Case No. 7654/02
Judgment date: 12 February 2009
Due to the hostilities in the winter of 1999/2000 in Chechnya, the applicant and most of his family had left their home in Grozny; his son, however, had stayed behind to guard the house and the property.
On 19 January 2000 a group of uniformed armed men arrived on the applicant’s street. Eyewitnesses maintained that they were servicemen. After inspecting their documents, they drove the applicant’s son and two other men, brothers, away in a truck. Later the armed men returned, destroying the applicant’s home and vehicles with a flamethrower. The brothers were subsequently released, reporting that they had been detained by police special forces. Despite extensive searches and numerous enquiries to the authorities, the applicant’s son was not found and has not been seen since. The applicant died in 2003, and his wife continued pursuing the application to the European Court on his behalf.
The Court firstly established that the unacknowledged detention and disappearance of applicant’s son was attributable to State agents. Considering the absence of the applicant’s son or any news of him for over seven years, and in the absence of any plausible explanation on the part of the Government as to whereabouts and circumstances of applicant’s son’s death, the Court found violation of Article 2.
It further found that the authorities failed to carry out a thorough and effective investigation into the circumstances surrounding the applicant’s son’s disappearance in violation of the procedural aspect of Article 2. The Court took note of the four month delay in opening the investigation, the general lack of due diligence, and several procedural shortcomings throughout the investigation.
The Court further found that applicants’ relative was held in unacknowledged detention without any of the safeguards, amounting to a particularly grave violation of Article 5 of the Convention.
The Court also held that the applicant did not have an effective remedy in relation to her son’s disappearance and destruction of property and found violations of Article 13 in conjunction with Article 2 and Article 1 Protocol 1.
As to Article 1 of Protocol 1 itself, the Court observed that although the Government denied responsibility for the alleged violations of the applicant’s property rights, they conceded that the men who had abducted applicant’s son had also damaged the applicant’s property. Having established that the abduction was carried out by State authorities, the Court found a violation of Article 1 of Protocol 1.
The applicant was granted EUR 35,000 in respect of pecuniary damages, and similarly EUR 35,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damages.