ECHR Fines Russia Over Disappearance of Chechen Young
On September 27, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) notified a judgement case which is related to Russian occupied Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. The case is about the disappearance of a young Chechen man who was abducted by Russian soldiers in 2004.
Here is the press release:
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
ECHR 158 (2011)
Young man, accompanied by a police officer, abducted in the presence of a military convoy in Chechnya and then disappeared
In today’s Chamber judgment in the case Beksultanova v. Russia (application no. 31564/07), which is not final, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
Violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the disappearance of Timur Beksultanov;
Violation of Article 2 of the Convention concerning the inadequate investigation into his disappearance;
Violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) concerning the mental suffering of Timur Beksultanov’s mother;
Violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security) concerning the unacknowledged detention of Timur Beksultanov; and,
Violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) in conjunction with Article 2.
The case concerned the applicant’s allegations that her son had been abducted and killed by Russian servicemen during an unacknowledged security operation in Chechnya and that the domestic authorities had failed to carry out an effective investigation into her complaints.
The applicant, Aminat Beksultanova, is a Russian national who was born in 1959 and lives in Achkhoy-Martan in the Chechen Republic. She is the mother of Timur Beksultanov who has not been seen since 2 October 2004, when – according to witnesses – a special-purposes police squad officer had taken him from her house towards an unknown location in relation to criminal charges linked to terrorist-related activities. Ms Beksultanova did not witness her son’s apprehension and only learned about it on the following day from people claiming to have witnessed the events.
According to Ms Beksultanova, one of the witnesses told her that he had seen her son at about 11 a.m. in a vehicle which was stopped by a convoy of armoured carriers at a crossroad between three villages. Timur was accompanied by the police officer who had taken him from her house. Timur was made to come out of the car and was pushed to the ground and shot twice – in the thigh and in the shoulder. After that, the servicemen put Timur in an armoured vehicle and drove away with him. The police officer was left behind and so he drove away in his vehicle. On 2 October 2004, several hours after her son’s abduction, the vehicle in which Timur had been taken by his abductors, was stationed at the Achkhoy-Martan Department of the Interior.
On 8 October 2004, Timur’s mother complained in writing about Timur’s abduction to various State bodies. She was notified that Timur’s name had been put on a federal list of wanted persons in connection with terrorist activities and that the authorities were actively looking for him. After her complaint had been forwarded to different authorities several times, Ms Beksultanova was told that no objective evidence had been obtained supporting her allegations. At the same time, she was told that the investigators had sufficient reasons to believe that she was deliberately complaining about Timur’s abduction in order to shield him from criminal responsibility for the crimes which he had committed.
The Russian Government submitted that the domestic proceedings had obtained no evidence that Timur Beksultanov had been abducted by State agents. Several criminal cases had been opened on suspicion of Timur’s involvement in a number of crimes and he had been put on a wanted persons list.
Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court
Relying on Articles 2, 3, 5 and 13 Ms Beksultanova complained that her son had been detained and then killed by Russian servicemen and that no effective investigation had been carried out into it.
The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 16 July 2007. Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven, composed as follows:
Nina Vajić (Croatia), PRESIDENT,
Anatoly Kovler (Russia),
Peer Lorenzen (Denmark),
Elisabeth Steiner (Austria),
Khanlar Hajiyev (Azerbaijan),
Julia Laffranque (Estonia),
Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos (Greece), JUDGES,
and also Søren Nielsen, SECTION REGISTRAR.
Decision of the Court
Right to life (Article 2)
The Court observed that despite its requests for copies of documents related to the investigative steps taken in connection with Timur’s disappearance, the Russian Government had produced only some of the documents from the main criminal case against him.
The Court then noted that although Ms Beksultanova had not witnessed what had happened to her son, her statements that Timur had last been seen accompanied by State officials intending to lead him to the authorities were confirmed by several witnesses and were not disputed by the Russian Government.
In addition, Timur’s arrest by members of the security forces had been explicitly confirmed by a certificate issued by the head of the local department of the interior and provided to the Court by the Russian Government. While the date on the certificate and that submitted by Ms Beksultanova differed, the versions of both parties coincided on all important points. Drawing inferences from the Government’s failure to submit the remaining documents, which were in its exclusive possession, or to provide another plausible explanation forthe events in question, the Court concluded that Timur Beksultanov had been apprehended by State agents following which he had disappeared. Given that there had not been any reliable news from Timur for more than six years after he had been abducted, the Court concluded that he had to be presumed dead following his unacknowledged detention by State servicemen.
Consequently, in the absence of any justification for his disappearance and death, the Court held that the Russian Government had been responsible for Timur’s presumed death, in violation of Article 2.
Investigation (Article 2)
The Court noted that Ms Beksultanova had complained to the authorities about her son’s abduction several days after he had disappeared. The authorities had decided not to open a separate investigation into Timur’s disappearance but to examine her complaints within the criminal case opened against Timur on suspicion of participation in illegal armed groups.
In doing so, the authorities had conducted a number of investigative steps with substantial delay, which demonstrated their failure to act promptly in situations concerning complaints related to people’s lives.
In addition, a number of investigative step had never been taken at all, and Ms Beksultanova had not been kept properly informed of the investigation’s progress.
Consequently, the authorities had failed to carry out an effective investigation into the circumstances surrounding Timur’ death, in violation of Article. 2.
Prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3)
The Court noted that Ms Beksultanova was the mother of the disappeared man. Although she had not witnessed her son’s abduction, for more than six years she had not had news from him. Despite her attempts, she had never received any plausible explanation or information about what happened to Timur. The replies she had received had mostly denied State responsibility for her son’s arrest or simply informed her that the investigation had been ongoing.
There had, therefore, been a violation of Article 3 in respect of Ms Beksultanova.
Deprivation of liberty (Article 5)
The Court held that as Ms Beksultanova’s son had been held in unacknowledged detention without any of the safeguards contained in Article 5, that represented a particularly grave violation of the right to liberty and security.
Effective remedy (Article 13)
The criminal investigations into the disappearance and killing of Ms Beksultanova’s son had been ineffective, and the effectiveness of any other remedy that might have existed had consequently been undermined. Russia had therefore failed in its obligation under Article 13 of the Convention. As a result, there had been a violation of Article 13 in conjunction with Article 2.
Just satisfaction (Article 41)
The Court held that Russia was to pay Ms Beksultanova 60,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage, and EUR 3,000 in respect of costs and expenses.