The United Nations Committee responsible for overseeing compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has communicated a case submitted by a victim of domestic violence in Chechnya, Russian Justice Initiative and its partner organization “Astreya” reported today. It is the first complaint to be communicated by the CEDAW Committee to the Russian Government from the Chechnya since Russia’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW Convention, which allows for the submission of individual complaints against the state, in July 2004.
The applicant, Shema Timagova, a resident of Achkoy-Martan, claims to have been a victim of domestic violence by her former husband for many years before they divorced in 2009. In one incident that occurred shortly before their divorce, the applicant was severely beaten with a shovel; her husband at the time was sentenced to a fine of 15 000 rubles (approximately 500 dollars) for minor bodily harm. After their divorce, the applicant and her ex-husband were each allocated a portion of square footage of their residence by a local court, so the applicant continued to reside in the same house as her ex-husband and his new wife.
One afternoon in December 2010, Ms Timagova was in the yard of their shared residence when she was attacked by her ex-husband, who wielded two blows to her head with an axe; the applicant suffered severe head injuries and to date remains a second-category invalid. During the trial that took place regarding the incident, the judge determined that the applicant had provoked the attack, although there was no evidence of provocation, and that her ex-husband had committed the attack in a fit of passion. He was sentenced to nine months in prison, but walked free from the courtroom, since he had already served the sentence in pre-trial custody. On appeal, the verdict and sentence were upheld by the Supreme Court of Chechnya.
In September 2012, the applicant applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) alleging that Russia had failed in its positive obligation to respond with due diligence to the serious acts of violence committed against her. However, in December 2012, without issuing an admissibility decision, the ECtHR found the application inadmissible.
In November 2013 Russian Justice Initiative and Astreya submitted a complaint on behalf of Ms Timagova to the CEDAW Committee in Geneva, alleging that Russia had failed in its obligations of non-discrimination against women under the Convention by treating her aggressor with disproportionate lenience, and by perpetuating gender stereotypes in its treatment of her complaints.
“It is disappointing that the European Court decided not to examine this case, but the CEDAW Committee has a history of progressive case-law,” said Furkat Tishaev, Astreya’s Legal Director. “In its last review of Russia’s compliance with the CEDAW Convention, the Committee singled out the situation of women in Chechnya as particularly troubling. Therefore we hope this case will help to draw attention to the problem of domestic violence in the North Caucasus and the lack of adequate response to it.”
Following communication, the Russian Government has six months to respond to the application’s allegations. If the CEDAW Committee ultimately finds that Russia violated its obligations under the Convention, the implementation of the Committee’s views could result in the adoption of various legislative and administrative measures by the Russian authorities aimed at preventing domestic violence and protecting victims, as well as a payment of compensation to the individual applicant in this case.
NGO Shadow Reports onRussia’s compliance with the CEDAW Convention (in English):