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Friday, July 28, 2006

The Verdict is In: European Court for Human Rights finds Russia . . . GUILTY!

The Beeb reports that Russia has been caught red-handed in massive and outrageous human rights abuses and war crimes in Chechnya, been tried and convicted before the European Court of Human Rights. The question now is, will Russia respect the law or flout it? Actually, that's a rhetorical question, since we all know perfectly well what Russia will do.

The European Court of Human Rights has held Russia responsible for the disappearance and presumed death of a Chechen man, in a landmark ruling.

Khadzhi-Murat Yandiyev, 25, disappeared after being detained by Russian troops in Chechnya in 1999.

The case was brought by his mother, Fatima Bazorkina, after she saw TV footage in 2000 in which a Russian officer ordered her son to be shot.

Mrs Bazorkina sued Russia for failing to adequately investigate the case.

Russia had argued that there was no formal order to execute Mr Yandiyev and no hard evidence that he was dead.

But the judges said it had to be presumed that he was dead and they held Russia liable for his death.

This is the first such case the court is hearing from the Chechen conflict. It could set an important precedent for the 200 or so other similar claims which are waiting to be heard, the BBC's Emma Simpson in Moscow says.

The ruling was posted on the Strasbourg-based court's official website.

It said that a chamber of seven judges in the case Bazorkina v Russia unanimously held that:

  • there had been a violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of Mr Yandiyev's disappearance

  • there had been a violation of Article 2 of the Convention in respect of the failure to conduct an effective investigation into the circumstances in which Mr Yandiyev disappeared

  • there had been no violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) in respect of the failure to protect Mr Yandiyev from ill-treatment

  • there had been a violation of Article 3 in respect of Mrs Bazorkina

  • there had been a violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security) with regard to Mr Yandiyev's detention

  • there had been a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) in respect of the violations of Mrs Bazorkina's rights under Articles 2 and 3

The court awarded Mrs Bazorkina 35,000 euros (£24,000) in damages and 12,241 euros (£8,400) for costs and expenses.

The ruling did not specify who would pay the damages and costs to the applicant.

Caught on camera

Khadzhi-Murat Yandiyev was arrested during the military campaign to regain control of the Chechen capital Grozny in 1999. He had returned from Moscow, where he had been studying sociology.

His mother, Fatima Bazorkina, filed the complaint against Russia in 2001, saying the authorities had failed to adequately investigate the case.

She spent the last six years trying to find out what happened and sued the Russian government for violating the European Convention of Human Rights, alleging Russian forces killed her son.

The alleged execution order was caught on camera in the TV footage that Mrs Bazorkina saw in 2000.

Television journalists were travelling with Russian forces who captured a group of rebel fighters sheltering in the village of Alkhan-Kala.

Mr Yandiyev, dressed in camouflage, can be seen in the footage standing injured near a bus.

He is questioned by a Russian general who eventually shouts: "Take him away, finish him off, shoot him, damn it!"

Mr Yandiyev was then led away and has not been seen since.

General Alexander Baranov, who was seen on camera sending him off to be shot, has since been promoted and awarded a Hero of Russia medal.

Human rights campaigners estimate that since 1999 - the start of the second Chechen conflict - as many as 5,000 people have disappeared and are feared dead.

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