Published: 24 Feb 2005

Isayeva v Russia

Case Summary

Case No. 57950/00
Judgment date: 24 February 2005

Facts

The application concerned the indiscriminate bombing of the village of Katyr-Yurt, Chechnya. The applicant submitted that at the end of January 2000, a special operation was planned and executed by the federal military commanders to entice rebel forces from Grozny. That plan involved leading the fighters to believe that a safe exit would be possible out of Grozny. They were allowed to leave the city, however then caught in minefields and attacked by artillery and the air force. A group of fighters arrived in Katyr-Yurt early on 4 February 2000. The villagers were not warned in advance of their arrival or told of safe exit routes. On that day, an aviation bomb dropped from a Russian military plane exploded near the applicant’s minivan, killing the applicant’s son and three nieces, and her nephew was left disabled as a result of his injuries. The applicant lost her house, her possessions and her car. A criminal investigation, opened in 2000, confirmed the applicant’s version of events. The investigation was closed in 2002, as the actions of the military were found to have been legitimate in the circumstances, given that a large group of illegal fighters had occupied the village and refused to surrender.

Judgment

The Court found a violation of Article 2 in relation to the applicant’s son and her three nieces.  While the Court accepted that the situation in Chechnya at the relevant time called for exceptional measures including the deployment of armed military units equipped with combat weapons, it did not find the use of force was proportionate.  It concluded that the military operation had not been planned and executed with the requisite care for the lives of the civilian population.

Furthermore, the authorities had failed to carry out an effective investigation into the circumstances of the military operation. The investigation had been opened only in September 2000 and the applicant had not been properly informed of the proceedings and could not have challenged its results. The Court thus found a violation of Article 2 on procedural grounds.

Lastly, the Court found a violation of Article 13 in that the criminal investigation had been ineffective as it had lacked sufficient objectivity and thoroughness, with no other effective remedies being available to her.

The applicant was awarded EUR 25,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damages.

Comment

The facts and findings in this case, particularly on violations of the right to life, the failure to investigate and the lack of domestic remedies, mirror those in Abuyeva v Russia, decided by the Court five years later.  This led the Court to take the unprecedented step of finding that Russia had “manifestly disregarded the specific findings of a binding judgment.”