Case Nos. 12713/02 and 28440/03
Judgment date: 2 October 2008
The applicants are mothers of two teenage boys who disappeared in June 2000. The applicants’ sons were friends, they had left to spend the night at a friend’s house on 28 June and were never seen since. Following their enquiries in the morning of 29 June 2000 the applicants were told by a group of servicemen that they had detained their sons and sent them to Khankala, the main Russian military base in Chechnya. Immediately after this news, the applicants and other members of their families started to search for them. On numerous occasions, both in person and in writing, they applied to the prosecutors at various levels, military commanders, the administrative authorities, the media and public figures. The applicants personally visited detention centres, police stations, military bases and prisons in Chechnya as well as further afield in the north Caucasian area. In August 2000 a criminal investigation was opened into the disappearance of the applicants’ sons on the night of 28- 29 June 2000, however no tangible results were produced and no perpetrators identified.
In consideration of Article 2 and in particular the State authorities’ involvement in the disappearance of the applicants’ sons, the Court took note of the information filed in official report by the commander of the Pskov special police forces (OMON). The report gave a detailed description of a special operation carried out the night the applicants’ sons had disappeared in the street where they were heading, and the arrest of three young men of Chechen origin and aged between 15 and 20. The Court established that two of the young men were to be applicants’ sons. There had been no reliable news of the teenagers since their disappearances and the Russian Government had not submitted any further explanations. In the context of the conflict in Chechnya, the absence of the applicants’ sons or any news of them for seven years, the Court found that the teenagers had to be presumed dead following their unacknowledged detention by Russian servicemen. Noting that the authorities had not justified the use of lethal force by their agents, the Court concluded that there was a violation of Article 2.
The Court also held that there was a further violation of Article 2 concerning the Russian authorities’ failure to carry out an effective criminal investigation into the circumstances in which the applicants’ sons had disappeared.
Furthermore, the Court noted that the applicants had suffered, and continue to suffer, distress and anguish as a result of the disappearance of their relatives and their inability to find out what had happened to them. In addition, manner in which their complaints had been dealt with by the authorities constituted inhuman treatment, in violation of Article 3.
The Court also found that the applicants’ sons had been held in unacknowledged detention without any of the safeguards contained in Article 5, which constituted a particularly grave violation of the right to liberty and security of a person.
Given the inefficiency and inadequacy of the investigation into the disappearances of applicants’ sons, and lack of any effective remedies, the Court held that there had been a violation of Article 13 in respect of the alleged violation of Article 2.
Finally, the Court held that there had been a failure to comply with Article 38(1)(a) in that the Government had refused to submit documents requested by the Court.
Each applicant was awarded EUR 35,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damages.