Case No. 7964/07
Judgment date: 24 May 2011
The applicants’ son was abducted and killed by Russian servicemen during unacknowledged security operations in March 2003 in the Chechen Republic.
At about 2 a.m. on 10 March 2003 around 10 men in camouflage uniforms burst into their home in which they lived together with their son. All of the intruders wore masks, were armed with sub-machine guns and spoke Russian without an accent. Both applicants were threatened and ordered not to moved, while the armed men went into their son’s room. It was only after the armed men had left that the applicants realised they had taken their son with them. There has been no news of their son since that night.
Immediately after the incident, the applicants alerted the police to their son’s abduction. They also complained in writing to various other authorities. An investigation was opened on 20 March 2003, following which a number of witnesses were interviewed. The investigation was suspended and reopened several times, and the applicants were not informed of its progress. The applicants complained, unsuccessfully, in court that the investigation had been ineffective. As a result of another complaint, the courts granted them access to the case file.
The Court found that the applicants had made consistent claims about son’s detention. A group of armed men in camouflage uniforms had been able to pass freely through different check-points during curfew hours. All the evidence suggested that the abductors had been State agents who had arrested the applicants’ son during unacknowledged security operations. Drawing inferences from the Government’s failure to submit all the requested documents related to the investigation or to provide any other plausible explanation for the disappearance of the applicants’ son, the Court considered that he had to be presumed dead following his unacknowledged detention by State agents. The Court concluded that there was a violation of Article 2.
The Court found a further violation of Article 2 on procedural grounds, in that the investigation into the applicants’ son’s disappearance had been launched only some 10 days after the events and was plagued by inexplicable delays in taking the most essential steps.
As to the applicants themselves, the Court found they had suffered distress and anguish as a result of their son’s disappearance and their inability to find out what had happened to him, constituting inhuman treatment, in violation of Article 3.
The Court also held that applicants’ son 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 enshrined in that provision.
The fact that the criminal investigation into the disappearance of applicants’ son had been ineffective and the effectiveness of any other remedy that might have existed had consequently been undermined gave rise to violation of Article 13 in conjunction with Article 2.
The applicants were awarded EUR 60,000 in non-pecuniary damages.