had informed his relatives in Katar-Yurt about it;

In addition, the investigators failed to question the aunt of S.-M. Tovsultanov and her husband [in whose house he had lived] about the abduction …

… it is necessary to request information from military units in Chechnya and Ingushetia asking them whether they had arrested or detained S.-M. Tovsultanov …‚ÄĚ

56.  The Government submitted that even though the investigation failed to establish the whereabouts of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov, it was still in progress and all measures envisaged under the domestic law were being taken. The investigation had not established the involvement of law-enforcement agencies in the abduction; no special operations had been carried out against the applicant’s son. The law enforcement authorities had never arrested or detained Said-Magamed Tovsultanov on criminal or administrative charges and had not carried out a criminal investigation in connection with him.

57.  Despite specific requests by the Court for a copy of the entire contents of the investigation file in criminal case no. 05600034, the Government disclosed only part of the documents from the file, running up to 170 pages.

C.  Proceedings against law-enforcement officials

58.  On 11 March 2008 the applicant complained to the Sunzhenskiy district court of Ingushetia (the district court) about the ineffectiveness of the investigation in the criminal case. She stated that her son had been abducted by representatives of the Russian federal forces and pointed out that the lack of information about the investigation precluded her from appealing against the investigators’ actions.

59.  On 28 March 2008 the applicant visited the district prosecutor’s office where she was provided with copies of a number of procedural decisions. According to the applicant, upon receipt of these documents, she was asked to sign a document the contents of which she did not understand owing to her illiteracy.

60.¬†¬†On 28 March 2008 the district court rejected the applicant‚Äôs complaint. The court stated that the applicant ‚Äúhad lodged a written request to have the examination of her complaint discontinued …‚ÄĚ According to the applicant, she did not lodge such a request. However, the Government furnished the Court with a copy of the applicant‚Äôs handwritten receipt to this effect.

II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW

61.  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

62.  The Government contended that the application should be declared inadmissible for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies. They submitted that the investigation into the disappearance of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov had not yet been completed. They further argued that it had been open to the applicant to challenge in court any acts or omissions on the part of the investigating or other law-enforcement authorities, but that she had not availed herself of that remedy. They also submitted that it had been open to her to file civil claims for damages but she had failed to do so.

63.  The applicant contested that objection and stated that the criminal investigation had proved to be ineffective.

B.  The Court’s assessment

64.  The Court reiterates that the rule of exhaustion of domestic remedies under Article 35 § 1 of the Convention obliges applicants to use first the remedies which are available and sufficient in the domestic legal system to enable them to obtain redress for the breaches alleged. The existence of the remedies must be sufficiently certain both in theory and in practice, failing which they will lack the requisite accessibility and effectiveness. Article 35 § 1 also requires that complaints intended to be brought subsequently before the Court should have been made to the appropriate domestic body, at least in substance and in compliance with the formal requirements and time-limits laid down in domestic law and, further, that any procedural means that might prevent a breach of the Convention should have been used. However, there is no obligation to have recourse to remedies which are inadequate or ineffective (see Aksoy v. Turkey, 18 December 1996, §§ 51-52, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996-VI, and Cennet Ayhan and Mehmet Salih Ayhan v. Turkey, no. 41964/98, § 64, 27 June 2006).

65.  It is incumbent on the respondent Government claiming non-exhaustion to indicate to the Court with sufficient clarity the remedies to which the applicants have not had recourse and to satisfy the Court that the remedies were effective and available in theory and in practice at the relevant time, that is to say that they were accessible, were capable of providing redress in respect of the applicant’s complaints and offered reasonable prospects of success (see Cennet Ayhan and Mehmet Salih Ayhan, cited above, § 65).

66.  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.

67.  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. A civil court is unable to pursue any independent investigation and is incapable, without the benefit of the conclusions of a criminal investigation, of making any meaningful findings regarding the identity of the perpetrators of fatal assaults or disappearances, still less of establishing their responsibility (see Khashiyev and Akayeva v. Russia, nos. 57942/00 and 57945/00, §§ 119-21, 24 February 2005, and Estamirov and Others v. Russia, no. 60272/00, § 77, 12 October 2006). In the light of the above, the Court confirms that the applicant was not obliged to pursue civil remedies.

