European Court: State abduction of Abdurakhman Abdurakhmanov in Dagestan violated right to life

22 September 2015

Today the European Court of Human Rights issued a judgment in a case concerning the abduction and disappearance of Abdurakhman Abdurakhmanov in Dagestan in June 2010. The Court found violations of the right to life, prohibition of torture, the right to liberty and security and the right to effective remedy. The applicants in this case were Abdurakhman’s mother, Azha Abdurakhmanova, and wife, Sabina Abdulgamidova; they were represented by Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow) and the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), based at Middlesex University in London.

Abdurakhman travelled from Moscow to visit his sister in Kaspiysk (Dagestan) with his wife on 24 June 2010. The next day, seven men – some of whom were masked – arrived at his sister’s home, identifying themselves as police officers. According to witness statements, they shot Abdurakhman in the feet, before knocking him down, dragging him to their car and driving off. There has been no news of his whereabouts since. Shortly afterwards, several uniformed and plain-clothed police officers arrived, collecting the spent cartridges and giving no explanation for their presence.

On the same evening, Ms. Abdurakhmanova was visited at her home in Makhachkala (capital of Dagestan) by five officers from the local Department of the Interior, who showed her an arrest warrant for her son, supposedly signed by a Federal Security Service (FSB) investigator. The warrant stated that Abdurakhman was suspected, amongst other things, of involvement in terrorist activities. An hour later, Ms. Abdurakhmanova received a phone call from Ms. Abdulgamidova, informing her of her son’s abduction.

Though the applicants filed several complaints and requests for information with the offices of various State bodies, both local and national, no meaningful investigation took place. In their European Court application, they complained that Abdurakhman’s arrest, disappearance and the absence of any news from him since confirm that he was killed by State agents in violation of the right to life (Art. 2 ECHR). Moreover, the authorities’ failure to conduct a timely and thorough investigation into his disappearance violated the procedural limb of the right to life. They alleged that Russia did not comply with its positive obligation to protect Abdurakhman’s life; the applicants also complained under Art. 13 that they had no effective remedy in respect of these Art. 2 violations. They further argued that his abduction and assumed detention violated the right to liberty and security (Art. 5) as a whole. Finally the applicants claimed that the anguish and distress caused by Abdurakhman’s disappearance amounted to inhuman treatment under Art. 3. The Court found:

“[t]he essence of such a violation does not lie mainly in the fact of the “disappearance” of the family member, but rather concerns the authorities’ reactions and attitudes to the situation when it is brought to their attention.”

Ms. Abdurakhmanova and Ms. Abdulgamidova were awarded €60,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

The case is yet another example of State servicemen’s impunity in cases of arbitrary arrest and abductions, so prevalent in the Northern Caucasus. The European Court’s judgment contributes to the growing body of case law challenging Russia to give families access to justice and redress, and to ensure that such practices do not occur again.

Prof. Philip Leach, EHRAC Director