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Monday, July 30, 2007

Once Again, Russia Convicted of Subhuman Behavior in Chechnya by the European Court

Prague Watchdog reports that Russia has once again been convicted of Chechen war crimes by the European Court for Human Rights (pictured, left) It's the sixth such conviction for Russia this year alone. There are no words which can adequately describe the nature of this outrage, or the fact that this barbaric country sits on the G-8 and holds a U.N. Security Council veto, much less the fact that the world is planning to hold the 2014 Olympic games right in the very region where these outrageous crimes are occurring. That's one of the great Western failures of the Post-War world.

The European Court of Human Rights announced today that the Russian authorities are guilty of a series of murders and other serious crimes committed by federal forces in the Chechen village of Novye Aldy on February 5, 2000. In addition, it held it responsible for the murder of two residents of the Chechen village of Gekhi committed by federal forces in August of the same year.

After reviewing the case -- "Musayev and Others versus Russia" -- the Strasbourg court upheld the claims of the five applicants and gave a unanimous ruling that several articles of the European Convention for Human Rights had been violated, in particular those concerning the right to life, the prohibition of inhuman or torture and the right to an effective remedy. The court ordered the Russian state to pay its victims compensation for material and moral damage totalling 143,000 euros and compensation for the costs and expenses of the hearings worth nearly 21,000 euros.

The interests of the applicants are represented by lawyers for the "Memorial" Human Rights Centre and the London-based European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC). Human rights organizations held parallel press conferences in Moscow and Grozny today, and we will also publish a report concerning these.

According to information collected by human rights activists in the aftermath of the "mop-up" in the village, federal units in Novye Aldy killed several dozen civilians. They also engaged in looting, arson and rape. The Russian judicial system has so far failed to establish the identity of those guilty, and no one has been punished.

A second case on which a ruling was made in Strasbourg today involves two residents of the Chechen village of Gekhi, Ali and Umar Musayev, who were arrested by federal soldiers on August 8 2000 after an armoured personnel carrier was blown up nearby the village. A month later, in the presence of the Chechen authorities, the father of the Musayev brothers exhumed four bodies in the local cemetery, two of which were those of his sons and bore the signs of violent death.

After unsuccessful attempts to obtain justice in Russia, the mother of the victims, Aminat Musayeva, appealed together with her husband to the Strasbourg Court, which had accepted their complaint in 2001. In its decision today, the European Court ruled that Russia must pay the claimants moral damages in the sum of 130,000 euros and legal costs of 285 euros.

According to Prague Watchdog’s archive, five decisions have already been taken this year on "Chechen" cases. In all of them the claims of the applicants were met in full or almost in full.


A list of earlier rulings by the European court this year:

April 5: disappearance and death of a 61-year old Chechen man, Shakhid Baysayev, who was detained during a mop-up operation conducted by Russian police force units (OMON) in the Chechen village of Podgornoye in March 2000.

May 10: abduction and murder of Shamil Akhmadov, a Chechen resident who was arrested during a large-scale special operation in the city of Argun in March 2001.

June 21: murder of Chechen activist Zura Bitiyeva and her husband, son and brother, who were shot dead by unknown gunmen at their home in the Chechen town of Kalinovskaya in May 2003

July 5: abduction and murder of Ruslan Alikhadziyev, Speaker of the Parliament of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, who was arrested by federal soldiers in May 2000 in his home in Shali and then "disappeared".

July 12: murder of Chechen national Ayubkhan Magomadov, who was arrested by an armed unit of the Federal Security Service in October 2000 in his home in the village of Kurchaloy and then "disappeared".

Russia's response to this litany of outrages? It is now trying to cut off access by its citizens to the ECHR. The International Herald Tribune reports:

Russia wants to restrict the flow of appeals to the European Court of Human Rights, where a growing number of Chechens have been winning cases against the Russian government. The country's Supreme Court this week described plans to allow its citizens to file human rights cases against the state in Russian courts — something they cannot do now. The government says the changes will make it easier for Russian to protect their rights without turning to the European court.

