Chitayev and Chitayev v. Russia
The ECHR case of Chitayev and Chitayev v. Russia (application no. 59334/00).
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Press release issued by the Registrar
CHITAYEV AND CHITAYEV v. RUSSIA
The European Court of Human Rights has today notified in writing its Chamber judgment1 in the case of Chitayev and Chitayev v. Russia (application no. 59334/00).
The Court held unanimously that there had been:
· a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of torture) of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the treatment of the applicants while in detention;
· a violation of Article 3 as regards the absence of an effective investigation into the applicants’ allegations of torture;
· a violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security) of the Convention on account of the applicants’ unacknowledged detention;
· a violation of Article 5 § 4 (right to have lawfulness of detention decided speedily by a court);
· a violation of Article 5 § 1 (c) (lawfulness of detention);
· a violation of Article 5 § 3 (right to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial);
· a violation of Article 5 § 5 (enforceable right to compensation);
· a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy); and,
· no failure to comply with Article 38 § 1 (a) (obligation to furnish necessary facilities for the examination of the case).
Under Article 41 (just satisfaction), the Court awarded the applicants 35,000 euros (EUR), each, for non-pecuniary damage and EUR 7,629.90, jointly, for costs and expenses. (The judgment is available only in English.)
1. Principal facts
The applicants, Arbi Chitayev, and his brother, Adam Chitayev, are Russian nationals who were born in 1964 and 1967 respectively. It appears that Arbi Chitayev now lives in Germany and that Adam Chitayev lives in the Irkutsk Region (Russia).
The facts of the case, particularly those surrounding the period of the applicants’ detention, are partially disputed by the parties.
According to the applicants, following the outbreak of hostilities in Chechnya in 1999 between the Russian armed forces and Chechen rebel fighters, they moved their families and valuables to their parent’s house in the town of Achkhoy-Martan.
Between January and April 2000 the house was searched by officers from the Temporary Office of the Interior of the Achkhoy-Martan District (“the Achknoy-Martan VOVD”) a number of times without a warrant being produced. Numerous household electrical items and personal documents belonging to the applicants were seized.
Following one of the searches, on 12 April 2000, the brothers were told they had been arrested. They were then taken into detention at the Achkhoy-Martan VOVD, where they were held until 28 April 2000 in unheated, damp cells with no toilets.
While in custody, they were interrogated about the activities of the Chechen rebel fighters and about kidnappings for ransom, but denied their involvement in any crimes. The applicants alleged that they were ill-treated. In particular, they alleged that: they were given electric shocks, forced to stand for a long time in a stretched position, with their feet and hands spread wide apart; that they had their arms twisted; that they were beaten with rubber truncheons and plastic bottles filled with water; that they were strangled with adhesive tape, with a cellophane bag and a gas mask; that dogs were set on them and that parts of their skin were torn away with pliers. Adam Chitayev claimed he was also beaten on his genitals and threatened with shooting.
On 28 April 2000 the applicants were transferred to the Chernokozovo Detention Centre ( “the Chernokozovo SIZO”) where they were beaten on arrival. They were not medically examined on arrival, in contravention of the relevant legislation.
They alleged that, there, they were again interrogated and tortured to force them to make false confessions: they were beaten, threatened, strangled and subjected to electric shocks and their fingers and toes were squashed with mallets or a door of a safe and their hands and feet tied behind their backs (“swallow” position).
Their lawyer was only once given access to them and was only allowed to ask them how they were in Russian and in the presence of a police officer.
On 19 September 2000 the applicants were brought back to Achkhoy-Martan and informed that they had been charged with kidnapping and participation in an unlawful armed group.
On 5 October 2000 they were released.
On 6 October 2000 the applicants were medically examined. Among other things, they were found to have numerous injuries to their heads and bodies and to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The doctors noted that the traumas and other medical conditions had apparently been sustained in the Chernokozovo SIZO between April and October 2000.
On 9 October 2000 the prosecutor’s office informed the applicants that criminal proceedings against them had been discontinued as their involvement in the imputed offences had not been proved.
From 12 April 2000 onwards the applicants’ relatives applied repeatedly to various official bodies (but not a court) concerning the searches in their house and seizure of their property. They also made applications concerning the applicants’ arrest and detention. After the applicants had been released, they joined their relatives in those efforts.
The prosecutor’s office refused to bring criminal proceedings in connection with the applicants’ allegations of ill-treatment during their detention from 12 April until 5 October 2000.
