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

(Applications nos. 2297/15 and 21260/16)

JUDGMENT

STRASBOURG

14 January 2020

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

In the case of S.A. and Others v. 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 two applications (nos. 2297/15 and 21260/16) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by the eight Russian nationals listed below (“the applicants”), on 13 January 2015 and 12 April 2016 respectively.

  2. The applicants were represented by lawyers from the Stichting Russian Justice Initiative and Legal Assistance Organisation Astreya, NGOs operating in Moscow. 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. On 16 May 2018 notice of the applications was given to the Government. On 7 January 2020 Court decided to grant the applicants and their relatives referred to in this judgment anonymity and the case-files confidentiality under Rules 33 § 1 and 47 § 4 of the Rules of Court.

    THE FACTS

    1. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE

  4. The applicants in both applications live in the settlement of Rubezhnoye in the Naurskiy district of Chechnya. At the material time, the population of that settlement, situated about 90 km from Grozny, the Chechen capital, was about 2,500.

  5. On the night of 3 to 4 December 2014 members of illegal armed groups attacked a police station in Grozny, killing several police officers. As a result, the authorities carried out a large-scale counterterrorist operation and killed a number of the attackers (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Grozny_clashes, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30323751 and https://www.france24.com/en/20141204-islamist-rebels-deadly-attack-chechnya-grozny).

  6. In the aftermath of the attack, on 4 December 2014, Mr Ramzan Kadyrov, the President of the Chechen Republic, gave a statement saying that the families of the members of illegal armed groups would be expelled from Chechnya and their houses demolished.

    Abduction of the applicants’ relatives and subsequent events

  7. The applicants are:

  8. Ms S.A., who was born in 1953,

  9. Ms M.K., who was born in 1962,

  10. Ms L.I., who was born in 1990, and

  11. Ms I.L., who was born in 1992.

    The first applicant is the mother of Mr B.A., who was born in 1989, and the fourth applicant is his wife. The second applicant is the mother of Mr K.K. who was born in 1988, and the third applicant is his wife.

    Events of 4 to 6 December 2014 and the disappearance of the applicants’ relatives

  12. On 4 December 2014, shortly after the terrorist attack in Grozny, Mr B.A. and Mr K.K. were taken to the Naurskiy police station (ROVD) for an identity check and released.

  13. At about 7 p.m. on 5 December 2014 a local police officer arrived at one of the applicants’ houses and told Messrs B.A. and K.K. that they needed to accompany him to the police station in order to clarify some information.

  14. At about midnight Mr A.Az. (the first applicant’s husband and the father of Mr B.A.) telephoned the same police officer on the latter’s mobile telephone. The officer told him that his son and Mr K.K. would be released soon, on the order of a commanding officer who was due to arrive at the police station shortly. However, the applicants’ relatives did not return home.

  15. On 5 January 2015 officers from the ROVD arrived at the applicants’ houses and took the applicants to the police station. They informed them that on 6 December 2014 Messrs B.A. and K.K. had been released from the ROVD and had not been seen since. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

  16. The applicants are:

  17. Ms Z.I., who was born in 1958,

  18. Ms Y.S., who was born in 1961,

  19. Ms Z.S., who was born in 1967, and

  20. Ms T.Y., who was born in 1962.

    The first applicant is the mother of Mr L.U., who was born in 1991. The second applicant is the mother of Mr S.S., who was born in 1987. The third applicant is the mother of Mr R.A. and Mr A.A., who were born in 1986 and 1989 respectively. The fourth applicant is the mother of Mr Z.Y., who was born in 1983.

    Events of 3 to 6 December 2014 and the disappearance of the applicants’ relatives

  21. On the night of 3 to 4 December 2014, shortly after the terrorist attack in Grozny, police officers from the ROVD took the applicants’ relatives Messrs L.U., S.S., R.A., A.A. and Z.Y. to their police station for an identity check. After a short interview, they were released.

  22. On 5 December 2014 police officers from the Second Road Patrol Regiment (also known as the Kadyrov Regiment) arrived at the arrived at the third applicant’ s family home, searched it, and took R.A. and A.A. with them to the ROVD.

  23. On the morning of 5 December 2014 a police officer from the ROVD, Umar Ezh., arrived at the fourth applicant’s house and asked questions about Z.Y. Later that day, at about 6 p.m., Mr Z.Y. was taken to the ROVD for questioning.

  24. At about 6 a.m. on 6 December 2014 police officers from the ROVD arrived at the first applicant’s house and took L.U. to the police station for questioning. Later that day, Mr S.S. was also taken to the station for questioning.

  25. On 5 January 2015 the police summoned the applicants to the ROVD. They told them that their sons had been released immediately after their interviews on 5 and 6 December 2014 and had left the police station.

  26. The whereabouts of the applicants’ sons remain unknown.

  27. The applicants in both applications made joint efforts to persuade the authorities to investigate the disappearance of their relatives.

    (a) The applicants’ complaints

  28. On 12 January 2015 the fourth applicant in Z.I. and Others (no. 21260/16) complained to the Naurskiy district prosecutor that her son had been abducted by police officers on 5 December 2014, stating that he had gone missing along with other men after being taken to the police station. The wording in her complaint was similar to the applicants’ submissions to the Court.

  29. On 13 or 14 January 2015 the first two applicants in S.A. and Others (no. 2297/15) complained to the Chechnya Prosecutor about their sons’ disappearance after they had been taken to the police station. On 29 January 2015 that complaint was transferred to the Chechnya Investigative Committee.

  30. On 28 January 2015 the applicants complained to the Naurskiy district investigative committee and the Chechnya Investigative Committee about their relatives’ disappearance after they had been taken to the police station. The description in their complaint of the factual circumstances and events was similar to their submissions to the Court.

  31. On 29 January 2015 N.B., an investigator from the Naurskiy department of the Chechnya Investigative Committee, issued a “decision on transferring the crime report to the investigating body with jurisdiction” (постановление о передаче сообщения о преступлении по подследственности), which stated as follows:

    “... having examined the crime report [filed] under Article 105 of the Criminal Code [murder], which was received by the Naurskiy investigative department ... on 19 January 2015, it has been established that:

    On 19 January 2015 the Naurskiy investigative department received the inquiry file concerning the disappearance of Z.Y.

    The inquiry material shows that between 3 and 6 p.m. on 5 December 2014 Mr Z.Y. was taken away from his official place of residence by unidentified police officers from the Naurskiy ROVD ... and his whereabouts have not been established since.

    Also, in the same manner, on 5 December 2014 the following residents of Rubezhnoye were taken to the police station: Messrs B.A., K.K., R.A., A.A., L.U. and S.S., and their whereabouts remain unknown ...

    In connection with the above, the crime report should be transferred to the appropriate investigative [body with] jurisdiction  OVD no. 3 of the Chechnya Investigative Committee [ОВД-3 СУ СК РФ по Чеченской Республике]”.

  32. On 3 February 2015 the Chechnya Investigative Committee replied to the applicants’...

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