Thursday, July 27, 2006

Russia Guilty in ECHR Case

Something of a breakthrough appears to have been achieved at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Russia has been found to be responsible for the disappearance and presumed death of a Chechen man, Khadzhi-Murat Yandiyev, in a case brought by his mother, Fatima Bazorkina. The Russian state's guilt has been established. From the ruling:

The presumed death of Mr Yandiyev

The Court recalled that detained persons were in a vulnerable position and that the authorities were under a duty to protect them. The obligation on the authorities to account for the treatment of a detained individual was particularly stringent where that individual died or disappeared after being taken into police custody.

The Court observed that it was undisputed that Mr Yandiyev was detained during a counter-terrorist operation in the village of Alkhan-Kala on 2 February 2000. It further took into account the videotape and numerous witness statements contained in the criminal investigation file confirming that he was interrogated by a senior military officer who, at the end of the interrogation, said that he should be executed. It finally noted that there had been no reliable news of the applicant’s son since that date.

In the absence of any plausible explanation submitted by the Russian Government, and taking into account that no information has come to light concerning his whereabouts for more than six years, the Court was satisfied that Mr Yandiyev had to be presumed dead following unacknowledged detention. Noting that the authorities did not rely on any ground of justification in respect of use of lethal force by their agents, it followed that liability is attributable to the Russian Government. Accordingly, the Court found that there had been a violation of Article 2.
The judgment sets an important precedent, as more than 200 cases of grave human rights abuses committed by Russian forces in Chechnya are currently under consideration by the court.
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