ECHR Condemns Russia For Disappearances in Chechnya
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has fined Russia around 125,000 Euros for abduction and disappearance of two young Chechen men in the Russian occupied Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in 2006, the court said in a statement today.
Here is the press release:
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
ECHR 248 (2012)
Russia Failed to Account for Disappearance of Two Young Men in Chechnya
In today’s Chamber judgment in the case Umayevy v. Russia (application no. 47354/07) which are not final, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a:
Violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the disappearances of Vidzha Umayev and Timur Mezhidov;
Violation of Article 2 of the Convention concerning the inadequate investigations into those events;
Violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) concerning the mental suffering of the relatives of the disappeared;
Violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security) concerning the unacknowledged detention of Vidzha Umayev and Timur Mezhidov; and a
Violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) in conjunction with Article 2.
The case concerned alleged disappearances of civilians in the Chechen Republic respectively.
The applicants in the case, Raisa Umayeva and Akhmed Umayev, are Russian nationals who were born in 1960 and 1957 respectively and live in the village of Prigorodnoye (the Chechen Republic). They alleged that their son, Vidzha Umayev, born in 1982, and Ms Umayeva’s brother, Timur Mezhidov, born in 1972, were abducted by three Chechen servicemen on 14 July 2006 when stopped at a bridge at the entrance to the village, Yarash-Mardy. Ms Umayeva, who was travelling with her son and brother, claimed that they were all ordered out of the car, then her son and brother were ordered back in and were joined by the three servicemen who drove off. She tried to run after the car but had to stop at a barrier. The applicants reported the abduction to the authorities on the day it occurred and subsequently complained to a number of State bodies. An official investigation was instituted 11 days after the events. It was subsequently suspended and reopened and remains pending without having identified the perpetrators. The applicants have had no news of their relatives since 14 July 2006.
Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court
The applicants alleged that representatives of law-enforcement agencies/servicemen were responsible for their relatives’ disappearances and presumed subsequent death and that the investigations into their allegations had been inadequate. They relied in particular on Article 2 (right to life), Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), Article 5 (right to liberty and security) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy).
The application in the case Umarovy v. Russia was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 18 December 2007.
Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven, composed as follows:
Nina Vajić (Croatia), President,
Anatoly Kovler (Russia),
Elisabeth Steiner (Austria),
Khanlar Hajiyev (Azerbaijan),
Julia Laffranque (Estonia),
Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos (Greece),
Erik Møse (Norway), Judges,
and also Søren Nielsen, Section Registrar.
Decision of the Court
Article 2 (disappearances)
The Court came to the conclusion that the applicants’ relatives had to be presumed dead following their unacknowledged detention by State agents. In the absence of any justification in respect of the use of lethal force there had been a violation of Article 2 in respect of Vidzha Umayev and Timur Mezhidov.
Despite the Court’s request for a copy of the entire case file, the Russian Government had refused to produce any documents from the file. The Court found that it could draw inferences from that conduct in respect of the well-foundedness of the applicants’ allegations.
The applicants’ allegation was supported by numerous witness statements. The Court found that when a person was detained by unidentified policemen without any subsequent acknowledgment of the detention and was then missing for several years, that situation could be regarded as life-threatening.
The Russian Government had not disputed any of the applicants’ factual submissions but had claimed that one of the servicemen could have abducted the applicants’ relatives for financial reasons. There was, however, no evidence to support that claim. Furthermore, it was noteworthy that the applicants’ vehicle had been stopped in broad daylight by men wearing camouflage uniforms and carrying weapons.
The names of the applicants’ relatives had not been found in any official detention facility records and the Government had not submitted any explanation as to what happened to them after their arrest.
Article 2 (investigation)
The Court found that the authorities had failed to carry out an effective criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the disappearances of the applicants’ relatives, in violation of Article 2 in its procedural aspect.
In particular, the official investigations had been launched more than a week after the applicants had reported the disappearances of their respective relatives to the authorities. Moreover, a number of important investigative steps, such as conducting an identification parade and interviewing key witnesses, had never been taken, and orders by the prosecutors to remedy some of the investigations’ failures had not been followed.
The Court found a violation of Article 3 in respect of the mental suffering endured by the applicants as a result of their respective relatives’ disappearance and the State’s failure to investigate it properly. The applicants had not had any news of their relatives for more than five years. Despite their attempts, neither of the applicants had ever received any plausible explanation or information about the fate of their respective relatives.
Furthermore, the Court found that the applicants’ relatives had been held in unacknowledged detention without any of the safeguards contained in Article 5, which represented a particularly grave violation of the right to liberty and security.
Article 13 in conjunction with Article 2
The criminal investigations into the disappearance and killing of the applicants’ relatives had been ineffective, and the effectiveness of any other remedy that might have existed had consequently been undermined. The State had therefore failed in its obligation under Article 13. As a result, 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 120,000 to Raisa Umayeva and Akhmed Umayev jointly in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 4,566.86 in respect of costs and expenses to the applicants’representative.