05 December 2005, Monday

The European Court of Human Rights have heard the first case regarding forced disappearances in Chechnya on December 8, 2005. The case will set important precedents for future cases regarding forced disappearances in Chechnya.

The case concerns Khadzhimurat Yandiev who was detained in February 2000 during the take-over of the village Alkhan-Kala in Chechnya by Russian federal forces. The detention and an order by a Russian general to execute Yandiev were filmed by a team from CNN. Yandiev has not been seen since.

The case was brought to the European Court by Yandiev’s mother, Fatima Bazorkina, together with the British barrister Gareth Peirce and the organization Stichting Russian Justice Initiative. Bazorkina argues that the Russian authorities have violated the right to life (article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights), the prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment (article 3), the right to liberty and security (article 5), and the right to an effective national remedy (article 13). In spite of overwhelming evidence the Russian authorities have for more than five years failed to bring anybody to justice for Yandiev’s disappearance.

Forced disappearances are an ongoing problem in Chechnya. The human rights center Memorial has documented 396 abductions and 207 forced disappearances in 2004. Human Rights Watch has called the widespread use of forced disappearances a crime against humanity. In most of the cases of forced disappearance there are strong indications that members of federal and Chechen security forces are involved. Not a single person has been held fully accountable for a disappearance in Chechnya since the conflict began in 1999.

A decision in the case is expected in July 2006.

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