Published: 1 Apr 2010

Mutsolgova and Others v Russia

Case Summary

Case No. 2952/06
Judgment date: 1 April 2010

Facts

The applicants are five Russian nationals – the parents, brother, wife and daughter of Mr Bashir Mutsolgov, who was abducted from a street close to his home by a group of armed men on 18 December 2003. The men had arrived in two vehicles, wore masks and camouflage uniforms, and spoke Russian without an accent. Using force, they had put the applicants’ relative in one of the cars and driven away. He has not been seen since. According to a witness, who had driven ahead of the cars and informed an on-duty police officer of the incident, the cars were all let to drive away. Apparently they had shown a special permit prohibiting any search of the permit owners and the vehicles. In response to the applicants’ complaints about the abduction to a number of local law enforcement agencies, any involvement by them in the arrest was denied. The applicants claimed however, that in the following months they were approached by various people who had alleged to be FSB officers and offered information about applicants’ relative in exchange for money. The applicants had complied and were told that their relative was abducted by a group of FSB officers and was kept in the Khankala settlement, the main Russian military base in Chechnya. On 19 December 2003 an investigation was opened into the events, being suspended and resumed on several occasions in the coming years. The investigation had failed to establish applicants’ relative’s whereabouts or the identity of the perpetrators of his kidnapping.

Judgment

The Court was satisfied that the applicants had made a prima facie case that their relative had been abducted by State agents during an unacknowledged security operation. Since there had been no news of him as from the day he was abducted more than six years ago, and given that his name had not been found in the official records of any detention facility, applicants’ relative had to be presumed dead. In view of the fact that the Government had failed to provide any explanation about his disappearance, the responsibility for his presumed death lied with the Government. Accordingly, the Court found a violation of Article 2.

There was a further violation of Article 2 on procedural grounds in that the investigation was ineffective. It had been pending for over six years and plagued by periods of inactivity, without producing any results.

The Court considered that four applicants, except the daughter of disappeared who was only three-months old at the time of happenings, had suffered and continued to suffer distress and anguish as a result of their relative’s disappearance, which constituted inhuman treatment in violation of Article 3.

There was also a violation of Article 5 as the applicants’ relative had been held in unacknowledged detention without any of the safeguards contained this article.

Lastly, the Court held that as the criminal investigation into the applicants’ relative’s disappearance had been ineffective and the effectiveness of any other remedy that may have existed, including civil remedies suggested by the Government, had consequently been undermined. There was a violation of Article 13 in conjunction with Article 2.

The Court awarded EUR 20,000 jointly to Bashir’s mother and father, EUR 5,000 to his brother, and EUR 35,000 to his wife and daughter in respect of non-pecuniary damages.