Case of European Court of Human Rights, January 14, 2020 (case IZHAYEVA AND OTHERS v. RUSSIA)

Defense:RUSSIA
Resolution Date:January 14, 2020
SUMMARY

Violation of Article 2 - Right to life (Article 2-1 - Life) (Substantive aspect);Violation of Article 2 - Right to life (Article 2-1 - Effective investigation) (Procedural aspect);Violation of Article 3 - Prohibition of torture (Article 3 - Inhuman treatment) (Substantive aspect);Violation of Article 5 - Right to liberty and security (Article 5-1 - Lawful arrest or detention);Violation of Article ... (see full summary)

 
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THIRD SECTION

CASE OF IZHAYEVA AND OTHERS v. RUSSIA

(Applications nos. 53074/12 and 4 others ‑ see list appended)

JUDGMENT

STRASBOURG

14 January 2020

This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Izhayeva and Othersv. Russia,

The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:

Alena Poláčková, President,Dmitry Dedov,Gilberto Felici, judges,and Stephen Phillips, Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 3 December 2019,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

PROCEDURE

  1. The case originated in five applications against Russia lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) on the various dates indicated in the appended table. The application numbers and the applicants’ personal details are also listed in the appended table.

  2. The applicants were represented by the NGOs indicated in the appended table. The Russian Government (“the Government”) were represented initially by Mr G. Matyushkin, Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Court of Human Rights, and then by his successor in that office, Mr M. Galperin.

  3. The Government did not object to the examination of the applications by a Committee.

    THE FACTS

  4. The applicants are Russian nationals who, at the material time, lived in Chechnya and other regions of the Northern Caucasus. They are close relatives of individuals who disappeared after allegedly being unlawfully detained by servicemen during special operations. The applicants have not seen their missing relatives since the alleged arrests. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

  5. The applicants reported the abductions to law‑enforcement bodies, and official investigations were opened. The proceedings were ongoing for several years without any tangible results being achieved. The perpetrators have not been identified by the investigating bodies. It appears that all of the investigations are still ongoing.

  6. Summaries of the facts in respect of each application are set out below. Each account is based on statements provided by the applicants and their relatives and/or other witnesses to both the Court and the domestic investigating authorities.

  7. The applicant is the mother of Mr Arsen Izhayev, who was born in 1980.

  8. At around 3 a.m. on 6 June 2007 about seven to eight armed men in camouflage uniforms in a GAZelle minivan with registration plates no. A783AP 95 and a VAZ-2110 Lada car arrived at the address of the applicant’s neighbour in Grozny. The neighbour, Mr A. Dzh, had previously been convicted of organising an illegal armed group, and his mother (Ms A.T.), brother (Mr U.D.), and sister (Ms M.D.) were at home. The armed men seized Mr A. Dzh., blindfolded him, put him in the minivan and drove away.

  9. When the armed men were leaving the place of the incident, Mr U.D. asked them who they were. They identified themselves as servicemen from the “oil regiment” (нефтеполк).

  10. Shortly thereafter the same group of men arrived at the applicant’s house, broke in, took Mr Arsen Izhayev and forced him into the Gazel minivan; they put him next to Mr A. Dzh.

  11. Both men were then taken to an unknown location, about thirty to forty minutes’ drive away. The vehicle moved at high speed and did not make any stops. Upon arriving at that location, Mr A. Dzh. and Mr Arsen Izhayev were placed in two separate cells.

  12. According to Mr A. Dzh. (see paragraph 21 below), the abductors ill-treated him to extract information about followers of a radical religious movement (the Wahhabis) and illegal possession of weapons. He denied having that information. After the interrogation, the armed men told him that he was not guilty, blindfolded him, put him in a vehicle, drove him to Grozny and released him.

  13. On 6 June 2007 the applicant complained of the abduction to the Leninskiy district police (“the Leninskiy ROVD”) in Grozny.

  14. On the same date, 6 June 2007, the police examined the crime scene. No evidence was collected.

  15. On 7 June 2007 the applicant complained of the abduction to the Chechnya prosecutor’s office. It appears that the complaint was immediately forwarded to the Leninskiy district prosecutor’s office in Grozny. On the same day the district prosecutor’s office asked several prosecutors’ offices in Chechnya and the Federal Security Service (FSB) headquarters in Grozny to inform it whether Mr Arsen Izhayev had been arrested by them. The agencies replied that they had no such information.

  16. On 15 June 2007 the Leninskiy district prosecutor’s office in Grozny opened criminal case no. 10067 under Article 126 of the Criminal Code (“the CC”) (abduction).