68.  As regards criminal-law remedies provided for by the Russian legal system, the Court observes that the applicant complained to the law-enforcement authorities after the disappearance of her son and that an investigation has been pending since 2 June 2005. The applicant and the Government disagreed about the effectiveness of the investigation of the disappearance.

69. 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 and that therefore this objection should be joined to the merits and examined below.

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

A.  The parties’ arguments

70.  The applicant maintained that it was beyond reasonable doubt that the men who had abducted Said-Magamed Tovsultanov had been State agents. In support of her complaint she referred to the following facts. The abduction of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov had taken place in the settlement which was under the total control of the authorities. The abductors, who had been armed, masked and in camouflage uniforms, had driven around in five cars in the centre of Sleptsovskaya in broad daylight. Having abducted the applicant’s son, they had been able to cross the checkpoint at the border of Ingushetia and Chechnya. She further stated that since her son has 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.

71.  The Government submitted that the fact of the abduction of the applicant’s son had not been confirmed by the investigation and that he might have disappeared on his own initiative or as a result of actions of third persons. They further contended that the investigation of the incident was pending, that there was no evidence that State agents could have been involved in the alleged violation of the applicant’s rights. They further submitted that the law-enforcement authorities had not conducted any special operations targeting the applicant’s son and that there was no convincing evidence that he was dead.

B.  The Court’s evaluation of the facts

72.¬†¬†The Court points out that a number of principles have been developed in its case-law as regards cases where it is faced with the task of establishing facts on which the parties disagree. As to the facts that are in dispute, the Court reiterates its jurisprudence requiring the standard of proof ‚Äúbeyond reasonable doubt‚ÄĚ in its assessment of evidence (see AvŇüar v.¬†Turkey, no.¬†25657/94, ¬ß¬†282, ECHR 2001-VII (extracts)). Such proof may follow from the coexistence of sufficiently strong, clear and concordant inferences or of similar unrebutted presumptions of fact. In this context, the conduct of the parties when evidence is being obtained has to be taken into account (see TaniŇü and Others, cited above, ¬ß¬†160).

73.¬†¬†The Court is sensitive to the subsidiary nature of its role and recognises that it must be cautious in taking on the role of a first-instance tribunal of fact, where this is not rendered unavoidable by the circumstances of a particular case (see, for example, McKerr v. the United Kingdom (dec.), no. 28883/95, 4 April 2000). Nonetheless, where allegations are made under Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention, the Court must apply a particularly thorough scrutiny (see, mutatis mutandis, Ribitsch v. Austria, 4 December 1995, ¬ß¬†32, Series¬†A no.¬†336; and AvŇüar, cited above, ¬ß 283) even if certain domestic proceedings and investigations have already taken place.

74.¬†The Court reiterates that it has noted the difficulties for applicants to obtain the necessary evidence in support of allegations in cases where the respondent Government are in possession of the relevant documentation and fail to submit it. 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 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 Tońücu v. Turkey, no. 27601/95, ¬ß¬†95, 31 May 2005, and Akkum and Others v. Turkey, no. 21894/93, ¬ß¬†211, ECHR¬†2005-II).

75.¬†¬†The Court notes that despite its requests for a copy of the investigation file into the kidnapping of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov, the Government produced only part of the documents from the file, running up to 170 pages. They submitted that they had enclosed with their observations ‚Äúthe main contents of the criminal case file‚ÄĚ but did not explain the reasons for their failure to submit the remaining documents.

76.¬†¬†The Court has found the Russian State authorities responsible for extra-judicial executions or disappearances of civilians in the Chechen Republic in a number of cases, even in the absence of final conclusions from the domestic investigation (see Khashiyev and Akayeva, cited above; Luluyev and Others v.¬†Russia, no.¬†69480/01, ECHR 2006-XIII (extracts); Estamirov and Others, cited above; and Baysayeva v. Russia, no. 74237/01, 5 April 2007). It has done so primarily on the basis of witness statements and other documents attesting to the presence of military or security personnel in the area concerned at the relevant time. It has relied on references to military vehicles and equipment, on witness accounts, on other information on security operations and on the undisputed effective control of the areas in question by the Russian military. On that basis, it has concluded that the areas in question were ‚Äúwithin the exclusive control of the authorities of the State‚ÄĚ in view of military or security operations being conducted there and the presence of servicemen (see, mutatis mutandis, Akkum, cited above, ¬ß¬†211, and Zubayrayev v. Russia, no.¬†67797/01, ¬ß¬†82, 10¬†January 2008).

