Khalitova v Russia
Case No. 39166/04
Judgment date: 5 March 2009
On 11 September, 2000 the applicant’s husband was killed when a number of armed men in two armoured personnel carriers opened fire across agricultural fields near the village of Goyskoye, Chechnya. Eye witnesses identified the armed men as Russian servicemen. According to the Government, the Prosecutor’s office issued criminal proceedings on 12 September 2000 and also inspected the scene where they found blood stains, traces of bodily matter as well as numerous bullet casings on both sides of the river and tyre tracks.
On 1 October 2003 the Prosecutor’s office suspended the investigation stating that the perpetrators could not be established. The applicant was not informed of this decision. The investigation was later reopened and suspended several times. The applicant was granted victim status on 26 February 2004, yet was refused the permission to access the case file. Her appeal went through all judicial instances and was rejected by all.
In consideration of Article 2, the Court accepted the applicant’s arguments highlighting a number of key facts that indicated responsibility of State agents in her husband’s killing. The Court considered that “in a situation where a group of armed men was able to move freely in heavy military vehicles, and to open heavy fire in broad daylight within a territory which was under the control of the federal forces, and, in particular, in the close proximity of a federal military unit, the Court cannot but reach the conclusion that those men were State agents.” In the absence of any plausible explanation from the Government, the Court held that there was a violation of Article 2.
Additionally, the Court held that the investigation into the applicant’s husband’s death was ineffective in violation of the procedural limb of Article 2. Particularly, the fact that no meaningful efforts were made to establish the possible involvement of federal military personnel despite the strong evidence, and the period of over three years before the applicant was granted a victim status were not compatible with procedural guarantees of Article 2.
The Court also found a violation of Article 13 in conjunction with Article 2 in that the criminal investigation into the applicant’s husband’s death was ineffective and the effectiveness of any other remedy that may have existed, including the civil remedies, was undermined.
The applicant was awarded EUR 35,000 in non-pecuniary damages.