On 18 September 2014, the European Court delivered a judgment in the case Petimat Ismailova and others v Russia, which is another instance when Court finds Russian authorities responsible for forced disappearances of Chechen residents and violating Article 2 of the European Convention. Also the ECtHR established a fact of violation of Article 2 of the European Convention in the failure to conduct an effective investigation of those crimes, Article 3 of the Convention (causing emotional distress to the relatives of those abducted), Article 5 of the Convention (unlawful detention of the applicants’ relatives), as well as Article 13 (absence of an efficient remedy).
In today’s judgment, the ECtHR consolidated submissions of different applicants (cases nos. №25088/11, 44277/11, 44284/11, 44313/11, 48134/11, 49486/11, 52076/11, 52182/11, 55055/11, 56574/11, 64266/11 and 66831/11). In seven out of eleven cases, applicants were represented by staff lawyers from the Stitching Russia Initiative.
All the cases concern facts of unlawful detention of applicants’ relatives (seventy males were detained directly from their houses); the detentions were conducted at different times across the Chechen Republic in the period of 2001-2006. Since their detention, the applicants have not been aware of their relatives’ roundabouts and fate.
The European Court established that in every case the detention was conducted by Russian law enforcement officers. As a matter of fact, virtually all the detentions took place during the special operations by the military and police, as the crime scenes were controlled exclusively by Russian law enforcement structures, and the abductors were in possession of special purpose military vehicles and weapons; they crossed checkpoints freely, as well as felt themselves at ease and did not show signs of fear to be seen or arrested.
Moreover, the European Court also found that the investigation into these crimes was not effective contrary to the European Convention. In all the cases, although criminal investigation was opened, it would be continuously suspended and resumed without substantial investigative measures taken (including interrogation of witnesses, establishing the role of law enforcement officers in the crimes and possible facts of gaining access to case materials by persons with vested interests in the outcome of the investigation).
Considering that substantial time has elapsed since the moment of the unlawful detentions, the Court has come to the conclusion that the persons in question are most likely dead by now.
The ECtHR has awarded a total of 1.248.000 Euros to the applicants, including one million in compensation for the moral damages of relatives of the abducted persons, and more than 200 000 Euro as a compensation for the loss of breadwinner.
Furkat Tishayev comments on today’s judgment of the ECtHR:
“By combining dozens of different and mutually independent cases, the Court has once again highlighted today that abduction of people is ubiquitous in the North Caucasus, while investigation into this kind of crime is inefficient in view of similar procedural failures by the investigative authorities. Since quite recently the Court has shifted from individual to a collective pattern in its consideration of such cases, which itself is indicative of a systematic nature of the problem. This group of cases concerning people abducted by law enforcement agents, which has been won, is constantly extended by more cases of this type. In this context, it is to be hoped that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will resume its monitoring of implementation of the decisions by Russian authorities”.