26 February 2009, Thursday The European Court of Human Rights today unanimously condemned Russia for the enforced disappearance of four men in different locations in Chechnya between August 2002 and December 2004, Russian Justice Initiative said today.

Astamirova and Others v. Russia (27256/03) concerns the disappearance of Aslanbek Astamirov on 5 August 2002 in the village of Gekhi, Chechnya. In the middle of the night approximately 30 military servicemen burst into the Astamirovs' house and detained Aslanbek. There has been no news of Aslanbek since then.

The applicants in Sagayev and Others v. Russia (4573/04) are relatives of Ilias Sagayev and his nephew Yunadi Sagayev. On 30 August 2002, Ilias was detained by Russian military servicemen at his home in Urus-Martan, Chechnya. Neighbours testified that the servicemen arrived on an armed personnel carrier. On 13 September 2002 the servicemen abducted Yunadi from his home in Urus-Martan. There has been no news of Ilias and Yunadi since they were detained.

Vagapova and Zubirayev v. Russia (21080/05) concerns the disappearance of Alis Zubirayev in Chechen-Aul, Chechnya. The Russian Government admitted that a special security operation was carried out in the early morning of 21 December 2004 in Chechen-Aul but denied that they had arrested Alis. However, a neighbour, who was arrested in the same operation but later released, testified that he was taken away in a military truck together with Alis.

“The Court recogized that I have a right to know what happened to my son,” said Zara Vagapova, the mother of Alis Zubirayev. “The Court also held that the authorities never properly investigated the case. They should commence a thorough investigating and tell me where my son is.”

In today's judgments the Court unanimously held that:

  • The right to life has 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 failed to conduct effective investigations into the violations of the right to life (violation of Article 2);

  • The applicants' relatives had been illegally detained (violation of Article 5);

  • The manner in which the complaints of the applicants 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 the applicants in the three cases a total of 157 000 euro for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.

The applicants in the three cases were assisted in bringing their applications to the Court by Russian Justice Initiative.

On 12 March 2009 the Court will announce its judgments in three other cases concerning grave human rights abuse in Chechnya.

For more information:
In Cologne, Germany: Roemer Lemaître, +49 162 8357056

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