26 June 2008, Thursday

The European Court of Human Rights today unanimously condemned Russia for the enforced disappearance of two men in Chechnya in July 2001, Russian Justice Initiative said today.

On 2 July 2001 Russian servicemen conducted a large scale special operation in Sernovodsk, Chechnya, detaining dozens of men, including Apti Isigov and Zelimkhan Umkhanov. The official investigation identifed the commander of the detachment involved in the operation and even the crew of the vehicle in which Apti and Zelimkhan were taken away. The men were taken to a temporary filtration point on the outskirts of the village for an identity check. Apti and Zelimkhan were last seen at the filtration point by several detainees who were later released.

In its judgment, Isigova and Others v. Russia (6844/02), the ECHR was particularly critical of the ineffective investigation. "The Court considers that in (...) the present case where the identities of the detachments and their commanders involved in the abduction (...) were established by the domestic investigation, the failure to bring charges may only be attributed to the negligence of the prosecuting authorities in handling the investigation and their reluctance to pursue it. The Court finds it appalling that after the commander of the detachment that had apprehended Apti Isigov and Zelimkhan Umkhanov had been identified, the investigation was repeatedly suspended on the grounds of the failure to identify the alleged perpetrator.”

In its unanimous judgment, the Court held that:

  • The right to life had been violated in respect of the disappeared persons who must be presumed dead (violation of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights);
  • The Russian authorities had not conducted an effective investigation into the disappearances (violation of Article 2);
  • The disappeared men had been illegally detained (violation of Article 5);
  • The manner in which the applicants' complaints were dealt with by Russian authorities constituted inhuman treatment (violation of Article 3);
  • The applicants did not have access to an effective remedy before Russian authorities for the violations (violation of Article 13)

The Court awarded Apti and Zelimkhan's relatives a total of 95,000 Euro for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.

On 29 May 2008 the Court condemned Russia in 5 cases concerning the disappearances of eight men and two women in Chechnya. In 2 judgments of 12 June 2008 the Court held Russia responsible for the disappearance of 3 Chechen men.

On 3 July 2008 the Court will announce its judgments in 3 disappearance cases from Chechnya.

For more information:

In Nazran, Russia: Roemer Lemaître, +7 928 726 0975
In Nazran, Russia: Arsen Sakalov, +7 906 486 0753

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