The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday found Russian authorities responsible for the presumed killing of a former speaker of the Chechen parliament in 2000, and ordered Moscow to pay his mother €40,000 (US$54,472) in damages.
In another in a long series of rulings against Russia in cases concerning the Chechen wars, the court also found the Russian agents and government violated Europe's human rights convention on four other counts, including the failure to properly investigate the kidnapping and presumed death of Ruslan Alikhadzhiyev, speaker of Chechnya's parliament from 1997-99. The convention is legally binding on all 47 members of the Council of Europe, including Russia.
Alikhadzhiyev was arrested in his house in Shali, Chechnya, by a large group of camouflaged, armed men on May 17, 2000, in an operation supported by four four-wheel drive vehicles and two helicopters. Five other people were detained in the high-profile sweep against separatists.
Alikhadzhiyev, who had four small children, was blindfolded and taken to a nearby location, which is where he was last seen, the court said. No one has been charged with any crime, even though Alikhadzhiyev never reappeared, it said.
"The Court considered it had been established beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Alikhadzhiyev was presumed dead following his detention by state servicemen," the court said, adding that the state did not submit any plausible explanation as to what had happened to him and that "his death could be attributed to the state."
Alikhadzhiyev led the Chechen parliament under Aslan Maskhadov, the separatist leader who was president of the region during its period of de-facto independence in the mid-1990s. Maskhadov was killed in 2005.
Russia has three months to appeal. Dozens of similar cases are pending before the Strasbourg court. Moscow has been ordered by the Strasbourg court to pay hundreds of thousands of euros to victims of the Chechen wars.
Chechnya has been torn by two wars pitting Russian forces and their local allies against the rebels. A Moscow-backed government is in power and large-scale battles are now infrequent, but fighting persists.
An estimated 100,000 civilians, soldiers and insurgents have died in Chechnya since 1994. Human rights groups have also reported mass disappearances, blaming them on pro-Moscow Chechen security forces and Russian troops.