77.  However, in the present case the Court has little evidence on which to draw such conclusions as the account of the events submitted by the applicant is based entirely on the summary of third persons’ anonymous statements. In addition, the applicant’s statements regarding certain aspects of the events which she made before the investigators and the Court differ substantially, which gives reason to doubt the coherence of her version (see paragraphs 8-11 and 30 above). In addition, from the submitted materials it follows that the applicant raised the issue of the possible involvement of State agents in her son’s abduction with the domestic investigation only after she had lodged her application with the Court (see paragraph 58 above). In such circumstances the Court considers that it cannot regard the applicant’s account as reliable evidence.

78.  Moreover, the mere fact that the perpetrators were armed, masked and in camouflage uniforms does not necessarily mean that they were State servicemen. The anonymous evidence to which the applicant referred in her statements to the Court did not contain any indication to the effect that the camouflage uniforms worn by the armed men bore any insignia of the type that should normally appear on the uniforms of State agents, or that the perpetrators had acted during the abduction as an organised group with a chain of command. Camouflage uniforms with no insignia could have been obtained by persons not belonging to the military via various, possibly illegal channels.

79.  The information at the Court’s disposal does not warrant the conclusion that the armed men had driven around in military vehicles. The applicant has never alleged, either before the domestic investigation or before the Court, that anyone saw any military vehicles in the vicinity of the crime scene with his or her own eyes. Given that the perpetrators used regular civilian vehicles, the Court considers that they could have moved around the town unbeknown to the authorities with greater ease than, for example, a group of armed men riding in an armoured personnel carrier.

80.  Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the applicant did not provide information about her encounter with the abductors’ convoy on the day following the abduction (see paragraphs 9-11 above) when questioned by the district prosecutor’s office. The Court is not persuaded that the investigators should have asked the applicant leading questions to establish, for example, whether she had seen the abductors on the following day given that it did not occur to her to disclose to the investigation all the relevant information at her disposal of her own motion.

81.  Accordingly, the information in the Court’s possession does not suffice to establish that the perpetrators belonged to the security forces or that a security operation had been carried out in respect of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov.

82.¬†¬†To sum up, it has not been established to the required standard of proof ‚Äď ‚Äúbeyond reasonable doubt‚ÄĚ ‚Äď that State agents were implicated in the kidnapping of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov; nor does the Court consider that the burden of proof can be entirely shifted to the Government.

III. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 2 OF THE CONVENTION

83.  The applicant complained under Article 2 of the Convention that her son had disappeared after having been detained by Russian servicemen and that the domestic authorities had failed to carry out an effective investigation into 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.‚ÄĚ

A.  The parties’ submissions

84.  The Government contended that the domestic investigation had obtained no evidence that Said-Magamed Tovsultanov was dead or that any servicemen from federal law-enforcement agencies had been involved in his alleged kidnapping or killing. The Government claimed that the investigation of the kidnapping met the Convention requirement of effectiveness, as all measures available in national law were being taken to identify the perpetrators. The applicant herself had been responsible for the delay in the opening of the investigation as she had complained to the Russian President on 14 February 2005, that is, seven months after the events and that subsequently she had reported the crime to the district prosecutor’s office only on 1 June 2005.

85.  The applicant argued that Said-Magamed Tovsultanov had been detained by State servicemen and should be presumed dead in the absence of any reliable news of him for more than five years. She also argued that the investigation had not met the requirements of effectiveness and adequacy, as required by the Court’s case-law on Article 2. The applicant invited the Court to draw conclusions from the Government’s unjustified failure to submit the entire contents of the investigation file to the Court.

