Russia – Россия
EHRAC was founded in 2003 to litigate cases of gross human rights violations arising out the Chechen conflict in Russia at the European Court of Human Rights. Since 2005, we have secured over 100 judgments with our partner Memorial Human Rights Centre. These judgments establish Russian responsibility for severe human rights violations in the context of the Chechen conflict and ongoing security operations in the North Caucasus. Many of these cases relate to the abduction and presumed deaths of men from Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and North Ossetia. Often, it is alleged that the victim also underwent torture. These significant judgments challenge systemic human rights abuse by the Russian Government in this region.
Examples of cases against Russia
Disappearances and murders in the North Caucasus
Since EHRAC was founded, we have sought to challenge the impunity of law enforcement agents and the security forces in a vast number of cases relating to ‘disappeared’ people from Chechnya. In November 2015, the European Court communicated the case concerning the murder of Natalia Estemirova, a prominent human rights activist and campaigner, to the Russian Government. Her sister alleges that she was killed by Russian State servicemen as a result of her role as an investigator in documenting cases of human rights violations in Chechnya. A positive judgment in her case will be an important step not only towards seeking accountability for Natalia’s death, but also to ensuring greater protection for those who defend the rights of others. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, has submitted a third party intervention in her case.
The Beslan School Siege
Hundreds of victims of the 2004 Beslan School Siege came a step closer to justice on 2 July 2015, when the European Court declared admissible their complaints against Russia, in which they allege violations of their right to life before, during and after the siege. On 1 September 2004, 1,128 people, of whom 886 were children, were taken hostage at Beslan School No.1, North Ossetia, by heavily armed Chechen separatists. They were held for three days until the school was stormed by Russian forces, and the ensuing fighting resulted in 331 deaths (including 186 children) and countless injuries.
The right to protest
The Bolotnaya Square demonstration, against Vladimir Putin’s return to presidency, in May 2012 received international attention and in January 2016, the European Court delivered its judgment on Frumkin v Russia, litigated by EHRAC and Memorial Human Rights Centre. The judgment calls on States to facilitate protest as an integral part of the rights to both freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, emphasising States’ duty not to deter political activity through disproportionate measures, such as the arrest and detention of individual demonstrators or opposition activists. We are also representing nine applicants who were arrested in February 2014 when they planned to attend a hearing in the criminal case against some of the Bolotnaya Square demonstrators. The applicants were not allowed to enter the court room, so they began to protest outside; they were arrested and convicted of administrative offences.
In Russia, we primarily litigate cases with Memorial Human Rights Centre. We have also obtained positive judgments in cases jointly litigated with Planet of Hopes, an NGO defending the rights of those affected by environmental disasters, and of those living in closed nuclear cities.
Russia at the European Court
- Russia ratified the European Convention on Human Rights in 1998.
- Almost half of the judgments delivered since the European Convention came into force have concerned 5 member States: 1,720 cases have been decided against Russia, 94% of which found a violation.
- Of the 116 judgments handed down against Russia in 2015, seven of which were litigated by EHRAC. The most commonly found violations were: torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, right to liberty and security, and lack of effective investigation.
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