European Court invites Russia to submit observations on four disappearance cases from the North Caucasus

Published: 23 Feb 2016

On 7 January 2016, the European Court of Human Rights communicated a group of cases relating to the alleged abductions and disappearances of four men, aged between 23 and 25, by State agents in Chechnya and Dagestan between 2007 and 2011. The European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), based at Middlesex University, and Memorial Human Rights Centre are representing Ayshat Sigauri, whose son disappeared in Grozny in 2011, and has not been seen since.

Said Sigauri was a student at the Chechen State University. On the morning of 2 March 2011, he left his aunt’s home in Grozny to attend classes. That day, federal forces carried out a special operation at the home of other relatives. Armed servicemen in camouflage uniforms surrounded the building and opened fire; Mr Sigauri’s brother was shot dead. According to his cousin and other witnesses, Said Sigauri was detained by the police in the building’s courtyard. The next day, Mr Sigauri phoned and texted his aunt on three occasions; there was no further contact and his whereabouts remain unknown. Upon the applicant’s request, a criminal case was opened in June 2011; however it was suspended in September 2011, resumed in November 2011 and suspended again exactly one month later; the investigation is still pending.

Ms. Sigauri lodged an application at the European Court on 15 June 2012, alleging violations of Mr Sigauri’s right to life (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights – ECHR), arguing that the circumstances of his disappearance indicate that the perpetrators were State agents, and that no effective investigation had been conducted; she further submitted that she had no access to an effective remedy in respect of these complaints, under Article 13 ECHR. She also complained that she has suffered severe mental distress as a result of the authorities’ indifference towards her son’s disappearance, under Article 3 ECHR. Moreover, she alleges that her son’s unacknowledged detention constitutes a violation of the right to liberty (Article 5 ECHR).

A further three applications regarding disappearances of men in Chechnya and Dagestan, all alleging similar violations to those outlined above, were communicated in this group, Rashidov and others v Russia.

The Russian Government is due to respond to the case by 16 May 2016.