B.  The Court’s assessment

1.  Admissibility

86.  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 criminal domestic remedies should be joined to the merits of the complaint (see paragraph 69 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 Said-Magamed Tovsultanov

87.¬†¬†The Court reiterates that 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, from 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, 27 September 1995, ¬ß¬ß 146-47, Series¬†A no.¬†324, and AvŇüar, cited above, ¬ß¬†391).

88.¬†¬†As noted above, the domestic investigation failed to produce any tangible results as to the identities of the persons responsible for the alleged kidnapping of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov. The applicant has not submitted persuasive evidence to support her allegations that State agents were the perpetrators of such a crime. The Court has already found above that, in the absence of relevant information, it is unable to find that security forces were implicated in the disappearance of the applicant‚Äôs son (see paragraph 82 above). Neither has it established ‚Äúbeyond reasonable doubt‚ÄĚ that Said-Magamed Tovsultanov was deprived of his life by State agents.

89.  In such circumstances the Court finds no State responsibility, and thus no violation of the substantive limb of Article 2 of the Convention.

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

90.  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 v. Russia, no. 69481/01, §§ 117-119, 27 July 2006).

91.  In the present case, the kidnapping of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov was investigated. The Court must assess whether that investigation met the requirements of Article 2 of the Convention.

92.  The Court notes at the outset that the documents from the investigation file were disclosed by the Government only partially. It therefore has to assess the effectiveness of the investigation on the basis of the documents submitted by the parties and the information about its progress presented by the Government.

93.  The Court notes that the authorities were made aware of the crime by the applicant’s submission on 14 February 2005, that is, seven months after the events in question and that the official criminal investigation was instituted on 2 June 2005, that is, almost a year after Said-Magamed Tovsultanov’s abduction. It is clear that the applicant herself contributed to the belated initiation of the investigation, having officially informed the authorities about the abduction with a significant delay.

94.¬†¬†The Court notes that within the first several months of the investigation a number of steps had been taken by the prosecutor‚Äôs office. Several witnesses were questioned, the crime scene was inspected, and numerous requests were forwarded to various law-enforcement authorities in different regions of the Northern Caucasus. However, after having taken the initial necessary measures to solve the crime, the investigators became inactive and failed to follow up on important investigating leads by questioning the officers who had been on duty at the ‚ÄúVolga-20‚ÄĚ checkpoint on 14 June 2004 (see paragraph 47 above) or requesting the Chechen law-enforcement authorities to confirm the identity and the service documents of captain V.K., who had crossed the checkpoint on that day and had been driving a vehicle matching the description of the abductors‚Äô cars (see paragraph 49 above). In addition, without having taken a number of other investigating measures (see paragraph 55 above) the prosecutor‚Äôs office suspended the investigation for almost 3 years and 6 months (see paragraphs 54-55 above) and resumed it only after the communication of the application by the Court. It is obvious that these investigative measures, if they were to produce any meaningful results, should have been taken as soon as the investigation commenced. Such delays, for which there has been no explanation in the instant case, not only demonstrate the authorities‚Äô 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 matter (see √ĖneryńĪldńĪz v. Turkey [GC], no. 48939/99, ¬ß¬†94, ECHR 2004-XII).

95.  The Court also notes that even though the 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.

96. The Government argued that the applicant could have sought judicial review of the decisions of the investigating authorities in the context of the exhaustion of domestic remedies but she had failed to do so (see paragraph 60 above). The applicant contended that she had in fact applied to the domestic courts, but this remedy had been ineffective (see paragraph 58 above). Without deciding on the credibility of either version, the Court notes the effectiveness of the criminal investigation had already been undermined in its early stages by the authorities’ failure to take the necessary and urgent investigative measures. Moreover, even assuming that the examination of the applicant’s complaint by the district court would have led to the resumption of the investigation, this procedural measure would not have produced any tangible results for the applicant, taking into account that by then the investigation had been pending for almost three years. Further, it is clear that the investigation was repeatedly suspended and resumed, in spite of the fact that not all of the possible investigative measures had been taken to identify the perpetrators. In such circumstances, the Court considers that the applicant could not be required to challenge in court every single decision of the district prosecutor’s office. Accordingly, the Court finds that the remedy cited by the Government was ineffective in the circumstances and dismisses their preliminary objection as regards the applicant’s failure to exhaust domestic remedies within the context of the criminal investigation.

