European Court Finds Russia Responsible for Abduction and Presumed Death of Chechen Man

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Human Rights Center Memorial

Mar 18, 2013, 4:46:00 AM3/18/13

European Court Finds Russia Responsible for Abduction and Presumed Death of Chechen Man

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in Avkhadov v Russia (No. 47215/07) that Russia was responsible for the abduction and presumed death of Chechen Vakhit Avkhadov, in violation of the right to life (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights).

The applicants were represented by Middlesex University’s European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) and the Russian NGO Memorial. The first applicant, Mr Avkhadov’s mother, was awarded 45,000 EUR and the other applicants, his sisters, were awarded 15,000 EUR each in damages.

On 24 April 2001, Mr Avkhadov and his family were at home in Urus-Martan, Chechnya, when several armed men entered the house. After searching the house, the men demanded his identity papers and proceeded to cover his head and lead him away. He was seen being driven off in a military vehicle, which was witnessed by several people. It emerged that several other men were also abducted on the same day. Nothing has been heard of Mr Avkhadov since.

The applicants made numerous appeals to complain about the abduction of her son, including to the local Department of the Interior, the prosecutor’s office and the local administration. Despite these appeals, investigators did not come to her home until two months after the incident. Numerous complaints about the abduction, inadequacies in the investigation process and lack of access to the case files went unanswered. The applicant applied for victim status in 2002 but it was only granted in 2006.

The Government alleged that that applicant had not exhausted the domestic remedies, that the investigation into Mr Avkhadov’s disappearance was not yet complete, and that the necessary steps were being taken in relation to this incident. The Government said there was no evidence to prove that State agents were directly responsible for his abduction.

Based on the evidence submitted by the applicants, and the fact that “when a person is detained by unidentified servicemen without any subsequent acknowledgement of the detention, this can be regarded as life-threatening”, the Court concluded that Vakhit Avkhadov must be presumed dead following unacknowledged detention by State agents, in violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention. A separate violation of Article 2 was found on account of the ineffectiveness of the investigation, as important witnesses were not questioned, the case was opened and closed several times, and necessary and urgent investigative steps were not taken.

The Court also found a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman treatment) on account of the psychological distress endured by the applicants, finding that “the essence of such a violation does not mainly lie in the fact of the “disappearance” of the family member, but rather concerns the authorities’ reactions and attitudes to the situation”. A “particularly grave violation” of Article 5 (right to liberty) was found on account of his unacknowledged detention, and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) was held to have been violated, because of the absence of any effective domestic remedy.

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