Aerial bombardment, extra-judicial killings and torture in Chechnya

Khashiyev v Russia (Lead: app. No. 57942/00), Abakarova and Others v. Russia (App. 16664/07)

Speaker: Kirill Korotev, legal director, Memorial Human Rights Centre

This group of more than 200 cases arises predominantly out of the 1999-2006 Chechen conflict and includes cases of aerial bombardment, extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture. In 2015, the Court rendered the third judgment concerning the bombing of the Katyr-Yurt village. Echoing the findings of Isayeva v. Russia (2005) and Abuyeva and others v. Russia (2010), the Court found in the Abakarova case that Russia violated article 2 (right to life) and article 13 (right to an effective remedy) by failing to investigate the Katyr-Yurt bombing and provide redress for victims. The Abakarova judgment became final on 14 March 2016.

State of Execution

In the Abakarova case, the Court ruled that ‘The Russian Federation should take all steps necessary to safeguard the legitimate interests of the applicant, starting by taking into account in all future proceedings the information concerning her family members’ deaths, and ensuring that she is fully informed of all relevant procedural steps and is provided with the necessary information and legal advice in sufficiently good time to be able to effectively participate in these proceedings, including commissioning any further expert reports. Independent of the outcome of the criminal investigation, it appears desirable as a matter of urgency to set up and implement an accessible and effective mechanism for the purposes of seeking adequate reparation for the harm suffered by the applicant and other victims in the present case.’ (para 113).

New information

The latest Russian Federation Action plan related to the Chechen cases (of April 2016) contains further information about 163 bodies of the applicants' relatives to which the authorities have previously referred. It has now been established that all the bodies contained in this list had been identified either prior to the application to the Court or prior to the Court's judgments. Consequently, the table presented by the Russian authorities does not seem to be related to the execution of judgments. In Abakarova, the Court concluded the investigation into the deaths and injuries was the result of the investigative authorities’ ‘sheer unwillingness to establish the truth and punish those responsible ‘(para 98). The Russian authorities failed to address the shortcomings of the investigations identified in both the Isayeva and Abuyeva cases. These findings, together with the failure to execute the Aslakhanova and others v. Russia’s judgment, provide solid grounds for the Committee of Ministers' actions and benchmarks for assessment of Russia's compliance with the judgments of the Court.

Main recommendations

The Committee should set an implementation plan (including time frame) for the execution of the Abakarova case based on the Court's rulings in both Aslakhanova and Abakarova (paras. 109-114). In Abakarova the Court stipulated that 'these measures should focus on the continued criminal investigation,... also on non-judicial mechanisms aimed at learning lessons and ensuring the non-repetition of similar occurrences in the future, and ensuring adequate protection of the applicant’s rights in any new proceedings, including access to measures for obtaining reparation for the harm suffered' (114). Should the Russian Federation fail to comply, infringement proceedings should be instigated (under Article 46(4) of the Convention)'.