97.  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 Said-Magamed Tovsultanov, in breach of Article 2 in its procedural aspect.

IV.  ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 3 OF THE CONVENTION

98.  The applicant relied on Article 3 of the Convention, submitting that as a result of her son’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:

‚ÄúNo one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.‚ÄĚ

A.  The parties’ submissions

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

100.  The applicant maintained her submissions.

B.  The Court’s assessment

101.¬†¬†Referring to its settled case-law, the Court reiterates that, where a person has been abducted by State security forces and has subsequently disappeared, his or her relatives can claim to be victims of treatment contrary to Article¬†3 of the Convention on account of the mental distress caused by the ‚Äúdisappearance‚ÄĚ of their family member and the authorities‚Äô reactions and attitudes to the situation when it is brought to their attention (see Kurt v. Turkey, 25 May 1998, ¬ß¬ß 130-34, Reports 1998-III, and TimurtaŇü v. Turkey, no.¬†23531/94, ¬ß¬ß 96-98, ECHR 2000-VI).

102. Turning to the circumstances of the present case, the Court notes that the applicant is the mother of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov. Accordingly, it has no doubt that she has indeed suffered from serious emotional distress following the disappearance of her son.

103.¬†¬†The Court notes that it has already found violations of Article 3 of the Convention in respect of relatives of missing persons in a series of cases concerning the phenomenon of ‚Äúdisappearances‚ÄĚ in the Chechen Republic (see, for example, Luluyev and Others, cited above, ¬ß¬ß 117-18, Khamila Isayeva v. Russia, no.¬†6846/02, ¬ß¬ß¬†143-45, 15¬†November 2007, and Kukayev v. Russia, no.¬†29361/02, ¬ß¬ß 107-10, 15¬†November 2007). It is noteworthy, however, that in those cases the State was found to be responsible for the disappearance of the applicants‚Äô relatives. In the present case, by contrast, it has not been established to the required standard of proof ‚Äúbeyond reasonable doubt‚ÄĚ that the Russian authorities were implicated in Said-Magamed Tovsultanov‚Äôs disappearance (see paragraph 82 above). In these circumstances the Court considers that the case is clearly distinguishable from those mentioned above and therefore concludes that the State cannot be held responsible for the applicant‚Äôs mental distress caused by the commission of the crime itself.

104.  Furthermore, in the absence of a finding of State responsibility for the disappearance of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov, the Court is not persuaded that the investigating authorities’ conduct, albeit negligent to the extent that it has breached Article 2 in its procedural aspect, could have in itself caused the applicant mental distress in excess of the minimum level of severity which is necessary in order to consider treatment as falling within the scope of Article 3 (see, for a similar situation, Khumaydov and Khumaydov v. Russia, no. 13862/05, §§ 130-131, 28 May 2009 and Zakriyeva and Others v. Russia, no. 20583/04, §§ 97-98, 8 January 2009).

105.  It follows that this part of the application is manifestly ill-founded and should be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

V.  ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 5 OF THE CONVENTION

106.  The applicant further stated that Said-Magamed Tovsultanov had been detained in violation of the guarantees contained in Article 5 of the Convention, which reads, in so far as relevant:

‚Äú1.¬†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.‚ÄĚ

A.  The parties’ submissions

107.  The Government asserted that no evidence had been obtained by the investigators to confirm that Said-Magamed Tovsultanov had been deprived of his liberty by State agents in breach of the guarantees set out in Article 5 of the Convention.

108.  The applicant reiterated the complaint.

B.  The Court’s assessment

109.  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 and Others, cited above, § 122).

110.¬†¬†Nevertheless, the Court has not found it established ‚Äúbeyond reasonable doubt‚ÄĚ that Said-Magamed Tovsultanov was arrested by Russian servicemen (see paragraph 82 above). Nor is there any basis to presume that the missing man was ever placed in unacknowledged detention under the control of State agents.

