European Court: Russia violates right to life of Balavdi Zhebrailov

27 March 2015

On 26 March 2015 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in the case of Zhebrailova and Others v. Russia (No. 40166/07), finding that the abduction and likely death of Balavdi Zhebrailov constituted a violation of his right to life under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Balavdi Zhebrailov, born in 1982, disappeared following his unlawful detention by security services on the night of 25 April 2005. The applicants, his parents and brother, are residents in the Gekhi Urus-Martan District of the Chechen Republic, and were represented by Memorial Human Rights Centre and EHRAC.

On the night of 25 April 2005, six armed men came to the applicants’ homes. They forcibly took Balavdi and his brother Salavdi, watched by their parents, Isita Zhebrailova and Shuddi Bazhayev, and their sister Larisa Zhebrailova. The applicants tried to follow the armed men, who fired their guns into the air to deter them.

While in the car, the abductors continually hit the brothers with their fists and gun handles. Having stopped at an unknown location, the brothers were put in separate rooms and beaten. Salavdi heard his brother screaming and the sound of blows in the neighbouring room.  The armed men then led Salavdi from the building, at which point he heard his brother shouting again. Salavdi was put in the car and driven towards Grozny airport. Salavdi concluded that he and his brother were at the 2nd Regiment of the Road Police of the Ministry of the Interior of the Chechen Republic, where he had previously been when trying to find work in this regiment. Salavdi was then released, and went to the Urus-Martan Central Hospital on account of wounds on his head and body. He recognised one of his abductors, an officer of the 2nd Regiment in the hospital queue, and immediately left without obtaining medical treatment.

The Urus-Martan District Department for Internal Affairs came to the applicants’ homes to question the applicants, who handed over a police shell which they had found in the courtyard after the abductors had fired their guns. The Office of the Urus-Martan District Prosecutor launched a criminal investigation into Balavdi’s abduction, which was suspended and re-opened several times. On 6 April 2007, the applicants challenged the suspension of the case’s investigation at the Urus-Martan District Court. The application was denied on 23 April. On 12 June 2007, the applicants appealed the decision of the District Court at the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic, which was also rejected. Following this, the applicants submitted their application to the ECtHR on 11 September 2007. The ECtHR then communicated the applicants’ complaint to the Russian government.

In their judgment, the ECtHR concluded that the Russian authorities bear responsibility for the abduction and likely death of Balavdi Zhebrailov, and for the lack of investigation into this crime. On these facts, the ECtHR found a violation of Article 2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of torture), 5 (right to liberty and security) and 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the ECHR. The applicants were awarded €60,000 in non-pecuniary damages, with an additional €19,500 to Salavdi Zhebrailov.