  17. On 19 June 2007 the investigators requested information from the Chechnya traffic police on the owners of cars with the registration plates nos. A783AP 95 and A738AP 95. On 18 July 2007 the traffic police replied that the registration plates had been assigned to two white UAZ vehicles. The first vehicle belonged to FSB military unit no. 78576 stationed in Grozny, and the second vehicle belonged to hospital no. 5 in Grozny.

  18. On 25 June 2007 the applicant was granted victim status in the criminal case and questioned. She stated that her son had been taken away by armed men in camouflage uniforms, together with Mr A. Dzh., and that she did not know why he had been abducted.

  19. Between 20 July and 5 September 2007 the investigators questioned Mr A. Dzh.’s mother (Ms A.V.), his two brothers (Mr U.D. and Mr Kh.V.) and his sister (Ms M.D.). They stated that he had been arrested by armed men in camouflage uniforms. The same group of men had also arrested Mr Arsen Izhayev. Later the abductors had realised that Mr A. Dzh. had been detained by mistake and had released him. In his statement of 5 September 2007 Mr U.D. added that the perpetrators had identified themselves as servicemen from the “oil regiment”.

  20. In the meantime, on various dates in June and July 2007 the investigators had asked detention facilities in Chechnya and neighbouring regions to inform them of Mr Arsen Izhayev’s possible detention on their premises. The replies received stated that those facilities had no such information.

  21. On 15 August 2007 the investigators questioned Mr A. Dzh. His statement is described in paragraph 12 above. On the same day he was granted victim status in the criminal case.

  22. On 15 September 2007 the investigation was suspended for failure to identify the perpetrators.

  23. On 19 September 2007 the head of the Leninskiy inter-district investigative committee (“the supervising authority”) overruled the above decision as ill-founded, in particular because the investigators had failed to follow up on the information about the registered owners of the vehicles used by the perpetrators. On the same day the investigation was resumed.

  24. Having sent several requests to law-enforcement authorities, the investigators again suspended the proceedings on 19 October 2007.

  25. On 29 October 2007 the applicant asked the military prosecutor’s office of the United Group Alignment (UGA) to take measures to establish her son’s whereabouts. On 30 October 2007 the request was forwarded to the military prosecutor’s office of military unit no. 20102, which on 25 November 2007 replied to the applicant saying that it did not have information concerning her son’s whereabouts.

  26. On 30 October 2007 the supervising authority criticised the decision to suspend the investigation taken on 19 October 2007. It noted that the investigators had failed: to establish whether Mr Arsen Izhayev had been convicted; to dissimilate information about his abduction in the mass media; and to question his colleagues about his personality and any possible conflicts. On the same day the investigation was resumed.

  27. On 28 November 2007 the investigators questioned the driver of the UAZ car belonging to hospital no. 5 in Grozny. He submitted that the vehicle had been allocated to the hospital by the Chechen Ministry of Healthcare.

  28. On 30 November 2007 the investigators suspended the proceedings.

  29. On 19 December 2007 the above decision was overruled by the supervising authority as ill-founded, and the proceedings were resumed. The investigators were ordered to rectify the shortcomings identified by the decision of 30 October 2007.

  30. Between 24 December 2007 and 19 January 2008 the investigators questioned Mr Arsen Izhayev’s acquaintances and neighbours. They did not have any relevant information about the event which was being investigated.

  31. On 20 January 2008 the investigators suspended the proceedings.

  32. On 1 March 2008 the supervising authority overruled the suspension order as ill-founded, specifically because the investigators had failed: to follow up on the statement by Mr U.D., who had noted that the perpetrators had identified themselves as servicemen of the “oil regiment”; to establish what the perpetrators had looked like; to investigate what had happened to the perpetrators’ vehicle, which had been assigned to the FSB unit; to obtain a copy of Mr A. Dzh.’s criminal sentence for his previous conviction; and to undertake other important investigative measures.

  33. On 19 March 2008 the investigators questioned the applicant. She confirmed her previous statement, adding that the perpetrators had spoken Chechen. She did not think that she could identify them.

  34. On 20 March 2008 the applicant asked the investigators to allow her to review the case file. Her request was dismissed on 27 March 2008. Subsequently, the applicant successfully challenged that decision in court (see paragraph 42 below).

  35. On 4 April 2008 the investigators suspended the criminal proceedings.

  36. On 7 July 2008 the supervising authority overruled that decision and resumed the criminal proceedings. The investigators were ordered: to obtain information about the perpetrators’ vehicles from traffic police checkpoints; to obtain information about Mr...

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