Mezhidov v Russia
Case No. 67326/01
Judgment date: 25 September 2008
On 5 October 1999, the applicant’s family were killed when their village came under the fire from a mountain range where Russian troops were stationed as part of a counter-terrorism operation. The Government argued that the applicant’s family had been killed by an attack carried out by unidentified men.
An investigation into the deaths was launched on 17 November 1999. The death certificates, issued on 24 November 1999, stated that the applicant’s family had died of “multiple shrapnel wounds”. No autopsies were carried out. Between 2000 and 2007 the investigation was suspended and reopened on several occasions, with the longest period of inactivity being between April 2001 and January 2005.
The Court found a violation of Article 2 largely based upon an expert report which concluded that the weaponry used in the attack were such as to have been in the exclusive possession of the Government.
In spite of the fact that some degree of investigation had been carried out in this case the Court held that there was nonetheless a breach of the procedural limb of Article 2 on the account of inexplicable shortcomings and considerable periods of inactivity.
The Court also held that the applicant was not afforded any effective remedies under national law for the breach of Article 2, on the basis that an effective investigation was not carried out and the effectiveness of any other remedy which may have existed, including civil remedies, was consequently undermined. The absence of such remedies violated Article 13 in conjunction with Article 2.
Lastly, Russia was found to be in violation of Article 38(1)(a), as it had failed to provide the Court important documents relating to the domestic investigation.
The applicant was awarded EUR 100,000 in non-pecuniary damages.