Russia Responsible for Abduction of Two Men
Today, the European Court of Human Rights notified two judgements against Russian Federation and decided that Russia is responsible for abduction and presumed death of two young men in Chechnya.
Here is the press release of the court:
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Press release issued by the Registrar
Russia responsible for abduction and presumed death of two young men in Chechnya
In today’s Chamber judgments in the cases Tumayeva and Others v. Russia (application no. 9960/05) and Taymuskhanovy v. Russia (application no. 11528/07), which are not final, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
A Violation of Article 2 (right to life: disappearance) of the European Convention on Human Rights in both cases
A Violation of Article 2 (right to life: lack of effective investigation) of the Convention in both cases
A Violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) in respect of all applicants in the case of Tumayeva and Others and in respect of the mother of the disappeared young man in the case of Taymuskhanovy
A Violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security) in both cases
A Violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) taken together with Article 2 in both cases
The cases concerned the applicants’ allegations that their close relatives, two young men, were abducted and killed by State servicemen in Chechnya in 2002 and 2004 respectively.
The applicants in the case of Tumayeva and Others are five Russian nationals who live in the village of Valerik in the Achkhoy-Martanovskiy District of the Chechen Republic. They are the close relatives of Shamkhan Tumayev, born in 1982, who, according to their submissions, was abducted by military servicemen at a time when the village was under control of the Russian federal troops. In the early morning of 19 September 2004, around 15-20 armed men in camouflage uniforms, speaking Russian without an accent and most of them wearing masks, arrived at the applicants’ house. They checked Shamkhan Tumayev’s passport, then took him away. One of the applicants subsequently heard a shot being fired and the noise of leaving vehicles, and she found two spent cartridges in the yard. The applicants have had no news of Shamkhan Tumayev since that day.
Immediately after the abduction, the applicants complained to the police. They subsequently contacted a number of official bodies, including the district administration, the district prosecutor’s office and various law-enforcement agencies in the Chechen Republic, Ingushetia, Dagestan and the Stavropol Region, enquiring about their relative’s whereabouts. An investigation was launched, which, suspended and reopened a number of times, has been pending for more than six years without having identified the perpetrators of the abduction.
Despite specific requests by the Court, the Russian Government did not disclose most of the criminal investigation file, stating that this would be incompatible with the domestic code of criminal procedure. According to the Government’s submissions, the investigation had obtained no evidence that any special operations had been conducted in Valerik on the night of the abduction of Shamkhan Tumayev or that any servicemen had been implicated in it.
The three applicants in the case of Taymuskhanovy are Russian nationals who live in the village of Prigorodnoe in the Groznenskiy District of the Chechen Republic. They are the mother and two young sons of Ruslan Taymuskhanov, born in 1981. According to the submission of his mother, Zakhra Taymuskhanova, she and Ruslan were driving home together with a police officer in the morning of 30 December 2002, when they were stopped at a military checkpoint by servicemen, some of them wearing masks and camouflage uniforms, who spoke Russian. They ordered them to get out of the car, searched them and tied the men’s arms behind their backs, then put all three of them into a minivan and drove off. The servicemen subsequently pushed Ms Taymuskhanova out of the van, so that she lost consciousness and only came to a few hours later. She has not seen her son since that day.
Some time later, Ms Taymuskhanova made a complaint to the authorities about the disappearance of her son, which was received by the district prosecutor’s office on 21 March 2003. Ten days later, the office opened a criminal investigation into the kidnapping. Subsequently suspended and reopened on a number of occasions, it appears to be pending without having identified the perpetrators of the abduction.
Despite specific requests by the Court the Russian Government did not disclose most of the materials from the investigation file. The Government did not contest Ms Taymuskhanova’s account of the events on 30 December 2002, but stated that the domestic investigation had obtained no evidence that State agents had been involved in the abduction.
Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court
The applicants in both cases complained, in particular: under Article 2 (right to life), that their respective relative had been deprived of his life by Russian servicemen and that the domestic authorities had failed to carry out an effective investigation into the matter; under Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment), that, as a result of the disappearance and the State’s failure to investigate it properly, they had endured mental suffering; that their respective relative had been detained in violation of the guarantees contained in Article 5 (right to liberty and security); and, that they had been deprived of effective remedies in respect of the alleged violations, contrary to Article 13 (right to an effective remedy).
The application in the case Tumayeva and Others was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 15 March 2005 and the one in the case Taymuskhanovy was lodged on 2 March 2007.
Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven, composed as follows:
Christos Rozakis (Greece), President,
Anatoly Kovler (Russia),
Elisabeth Steiner (Austria),
Dean Spielmann (Luxembourg),
Sverre Erik Jebens (Norway),
Giorgio Malinverni (Switzerland),
George Nicolaou (Cyprus), Judges,
and also Søren Nielsen, Section Registrar.
Decision of the Court
In both cases, the Court found that it could draw inferences from the Government’s unwillingness to disclose the entire case file in respect of the well-founded nature of the applicants’ allegations. The Government had given no explanation for this omission in the case of Taymuskhanovy and had referred to the domestic criminal code in the case of Tumayeva, an explanation which the Court had already found insufficient in previous cases.
While the Government argued that the applicants in Tumayeva had made contradictory statements concerning the abduction, of which the Court could find no evidence in the submissions, the Government did not contest that Shamkhan Tumayev had been abducted from an area where the authorities maintained manned checkpoints at the time. The fact that a large group of armed men in uniforms driving in a convoy of several vehicles was able to pass freely through checkpoints during curfew hours and proceeded to arrest the applicants’ relative in a manner similar to that of State agents strongly supported the applicants’ allegation that they were State servicemen conducting a special operation. In the case of Taymuskhanovy, the applicants’ hypothesis that the people responsible for the abduction were State agents was confirmed in particular by the Government’s acknowledgement that a special military operation had been carried out in the area in question on 30 December 2002.
The Court further considered that in the context of the conflict in the Chechen Republic, when a person was detained by unidentified servicemen without any subsequent acknowledgment of the detention, this situation could be regarded as life-threatening. In both cases, there had been no reliable news of the applicants’ relatives since the abduction and the Government had failed to provide a plausible explanation for the events. The Court therefore found it established that State servicemen were responsible for the abduction of Shamkhan Tumayev and Ruslan Taymuskhanov and that they had to be presumed dead. Accordingly, there had been a violation of Article 2 in respect of both men.
The Court found that there had been a further violation of Article 2 in both cases on account of the authorities’ failure to carry out effective criminal investigations into the circumstances in which the two men disappeared.
The Court considered that all applicants in the case of Tumayeva and the mother of Ruslan Taymuskhanov had suffered distress and anguish as a result of the disappearance of their close relatives and their inability – despite their repeated enquiries – to find out what had happened to them. The manner in which the applicants’ complaints had been dealt with by the authorities had to be considered to constitute inhuman treatment, in violation of Article 3.
The Court held that Shamkhan Tumayev and Ruslan Taymuskhanov 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.
The criminal investigations into the disappearances of both young men had been ineffective and the effectiveness of any other remedy that might have existed had consequently been undermined. Consequently there had been a violation of Article 13 in conjunction with Article 2.
Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court held that Russia was to pay the following amounts to the applicants in the case of Tumayeva and Others: 4,000 euros (EUR) to the first applicant and EUR 7,000 to the second applicant in respect of pecuniary damage, EUR 20,000 to the first applicant, EUR 34,000 to the second applicant and EUR 2,000 to the third fourth and fifth applicant each in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 2,500 in respect of costs and expenses.
It further held that Russia was to pay the following amounts to the applicants in the case of Taymuskhanovy: EUR 3,000 to the second and third applicant each in respect of pecuniary damage, EUR 45,000 to the first applicant, EUR 10,000 to the second and third applicants each in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 4,000 in respect of costs and expenses.