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Published: 29 May 2008
Betayev and Betayeva v Russia
Case No. 37315/03
Judgment date: 29 May 2008
The applicants, husband and wife, complained of their two sons’ abduction by Russian forces. According to them, about 20 men burst into their house during the night of 25 April 2003, some wearing masks and all bearing automatic weapons. They produced no warrants or other documents. The applicants were held at gun point in their room while the servicemen conducted a thorough search of the premises. When the servicemen left, the applicants were ordered to remain in their house and were threatened with being shot if they left the building. It was only at that point that the applicants discovered that both their sons had been taken away. On 26 April 2003, the applicants started searching for their sons. Both in person and in writing, they applied to various official bodies trying to find out the whereabouts and the fate of their sons. They also kept up a constant search for traces of their sons through informal channels, by contacting officials and other contacts. They took part in the identification of numerous dead bodies found in all parts of Chechnya, but to no avail. On 26 April 2003, the applicants lodged an application with the Office of the Public Prosecutor so that an investigation could be initiated. A criminal case was initiated on 5 May 2003 which was subsequently suspended and reopened several times. No perpetrators or the whereabouts of applicants’ sons were identified.
Having regard to the previous cases concerning disappearances in Chechnya, the applicants’ submissions and the Government’s failure to submit any plausible explanation for the events in question, the Court found that the abduction was attributable to the State. On the account of the absence of the two men and that there had been no news of them for several years, they were presumed dead following their unacknowledged detention by State servicemen. The Court, therefore, found a violation of Article 2.
In addition, the Court found a violation of the procedural aspect of Article 2 given the ineffectiveness of the investigation by the authorities’ and the failure to take necessary and urgent investigative measures into the disappearance of the applicants’ sons.
In relation to the distress and anguish suffered by the applicants as a result of their sons’ disappearance and their inability to find out what had happened to them, the Court found a violation of Article 3.
As the search of the applicant’s home had been carried out without any authorisation or safeguards, there was an interference with the applicants’ right to respect for their home. In the absence of any reference from the Government to the lawfulness and proportionality of that measure, the Court found a violation of the applicants’ right to respect for their home guaranteed by Article 8.
There was also violation of Article 13 in conjunction with Articles 2 and 8, given the ineffectiveness of the criminal investigation and lack of other possible remedies, or avenue of redress which the applicants could have used to vindicate their right to respect for their home.
The Court awarded the applicants jointly EUR 70,000 in damages.