The European Court of Human Rights ruled on March 12 that Russia must pay damages to the families of 13 Chechens presumed dead after being abducted during armed raids in Chechnya between 2001 and 2003, the Associated Press (AP) reported. The Strasbourg-based court said Russia was responsible for the men’s disappearances and should pay damages and court fees totaling around 531,000 euros (around $679,000). The rulings came in connection with three cases involving 35 relatives of the missing men. The court said evidence presented by the families “established beyond a reasonable doubt” that the men “had to be presumed dead,” because the Russian authorities failed to present proof to the contrary.
RIA Novosti reported that the court ruled that the Russian authorities had violated a number of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to life, a ban on torture and humiliation, the right to freedom and security and the right to effective legal protection. As the news agency noted, Russia has lost the majority of cases brought against it in the Strasbourg court.
Chechnya’s human rights ombudsman, Nurdi Nukhazhiev, told Interfax on March 12 that the republic has set up a database of inhabitants of the republic who have been kidnapped or have disappeared without a trace. He said the database contains 5,000 people, including everyone from the republic who is wanted by the authorities going back to the first Chechen war. Nukhazhiev also said that initial work has begun on setting up a laboratory for identifying exhumed remains as well as mapping out the possible sites of mass graves around the republic.
Meanwhile, former Interior Ministry Internal Troops officer Sergei Arakcheyev, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for murdering three construction workers at a checkpoint outside Grozny in January 2003, has posted a petition on his website declaring that his constitutional rights were violated when two previous acquittals by juries were overturned and he was retried by the North Caucasus District Military Court in December 2007 and found guilty. Arakcheyev’s lawyer, Dmitry Agranovsky, told Interfax on March 12 that more than 600 people had already signed the petition. Arakcheyev’s co-defendant, former Interior Ministry officer Yevgeny Khudyakov, was sentenced to 17 years in prison for the same three murders (Chechnya Weekly, October 13, 2005; January 18, 2007; and January 10, 2008).