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Published: 27 May 2010
Khutsayev and Others v Russia
Case No. 16622/05
Judgment date: 27 May 2010
The applicants are ten Russian nationals from two families from the village of Gekhi, Chechnya, whose relatives had disappeared following detention by Russian State agents.
According to the applicants and provided witness statements, in the early morning hours of 16 December 2001 a group of armed masked men in camouflage uniforms rushed into each of the houses without introducing themselves or producing any documents. Applicants were told the purpose was to carry out identity checks. The armed men spoke Russian without an accent, and the applicants assumed that they were Russian military servicemen. They beat several members of both families, searched their respective houses and seized their possessions, including money, food and valuables. They took Beslan and Movsar Khutsayev, and Adam Didayev away to the military vehicles parked nearby. Since 16 December 2001, the applicants have searched for their relatives. They repeatedly applied in person and in writing to various public bodies, describing in detail the circumstances of their relatives’ apprehension and asking for help in establishing their whereabouts. In February 2002, the district prosecutor instituted a criminal investigation. In April 2002, the remains of three men were found together with clothes identified by a relative as belonging to Beslan and Movsar Khutsayev. The prosecutor undertook a number of investigative steps, however the investigation was suspended and resumed several times for failure to identify the perpetrators.
The Court found a violation of Article 2 in relation to all three relatives of the applicants. The fact that a large group of armed men in uniform, equipped with military vehicles, had been able to move freely through military roadblocks during curfew hours and proceeded to check identity documents and apprehended several persons at their homes strongly supported the applicants’ allegation that these were State servicemen conducting a security operation. Since there had been no news of the applicants’ relatives following their detention and Government had provided no explanation as to what happened to them after their arrest, the Court found that they had to be presumed dead following their detention and that the deaths could be attributed to the State.
The Court also held that the investigations into the disappearances of applicants’ relatives had been ineffective and full of flaws, finding violation of Article 2 on procedural grounds.
Furthermore, the Court found a violation of Article 3 on three accounts. Firstly, the Court noted that three of the applicants and of the applicants’ relatives had been beaten during their arrest, and although the applicants had informed the investigating authorities from the outset of the injuries sustained by the kidnappers, the authorities had not obtained a medical examination until five years after the event. It thus established that three of the applicants and the applicants’ relatives had suffered inhuman treatment, in breach of Article 3. Secondly, the shortcomings of the investigation into the applicants’ relatives’ disappearances applied also to the complaint about their ill-treatment, thus in breach of the procedural aspect of Article 3. Lastly, the Court further found that, as close relatives of the disappeared persons who witnessed their abduction, the applicants (with the exception of Beslan and Movsar Khutsayev’s sister in law) had endured moral suffering as a result of the disappearance and the State’s failure to investigate it properly.
The Court noted that the absence of detention records and authorities’ failure to conduct a thorough and prompt investigation of the applicants’ complaints that their relatives had been detained and taken away in life-threatening circumstances constituted a violation of Article 5.
There was a further violation of Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol 1 in that the servicemen had not shown a search warrant or indicated any reasons for the search of applicants’ home and the seizure of their property, and the Government had not put forward any arguments in support of the lawfulness of these measures.
Lastly, the Court found a violation of Article 13 on the right to effective remedy in conjunction with Articles 2, 8 and Article 1 of Protocol 1.
The Court awarded EUR 65,000 jointly to the parents and siblings of Beslan and Movsar Khutsayev, EUR 12,000 each to the father of Beslan and Movsar Khutsayev and to the father and sister of Adam Didayev, and EUR 65,000 jointly to the parents and sisters of Adam Didayev in respect of non-pecuniary damages.