Strasbourg Court Again Rules Against Russia in Chechnya-Related Case

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 28

The Associated Press reported on July 5 that the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France found the Russian authorities responsible for the presumed killing of Ruslan Alikhadzhiev, who was the speaker of Chechnya’s parliament from 1997 to 1999, during Aslan Maskhadov’s presidency, and ordered the Russian government to pay Alikhadzhiev’s mother 40,000 euros ($54,500) in damages. According to the news agency, Alikhadzhiev 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 of the separatists. Alikhadzhiev, 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 Alikhadzhiev never reappeared, it said.

“The court considered it had been established beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Alikhadzhiev 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.” on July 5 recalled that in 2000, Colonel-General Valery Manilov, who was then deputy head of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, reported that Russian troops had detained several commanders of the Chechen “illegal armed formations,” including Alikhadzhiev. However, Deputy Prosecutor General Yury Biryukov later denied that report during State Duma hearings. The Chechen separatist leadership reported that Alikhadzhiev died of a heart attack in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison in August 2000. Ilyas Akhmadov, who was then foreign minister of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), claimed that Alikhadzhiev died as a result of torture. The Federal Security Service (FSB), however, denied that Alikhadzhiev had even been detained.

Russia has three months to appeal the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the Alikhadzhiev case, and dozens of similar cases are pending before the court, AP reported. Last month, the Strasbourg-based court ruled that the Russian authorities were responsible for the 2003 killing of Chechen human rights activist Zura Bitieva, her husband, one of their sons and her brother. The court ordered the Russian government to pay Bitieva’s daughter, who lives in Germany, 85,000 euros ($114,000) in damages (Chechnya Weekly, June 28).