European Court finds Russia responsible for the disappearance of eight civilians in Chechnya

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SRJI Russian Justice Initiative

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Aug 1, 2013, 8:49:28 AM8/1/13
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European Court finds Russia responsible for the disappearance of eight civilians in Chechnya

Thursday, August 1, 2013

In a strongly-worded judgment, the Court found Russia responsible for the disappearance of two women and six men from Chechnya between 2000 and 2002, Russian Justice Initiative and its partner organization, Astreya, reported today. All eight disappeared in or around Grozny; the bodies of two women were found bearing signs of violent death several months after their disappearance, while the rest remaining missing.

The case of Kaykharova and others v Russia originated in four applications to the European Court lodged between 2007 and 2009 by close relatives of the disappeared. Gelani Kaykharov was abducted from his home on 10 December 2002 by armed masked men and was never seen again. Suleyman Surguyev, Adam Suleymanov and Mirza Elmurzayev were picked up by servicemen on 2 February 2000 from the basement of school no. 50 in Grozny, where they along with thirty other residents were sheltering from the ongoing hostilities. A photograph of the missing men in a pit being guarded by servicemen appeared one month later in Itogi magazine in an article about “filtration points” for suspected members of illegal armed groups.  The blindfolded bodies of Markha Gakayeva and Raisa Gakayeva were found in a mass grave in the settlement of Zdorovye, near Grozny, seven months after their abduction from the Grozny market in June 2000. A third man abducted with the two women, Zavalu Tazurkayev, has never been found. Shaaman Vagapov was stopped at a temporary checkpoint on 23 February 2000 near Ilyinskoye, and was taken, along with his lorry, to the Khankala military base, where all trace of him was lost.

In all four cases the domestic investigations were inconclusive, despite the existence of concrete evidence as to the identity of the perpetrators or the military units to which they belonged. The Court also found, contrary to the Government’s assertions that the applications should be found inadmissible due to lapse of time between the events and the application to the Court, that the applicants had acted with due diligence in bringing their complaints before the authorities and in cooperating with the investigations. The Court also cited its recent Aslakhanova judgment in determining that the applicants had no effective domestic remedies to deal with their complaints, which constitutes a systemic problem under the Convention.

Upon learning of the judgment, Satsita Tazurkayeva, the wife of Zavalu Tazurkayev, said “after my husband disappeared I sent our daughters to live abroad. I could not bring myself to leave because I did not lose hope that my husband might come back. I had to wait for him.”

In its unanimous judgment, the European Court found that the right to life had been violated in respect of the eight disappeared and that the Russian authorities had failed to conduct an effective investigation into the events. The close relatives of the victims were also deemed to have been subjected to inhuman treatment due to the authorities’ response to their complaints, and to have had no effective remedy at their disposal within Russia to deal with the violations.

12 of the applicants were represented by Russian Justice Initiative, while 4 were represented by Chechen lawyer Dokka Itslaev. The applicants were awarded a total of EUR 503 000 in moral and material damages.

For more information:

In Moscow, Anastasia Kushleyko, Legal Director, “Astreya:” +7 (495) 915-0869, +7 (962) 932-7878.

In Moscow, Vanessa Kogan, Director, Russian Justice Initiative; Director, “Astreya”:  +7 (495) 915-0869, +7 925 863 5111.

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