The European Court of Human Rights has found Russia responsible for the disappearance and torture of a Chechen man detained at his home by Russian federal troops in 2000, Russian Justice Initiative reported today.
The applicants in Gelayevy v Russia (no. 20216/07) are the parents, sister, grandparents and uncle of Murad Gelayev, who was abducted from his family home in the village of Gikalo, outside Grozny, Chechnya on 27 February 2000. At around 7 a.m. a group of armed servicemen burst into the Gelayev residence and subsequently forced Murad into one of their vehicles. Murad’s mother and grandmother tried to prevent the detention, but they were violently repelled and beaten with rifle butts, such that Murad’s mother was compelled to seek medical treatment for a concussion. Murad’s uncle was also detained on the same day and witnessed the torture endured by Murad and twelve other Gikalo residents who were also rounded up and taken to the Temporary Department of the Interior for Oktyabrskiy District (VOVD). All the detainees were later released several months after their detention with the exception of Murad and one other man.
While held in the VOVD the detainees were subjected to various forms of torture: they were beaten with shovels, wooden clubs, iron pipes and steel rods; they were attacked and scratched by dogs; finally, one of the commanding officers sliced off Murad’s left ear with a hunting knife to keep as a “souvenir.”
Many of the detainees were transferred to several other detention centers over the following months—including the Khankala military base and Chernokozovo—before their release, and several witnesses reported that Murad had been taken to Chernokozovo in July 2000 before all trace of him was lost.
The Gelayev family, despite their attempts over several years, have never been able to establish Murad’s whereabouts or his fate in detention. The investigation into his disappearance was severely flawed from the very beginning, as the Court highlighted in its judgment.
In its unanimous judgment, the European Court found that:
- The right to life has been violated in respect of Murad Gelayev (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights);
- The Russian authorities have failed to conduct an effective investigation into the above violation (Article 2);
- Murad Gelayev was subjected to torture, into which no effective investigation was conducted (Article 3);
- Murad Gelayev’s mother, Aminat Gelayeva, suffered ill-treatment at the hands of her son’s abductors, into which no effective investigation was conducted (Article 3);
- The manner in which the applicants’ complaints were dealt with by the Russian authorities constituted inhuman treatment (Article 3);
- Murad Gelayev was unlawfully deprived of his liberty (Article 5);
- 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 106,000 EUR in respect of material and moral damages. The Russian Justice Initiative assisted the applicants in bringing their case to the European Court in 2007.
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