European Court rules in case of Kagirov v Russia

24 April 2015

On 22 April 2015, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in the case of Kagirov v Russia (No. 36367)The Court held that the failure of authorities to carry out an effective criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Mr Rustam Kagirov amounted to a violation of his right to life under the procedural aspect of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The applicant, Rustam’s brother Ziyavdi Kagirov, was represented by Memorial Human Rights Centre and the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), based at Middlesex University in London.

Ziyavdi Kagirov is a resident of the Zakan-Yurt/Achkhoy-Martan Region in the Chechen Republic. His brother, Rustam Kagirov disappeared following detention, alleged by the applicant to be by members of the State Security forces on 17 May 2009. Three armed men dressed in black jumped out of a car parked near the local administrative offices as Rustam and a friend approached the building. Two of the men grabbed Rustam and put him in the back seat of the car. The third, pointing a gun at Rustam’s friend, shouted in Chechen, “Turn around, or I’ll shoot!” The car then drove off at high speed.

The applicant stated that the abductors easily passed through the police check point on the way out of the town, and drove in the direction of Grozny along the Kavkas highway, heavily guarded that day in anticipation of a visit by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. Ziyavdi, who followed behind with Rustam’s friend, explained to the Traffic Police at the exit post that his brother had been abducted, and was met with no reaction. He then asked them why they had not stopped the abductors’ car to check their documents. The policemen replied that the people in that vehicle had been law enforcement officers in a rush, and that they had not been able to tell them to which law enforcement agency they belonged.

The same day, the applicant asked a local policeman about what had happened to his brother and applied to the Achkhoy-Martan Regional Department for Internal Affairs three days later. The regional branch of the Russian Prosecutor’s office only opened a criminal investigation into Rustam’s abduction on 19 June 2009. However, no one from the Traffic Police stationed at the exit post to Zakan-Yurt, was questioned, nor was it established to whom the license plate on the abductors’ car belonged. The investigation into the criminal case was closed and re-opened several times. Rustam has not been seen to this day.

The ECtHR decided that it had not been established to the required standard of proof that State agents were implicated in Rustam Kagirov’s disappearance or alleged death but that nonetheless there had been a violation of his right to life (Article 2) in respect of the failure to conduct an effective investigation into the circumstances in which he disappeared. The ECtHR further held that there had been no violations of Article 3 or 5 of the Convention and that no separate issues arose under Article 13 of the ECHR in conjunction with Article 2 of the Convention. The applicant was awarded €20,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

Prof. Bill Bowring, Chair of EHRAC’s International Steering Committee said, ‘Rustam Kagirov, the applicant’s brother, was abducted on 17 May 2009. A criminal investigation was opened into the abduction on 19 June 2009 and, suspended on at least six occasions, is currently still pending without any tangible results. However, the Court’s finding and the order for compensation are very welcome.’