111.  The Court therefore considers that this part of the application should be dismissed as being incompatible ratione personae and must be declared inadmissible in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

VI.  ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 13 OF THE CONVENTION

112.  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:

‚ÄúEveryone 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.‚ÄĚ

A.  The parties’ submissions

113.  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 had an opportunity to challenge any acts or omissions on the part of the investigating authorities in court or before higher prosecutors and to bring civil claims for damages. In sum, the Government submitted that there had been no violation of Article 13.

114. The applicant reiterated the complaint.

B.  The Court’s assessment

115. The Court observes that the complaint made by the applicant under this Article has already been examined in the context of Article 2 of the Convention. Having regard to the findings of a violation of Article 2 in its procedural aspect (see paragraph 97 above), the Court considers that, whilst the complaint under Article 13 taken in conjunction with Article 2 is admissible, there is no need for a separate examination of this complaint on its merits (see, Khumaydov and Khumaydov, cited above, § 141; Zakriyeva and Others, cited above, § 108; and Shaipova and Others v. Russia, no. 10796/04, § 124, 6 November 2008).

VII.  APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION

116.  Article 41 of the Convention provides:

‚ÄúIf 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.‚ÄĚ

A.  Damage

117.  The applicant did not submit any claims for pecuniary damage. As regards non-pecuniary damage, the applicant submitted that she had lost her son and endured stress, frustration and helplessness in relation to her son’s abduction, aggravated by the authorities’ inactivity in the investigation of those events for several years. She left the determination of the amount of compensation to the Court.

118.  The Government submitted that finding a violation of the Convention would be adequate just satisfaction in the applicant’s case.

119.  The Court has found a violation of Article 2 in its procedural aspect. It thus accepts that the applicant has suffered non-pecuniary damage which cannot be compensated for solely by the finding of a violation. It finds it appropriate to award the applicant 30,000 euros (EUR) under this heading, plus any tax that may be chargeable on that amount.

B.  Costs and expenses

120.  The applicant was represented by Mr D. Itslayev, a lawyer practising in Nazran. The applicant submitted the contract concluded with her representative and an itemised schedule of costs and expenses that included legal research and drafting, as well as administrative and translation expenses. The overall claim in respect of costs and expenses related to the applicant’s legal representation amounted to EUR 7,718. The applicant submitted the following breakdown of costs:

(a) EUR 7,125 for 47.50 hours of interviewing and drafting of legal documents submitted to the Court and the domestic authorities, at the rate of EUR 150 per hour;

(b) EUR 145 in administrative expenses;

(c) EUR 448 in translation fees based on the rate of EUR 80 per 1000 words.

121.  The Government did not dispute the reasonableness of the amounts claimed.

122.  The Court has to establish first whether the costs and expenses indicated by the applicant were actually incurred and, second, whether they were necessary (see McCann and Others, cited above, § 220).

123.  Having regard to the details of the information submitted by the applicant, the Court is satisfied that these rates are reasonable. The Court notes that this case was rather complex and required the amount of research and preparation claimed by the applicant. It notes at the same time, that due to the application of Article 29 § 3 in the present case, the applicant’s representative submitted his observations on admissibility and merits in one set of documents. The Court thus doubts that the legal drafting was as time-consuming as the representative claimed.

124.  Having regard to the details of the claims submitted by the applicant, the Court awards her the amount of EUR 5,500 together with any value-added tax that may be chargeable to the applicant, the award to be paid into the representative’s bank account, as identified by the applicant.

C.  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 regarding non-exhaustion of criminal domestic remedies and rejects it;

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

3.  Holds that there has been no violation of Article 2 of the Convention in its substantive limb in respect of Said-Magamed Tovsultanov;

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 Said-Magamed Tovsultanov disappeared;

5.  Holds that no separate issue arises under Article 13 in conjunction with Article 2 of the Convention;

6.  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:

(i)  EUR 30,000 (thirty thousand euros) plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage to the applicant;

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

(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;

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

Done in English, and notified in writing on 17 June 2010, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.

S√łren Nielsen¬†Christos Rozakis
Registrar President

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