Alikhadzhiyeva v Russia
Case No. 68007/01
Judgment date: 5 July 2007
This case concerns the “disappearance” of Ruslan Alikhadzhiyev, the former Speaker of the Chechen Parliament. The case was brought to the European Court by his mother. On 17 May 2000 a large group of armed men in camouflage with armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and UAZ four-wheel drive vehicles surrounded their house, with two helicopters hovering overhead. Ms Alikhadzhiyeva’s son was arrested, without any reasons given or documents shown to explain the arrest. Five other men living in the neighbourhood were also detained. They, along with the applicant’s son, were blindfolded, placed in APCs and taken to a nearby location, which is where they saw Mr Alikhadzhiyev for the last time. Various official press statements confirmed that Mr Alikhadzhiev had been captured by security forces and in September 2000 the Deputy Prosecutor General stated that Mr Alikhadzhiyev had been kidnapped by an unknown armed group and he had been killed in August 2000.
A criminal investigation into the kidnapping of the applicant’s son was opened in July 2000, and was later suspended and reopened on various occasions. The applicant was given victim status in the proceedings in March 2001 and together with Mr Alikhadzhiyev’s family actively searched for him. They applied to relevant official and administrative bodies, bringing his disappearance to the attention of the media and public figures and visiting various detention centres. His name was never found in any records. The official investigation did not establish his whereabouts, nor find the perpetrators.
The Court found a violation of Article 2, both substantially and procedurally. Noting the manner in which Mr Alikhadzhiyev was arrested, the fact that state investigators accepted the involvement of law-enforcement bodies in his detention, and the absence of any news from him for over six years, the Court established that he must be presumed dead following his unacknowledged detention by State servicemen.
On the procedural aspect, the Court noted that the investigation into the circumstances of applicant’s son’s detention was not effective. It was not opened immediately following his arrest, there were “inexplicable delays in performing the most essential tasks”, certain important investigative measures were not taken, and the case was adjourned and reopened many times without any progress update provided to the applicant.
The manner in which the applicant’s complaints had been dealt with by the authorities, coupled with her suffering as a result of her son’s disappearance, constituted inhuman treatment contrary to Article 3.
Holding the applicant’s son in unacknowledged detention without any of the safeguards of Article 5 constituted “a particularly grave violation of the right to liberty and security”.
The State also failed in its obligations under Article 13 (the right to an effective remedy) in conjunction with Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention.
The applicant was awarded EUR 40,000 in non-pecuniary damages.
The applicant had contended that her son had been subjected to ill-treatment in violation of Article 3, in view of the known circumstances of his arrest, and that the authorities’ failure to effectively investigate this complaint. The Court, however, considered that the witness statements produced by the applicant did not contain sufficient evidence to find beyond all reasonable doubt that her son had been subjected to ill-treatment following his arrest and did not find a violation of Article 3. In contrast with many other similar cases considered by the Court, the State was provided relevant information and documentation to enable the Court to reach its decision, thus there was no violation of Article 38 (1)(a).