Pitsayeva and Others v Russia
Case No. 53036/08 et al
Judgment date: 9 January 2014
These 20 cases relate to complaints made by the relatives of 36 individuals who disappeared in the Chechen Republic between 2000 and 2006. EHRAC and Memorial acted for the relatives of three of the disappeared persons: Buvaysar Magomadov, Mikhail Borchashvili and Aslan Yusupov.
The applicants claimed that their relatives had been abducted by State servicemen and that the authorities had failed to conduct effective investigations into the matters, constituting violations of the right to life under Article 2 of the European Convention. In addition, they complained that the mental suffering caused to them by the disappearance of their relatives, the unlawfulness of their relatives’ detention, and the unavailability of domestic remedies for these violations, breached Articles 3, 5 and 13 of the Convention, respectively.
The Court found violations of the right to life in each case on the basis that the applicants’ relatives could be presumed dead following their unacknowledged detention by State agents and, in the absence of any justification put forward by the Russian Government, these deaths were to be attributed to the State. Crucial to this finding was the Court’s conclusion drawn from the evidence in the case – namely, that the abductors were “armed men in uniforms displaying behaviour characteristic of security operations.” This evidence led it to conclude that “in all probability” the abductors were indeed State servicemen which had had exclusive control over the detainees. This evidence was supported by witness statements, the findings of domestic investigations and the applicants’ consistent submissions before the domestic authorities.
The Court also found violations of the right to life on account of the authorities’ failure to carry out effective investigations into the deaths. Noting the similarity of the facts of this case with other similar cases brought before it, the Court noted that the investigations had been pending for many years without any significant developments – a problem which it described as ‘systemic’ in Russia.
The Court further found the “distress and anguish” suffered by the applicants from being unable to determine the fate of their family members and from the way their complaints had been dealt with by the authorities, amounted to violation of Article 3.
In addition, the finding that the applicants’ relatives had been detained by State agents without any legal grounds or acknowledgement of such detention constituted a “particularly grave violation” of the right to liberty and security of persons under Article 5.
Finally, the Court found violations of Article 13 in conjunction with Articles 2 and 3 on account of the violations of the applicants’ rights to an effective remedy.
The Court awarded the applicants a total of over two million Euros in damages, costs and expenses.