Isayeva, Yusupova and Bazayeva v Russia
Case Nos. 57947/00, 57948/00, 57949/00
Judgment date: 24 February 2005
The three applicants were part of a large convoy of vehicles that was trying to travel from Grozny to Ingushetia in October 1999 through a “humanitarian corridor”. It was supposedly arranged for civilians to escape from the fighting in Grozny. The road was blocked by the Russian military at the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia. After several hours it was announced that no passage would be permitted that day, and the convoy of vehicles began to grow. Shortly afterwards, two Russian military aircraft flew over the column and dropped bombs. As a result, two children of the first applicant were killed and the first and second applicants were injured. The third applicant’s car and possessions were destroyed.
On 3 May 2000 the military prosecutor of the Northern Caucasus military circuit opened a criminal investigation concerning the aerial bombardment of a refugee convoy. The investigation confirmed the fact of the bombardment, the deaths of the first applicant’s relatives and the wounding of the second applicant. It also identified two pilots who had fired at the convoy and the control tower operator who had given permission to use combat weapons. The investigation was however closed in September 2001 for lack of corpus delicti.
In considering Article 2, the Court noted that in the context of the conflict in Chechnya at the relevant time, the military had reasonably considered that there had been an attack or a risk of attack, and that the air strike had been a legitimate response to that. The Court however found that the attack had not been absolutely necessary. The authorities should have been aware of the announcement of a humanitarian corridor leaving Grozny and the presence of civilians in the area. It followed that, even assuming that the military had been pursuing a legitimate aim, the operation had not been planned and executed with the requisite care for the lives of the civilians. It found a violation of Article 2 in that the State had failed to protect the right to life of the three applicants and the two children of the first applicant.
The Court found a further violation of Article 2 in that the criminal investigation into the attack was not effective and was plagued with a number of shortcomings. The investigation had not taken sufficient steps to identify other victims and possible witnesses of the attack. There had also been a considerable delay before the applicants were questioned and granted victim status in the proceedings.
In respect to the third applicant whose family vehicles and household items had been destructed as a result of the aerial attack, the Court found grave and unjustified interference with her peaceful enjoyment of her possessions in violation of Article 1 of Protocol 1.
Lastly, the Court found a violation of Article 13 in that the criminal investigation had been ineffective, lacked sufficient objectivity and thoroughness, and no other effective remedy was available to the applicants.
The Court awarded EUR 25,000 to the first applicant, EUR 15,000 to the second applicant and EUR 5,000 to the third applicant in respect of non-pecuniary damages, as well as EUR 12,000 to the third applicant in respect of pecuniary damages.