European Court: Russia violated right to life of Batyr Albakov

16 January 2015

On 15 January, the European Court ruled in Albakova v Russia (No. 69842/10), finding that the killing of Batyr Albakov, and the subsequent lack of an effective investigation, violated the right to life under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The application was submitted by Mr. Albakov’s mother, Petimat Khozhakhmetovna Albakova. She was represented by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), based at Middlesex University, and the Memorial Human Rights Centre in Moscow. Ms. Albakova was awarded €60,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

According to Ms Albakova, on 10 July 2009 her son was taken from the family home in the Ingushetia Republic, Russia, by a group of armed men, speaking Russian, Chechen and Ingush, following a passport check of all the family members present. Eleven days later, Ms Albakova discovered on the internet that her son had been shot dead by Russian servicemen during a counter-terrorist operation in a forest close to Arshty, a village in the Ingushetia Republic. Her son’s body was subsequently returned to her with multiple injuries, including gunshot and stab wounds, fractured bones, burns, bruises and a partially severed arm.

An initial inquiry was conducted, and on 1 August 2009, an official criminal investigation was opened. In May 2012, it eventually concluded that Batyr Albakov was a member of an illegal armed group and had died in an exchange of gunfire with a Russian military unit.

Ms. Albakova’s application was submitted to the European Court on 17 December 2011. In it, she alleged that her son was abducted, detained, tortured and killed by Russian servicemen and that the authorities’ investigation into her allegations was inadequate.

According to the judgment, which noted that the ‘parties do not dispute that Batyr Albakov was killed by the Russian military’, the Russian government failed to discharge its burden of proof in order to show that the authorities had done everything possible to avoid the death of Mr. Albakov. The Court therefore found that there had been a violation of Mr. Albakov’s right to life (Article 2 of the ECHR). Moreover, it found that the authorities had failed to carry out an effective criminal investigation into his death, thus breaching the procedural aspect of the same article. The Court also acknowledged that ‘the applicant must have suffered anguish and distress [on account of the killing of her son and the ineffective investigation into the matter] which cannot be compensated for by a mere finding of a violation’.