Russia failed to investigate the loss of civilian lives during a terrorist attack in Grozny, European Court finds
16 April 2015
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has found Russia responsible for failing to investigate the death of a civilian bus driver, who was killed when his vehicle exploded on a bridge over the river Sunzha in Grozny in 2001, said Russian Justice Initiative and its partner organization “Astreya.” The applicant in the case, Kisa Mezhiyeva, is the victim’s wife and was seriously wounded in the explosion.
On 6 March 2001, Maudi Mezhiyev was making rounds on his minivan route in Grozny, which included crossing the river Sunzha. The bridge on Maudi’s route was situated between two checkpoints manned by Russian federal forces, one on either side of the bridge. On the morning of the attack, the bridge was closed off by federal forces. This was not uncommon as the bridge was often checked by military engineers for the presence of explosives, due to its strategic location. When the bridge re-opened, Maudi approached the checkpoint at the entrance to the bridge to get clearance for crossing and to pay the 10-ruble fee. This time, however, he was waved on without payment and told to cross quickly. Somewhere in the middle of the bridge, there was a loud explosion under the driver’s side wheel. Many of the passengers were gravely wounded, including Maudi and the applicant.
Following the explosion, the federal soldiers closed off access to the bridge and did not allow medical emergency vehicles to access the wounded passengers. Nonetheless another minibus driver and the driver of an emergency vehicle were able to run on to the bridge and carry the wounded passengers to the emergency vehicle and to another minibus, and drove them to Hospital No. 9. Although the hospital was only five minutes away from the scene, the passengers arrived there almost an hour after the explosion due to the soldiers’ refusal to allow the emergency vehicles access to the bridge. Approximately 15 minutes after arriving at the hospital, Maudi Mezhiyev died. The applicant underwent an operation during which her half of her left arm was amputated, and she continued to recover from other wounds for over a year after the events.
Because the investigation into the events of 6 March 2001 was ineffective, the Court determined that it was unable to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the actions of the federal forces were directly responsible for the death of Maudi Mezhiyev. The Court found that the investigation into the explosion on the bridge had been severely delayed and that the applicant had not been allowed adequate access to the case materials, and thus that the investigation had not come under the appropriate level of public scrutiny.
“Although the Court found that it was unable to hold Russia directly responsible for the death of the applicant’s husband, the facts of the case show that the actions of the federal forces merit a high level of scrutiny,” said Grigor Avetisya, Legal Director of “Astreya.” “The soldiers on duty on the bridge were required at least to allow prompt access to the emergency vehicles on the scene. If they had, the life of the applicant’s husband might have been spared.”
The applicant was awarded EUR 30 000 in moral damages.
For more information:
In Moscow: Grigor Avetisyan, Legal Director, Astreya: +7 (495)915-0869
Stichting Russian Justice Initiative