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Court Censures Russia Over Chechnyan Deaths

  • July 31st, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

chechnya-map.gifVictims of war in Chechnya: a man who saw seven members of his family killed; another whose brother and sister were killed on that day, and his wife who was forced to plead for her own life, are among five Russian nationals awarded damages by the European Court of Human Rights — resulting from a military outrage in 2000.


The five applicants to the Court in Strasbourg, now aged 50-67, were relatives of people killed in an attack by Russian special police, the OMON, on homes in Novye Aldy and Chernorechye in the suburbs of the capital city Grozny.

The Court found that “the killings had been committed in broad daylight and a large numbers of witnesses … had seen the perpetrators” but that the authorities had “failed to carry out an effective criminal investigation”.

The Court was told that houses were burned, there was looting by the paramilitary police, and 56 civilians killed in the operation on 5.2.00.

It accepted that a criminal investigation was opened, but that the police detachments involved were never identified, nobody was charged with any crime, and the investigations were adjourned and restarted on several occasions – from March 2000 to December 2005 when the case was taken up at Strasbourg.


Seven judges sat on the case and determined that there had been four serious violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.

They ordered that Russia should pay damages of $US200 000 (A$232 400;, 31.7.07) to the families of eleven people killed in 2000, named in the case brought by their relatives.

The judgment condemned what had been done in strong terms, and an extract is given below.

The Court is an institution of the Council of Europe, an organisation of 47 European states based at Strasbourg which concentrates activities on the fostering and protection of human rights.

While the Council of Europe has limited coercive power over national governments, e.g. to enforce payments ordered by the Court of Human Rights, the Russian Federation has been a member signed up to abide by its treaty standards and practices since 1996.

Leaders in the Russian government have from time to time objected to the findings of the Court claiming bias.


The Moscow government sent forces into Chechnya – a republic within the Russian federation – to crush an independence movement in 1994. There was a second intervention commenced in 1999, following a period of terrorism and other criminal activity, in Chechnya and in other parts of the Russian Federation, associated with, and blamed on the independence movement.


“On the basis of the material in its possession, the Court found it established that the applicants’ relatives had been killed by servicemen and that their deaths could thus be attributed to the State. No explanation had been forthcoming from the Russian Government as to the circumstances of the deaths, nor had any ground of justification been relied on by them in respect of the use of lethal force by their agents. It was thus irrelevant whether the killings had occurred “with the knowledge or on the orders” of the federal authorities. Liability for the applicants’ relatives’ deaths was therefore attributable to the Russian State and there had been a violation of Article 2 in respect of the applicants’ 11 relatives killed on 5 February 2000 …”

The Court observed that the investigation had not started until one month after the killings, an “unacceptable delay”, and said it was “struck by a series of unexplained delays and failures to act” after the investigations did begin; it continued:

“The investigation body had been faced with a task that could by no means be considered impossible. The killings had been committed in broad daylight and a large number of witnesses, including some of the applicants, had seen the perpetrators face to face. Their detailed accounts of the events had been made public by various sources. The relatives of the victims had demonstrated their willingness to cooperate with the authorities by allowing the exhumation and forensic analysis of the bodies and by forming an action group to coordinate their efforts.

“The injuries and the circumstances of the victims’ deaths had been established with a sufficient degree of certainty. Numerous bullets and cartridges had been collected, some of them being suitable for identifying individual guns and even bearing serial numbers that allowed the origin of their production to be traced. Information about the alleged involvement of particular military units had been available to the prosecuting authorities no later than one month after the incident. Despite all that, and notwithstanding the domestic and international public outcry caused by the cold-blooded execution of more than 50 civilians, almost six years after the tragic events in Novye Aldy no meaningful result whatsoever had been achieved in the task of identifying and prosecuting the individuals who had committed the crimes. In the Court’s view, the astonishing ineffectiveness of the prosecuting authorities in this case could only be qualified as acquiescence in the events.

“The Court accordingly found that the authorities had failed to carry out an effective criminal investigation into the murders of the applicants’ eleven relatives …”.


European Court of Human Rights, Chamber Judgment: Musayev and Others versus Russia. (31.7.07)

Council of Europe. (31.7.07)

BBC, Regions and territories: Chechnya. (31.7.07)

International Herald Tribune, “European court assails Russia over killings in Chechnya”, Paris, 26.7.07.

Picture: Map, Chechnya in the Black Sea region, BBC