According to the Government, on 12 April 2000 the applicants’ house was “inspected” (осмотр) by a police officer of the Achkhoy-Martan VOVD. During that “inspection”, a number of items had been found that, in the Government’s submission, “could be indicative of the applicants’ participation in illegal armed groups”.
According to the Government, on 17 April 2000 the prosecutor’s office of the Achkhoy-Martan District instituted criminal proceedings against the applicants and they were placed in detention in the Achkhoy-Martan VOVD. They were transferred to the Chernokozovo SIZO on 26 April 2000.
On 29 October 2003 a decision discontinuing the criminal proceedings against the applicants was quashed by the republican prosecutor’s office and the case forwarded for additional investigation. Apparently the proceedings are still pending.
2. Procedure and composition of the Court
The application was lodged on 19 July 2000 and declared partly admissible on 30 June 2005.
Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows:
Christos Rozakis (Greek), President,
Loukis Loucaides (Cypriot),
Françoise Tulkens (Belgian),
Nina Vajić (Croatian),
Anatoli Kovler (Russian),
Elisabeth Steiner (Austrian),
Khanlar Hajiyev (Azerbaijani), judges,
and also Søren Nielsen, Section Registrar.
The applicants alleged, in particular, that they were tortured and unlawfully arrested and detained by the Russian authorities and that there was no effective investigation into those events. They also complained that their home was unlawfully searched and their property unlawfully seized. They relied on Articles 3, 5, 8 (right to respect for private life and home) and 13 and of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the Convention.
Decision of the Court
Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1
The Court found that the applicants had failed to exhaust domestic remedies and that it was unable to consider the merits of the complaints under Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol. No. 1.
The Court held unanimously that it was unable to consider the merits of the applicants’ complaint concerning the conditions of their detention, as it had been lodged out of time (more than six months after they were released).
The Court noted that the medical documents drawn up the day after the applicants’ release confirmed the presence of various injuries. The Russian Government did not at any time contest the authenticity of those documents or argue that the injuries had been sustained before or after the applicants’ detention.
Having regard to the applicants’ consistent and detailed allegations, corroborated by the medical documents, the Court concluded that the Government had not satisfactorily established that the applicants’ injuries were caused otherwise than by the treatment they underwent while in detention.
As to the seriousness of the acts of ill-treatment, the Court found in the applicants’ case that their suffering was particularly serious and cruel, which amounted to torture, in violation of Article 3.
Investigation into allegations of torture
The Court considered that the medical evidence and the applicants’ complaints together raised a reasonable suspicion that their injuries could have been caused by representatives of the State. Russia was therefore under an obligation to conduct an effective investigation satisfying the requirements of Article 3. However, the authorities failed to carry out a thorough and effective investigation. There had therefore been a violation of Article 3.
Given that the applicants were detained by the authorities on 12 April 2000 and the fact that the Government provided no explanation concerning their detention between 12 and 16 April 2000, or any documents by way of justification, the Court concluded that, during that period, the applicants were held in unacknowledged detention in compete disregard of the safeguards enshrined in Article 5, which constituted a particularly grave violation of Article 5.
Article 5 § 4
The Court found that the applicants had been unable to take proceedings to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in custody between 17 April and 4 October 2000 (the Government acknowledged that the courts in the Chechen Republic had been inoperative until November 2000) in violation of Article 5 § 4.
Article 5 § 1 (c)
The Court found one period of the applicants’ detention to be lawful and one unlawful, in violation of Article 5 § 1 (c).
Article 5 § 2
The Court did not find it necessary to examine the Russian authorities’ compliance with the requirements of Article 5 § 2.
Article 5 § 3.
Given that, during the relevant period of their remand in custody, the applicants were unable to apply for their release and that no evidence justifying their continued detention had been submitted, the Court concluded that they were denied the right to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial, in violation of Article 5 § 3.
Article 5 § 5
Given that the judicial system in Chechnya was not functioning until at least November 2000, and the fact that neither of the decisions ordering the discontinuance of the criminal proceedings against the applicants was final, as well as the fact that the criminal proceedings were still pending, the Court found that applicants had been prevented from seeking compensation for their detention in violation of Article 5 § 5.
The Court found that the applicants had been denied an effective domestic remedy in respect of the ill-treatment by the police, in violation of Article 13, but that no separate issue arose in respect of Article 13 in connection with Article 5.
Article 38 § 1 (a)
The Court found no failure on the part of the Russian Government to comply with Article 38 § 1 (a).