But Chechens — who say they are often subject to torture, summary executions, indiscriminate bombings and forced disappearances — fear the government wants to deprive them of their only hope for justice. Russian authorities have denied that military and security forces are guilty of atrocities in the southern Muslim republic of Chechnya, where two wars have been fought to impose Moscow's control. But they have restricted journalists' access to the area. When Chechens go to police with allegations of abuse, their cases rarely make it to court, leaving victims with little choice but to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

The court, in Strasbourg, France, has issued at least 10 verdicts against Russia in the past few months in cases concerning the Chechen wars. Some 200 are still pending. Rights advocates say President Vladimir Putin's government is irritated by the international exposure of atrocities in Chechnya brought by each new case. Fatima Bazorkina's is one such case: Watching the news on Russian channel NTV in February 2000, she said, she saw a Russian officer ordering her son to be killed. "Kill him, damn it. ... Get him over there, shoot him," the officer said, Bazorkina recalled over the phone from her home in Ingushetia, a region bordering Chechnya. Bazorkina has not seen her son, Khodzhimurad Yandiyev, since. Authorities said her son had been abducted by unknown men. The officer Bazorkina said she saw ordering her son's killing, later identified as Col.-Gen. Alexander Baranov, has been promoted, according to the Stichting Russian Justice Initiative, which helps victims of rights abuses in the North Caucasus — the troubled region that includes Chechnya — seek justice at home and in Strasbourg.

The European Court ruled in March that Russian authorities were responsible for Yandiyev's presumed death and failed to adequately investigate. The court said the suffering caused to his mother qualified as inhumane and degrading treatment and ordered the government to pay her €35,000 (US$48,400). Russians have been able to appeal to the Strasbourg court since their country ratified the European Convention on Human Rights in 1998. Russians now file more complaints with the court than citizens of any other European country. By the beginning of 2007, they had filed about 20,000 cases against the state, according to Russia's Constitutional Court. Russia's Supreme Court said this week that lawyers will draft legal changes to allow Russians to file human rights cases against the state in Russian courts.

"We are talking about reforming the Russian legal system in such a way that a number, a significant number, of the reasons our citizens turn to the European Court will be removed because of the availability of real and effective ways to protect their rights in their own nation," Constitutional Court chairman Valery Zorkin said in an opinion piece in the official newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta. He denied this would limit Russians' right to appeal to the European Court.

Magomet Mutsolgov, who filed a complaint last year over the disappearance in Ingushetia of his brother Bashir, said the planned changes were "an attempt to replace the European Court. It is an attempt to deprive the people in the North Caucasus of their last hope to stand up for their constitutional rights," Mutsolgov said. He said his brother was last seen in December 2003 as he was stopped by security officers at a checkpoint. There has been no official investigation. "There are some Russian officials who want to improve the country's image and reduce the flow of Russian citizens' complaints" to the European court, said Ole Solvang, head of the Stichting Russian Justice Initiative. "The right way to reduce the number of complaints (to the European Court) is not to allow abuses in the first place, and if they take place to thoroughly and effectively investigate them," he said. Solvang said Russian prosecutors do not refuse to investigate alleged government atrocities in Chechnya but investigations inevitably stall.


HopeAbounds4Me said...

This absolutely makes my sick. I converted to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) several years ago. I live in North Carolina, United States. Since the reunification with Russia I am almost ashamed to be associated with them. I've considered leaving the Church. I'm glad I found your blog, I will continue to read your posts. My blog is at Thanks for bringing this news to my attention. HopeAbounds4Me

Anonymous said...

This is a question rather than a comment per se.

Does anyone know if the Russian authorities actually pay the compensations they are ordered to pay by this and other courts? And if they do pay, do they do this properly, or do they do it soviet-style and subject the payment to 99% (or 120%) income tax?

I have never seen a follow-up on the aftermath of these court cases in any newspaper or magazine.

I would be most surprised if the Russian authorities act correctly after losing such cases. I could be wrong though and would simply like to know.

La Russophobe said...

Hi Dave,

My understanding is that they do rather faithfully pay the judgments themselves, which isn't too difficult since (by American standards at least) the court places a fairly low value on human life, but still it may be one factor in their desire to cut down on access to the court by Russian citizens. However, I've never heard of anyone looking into how the benefits are handled in terms of taxes, it's a very interesting question. Also interesting is whether state-controlled media covers these repeated losses and if so how.

-- Kim