European Court holds Russia responsible for the disappearance of 16 men in Chechnya and Ingushetia

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SRJI Russian Justice Initiative

Oct 10, 2013, 8:26:55 AM10/10/13
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European Court holds Russia responsible for the disappearance of 16 men in Chechnya and Ingushetia

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The European Court of Human Rights has found Russia responsible in two separate judgments for the disappearance of 13 men in Chechnya and three men in Ingushetia between 2000 and 2005, Russian Justice Initiative and its partner organization “Astreya” reported today.  

The applicants in Gakayeva and others v Russia are the relatives of 13 men who were abducted from various locations in Chechnya between 2000 and 2005, and who subsequently disappeared. The applicants in Yandiyeva and others v Russia are the close relatives of three men who suffered similar fates in Nazran, Malgobek and Karabulak, Ingushetia, between 2002 and 2004. Criminal  investigations were opened into the abductions of all the victims, some of which determined that federal servicemen were involved in the crimes, and established the identity or military unit of the perpetrators. Despite their refutable evidence pointing to the authorities’ involvement, the investigations were ultimately ineffective. The Court found the Government’s arguments, on the whole, to be of a “speculative nature” and to “stand in contradiction to the evidence reviewed.”

Following on its practice established in the landmark judgment of Aslakhanova and others v Russia of December 2012, the Court continues to join applications concerning disappearances in the North Caucasus in order to process complaints more effectively. Today’s judgments originated in 13 applications submitted between 2006 and 2010, seven of which were submitted by Russian Justice Initiative, three by the Memorial Human Rights Centre and three by Chechen lawyer Dokka Itslaev.

Many of the applicants in today’s judgments expressed satisfaction with the Court’s verdict but were also intent on continuing to pursue the investigation into their relatives’ disappearance. Zara Gakayeva, the mother of Timerlan Soltakhanov, who disappeared from Shali in June 2003, said: “I want the investigation to continue and to achieve a fair result, and I want to know what happened to my son and why. I raised him from the age of four without a father, and I always tried to protect him.”

In its unanimous judgments, the European Court found, among other findings, that:

  • The right to life has been violated in respect of all 16 disappeared men (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights), into which no effective investigation was conducted;
  • The applicants suffered in human and degrading treatment on account of the Government’s response to their complaints (Article 3 of the Convention);
  • The applicants did not have access to an effective remedy before the Russian authorities for the violations (Article 13 in conjunction with Article 2 of the Convention).

The applicants were awarded a total of 1,229,000 euro in pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.

For more information,  

In Moscow, Aleksey Ponomarev, Interim Legal Director, “Astreya,” +7 (495) 915-0869; +7 967 134 2833;

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

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