Aslakhanova and Others v. Russia

Key Judgment


Legal Relevance

Keywords: Effective Remedy | Duty to Investigate | Duty to Prosecute | Interim/Urgent Measures | Deprivation of Liberty | Reparations | Evidence | Burden of Proof | Systemic Practice | Obligation to Prevent | Relatives as Victims | Right to Know the Truth | State/Non-State Agents

Themes: Justice and Truth | Related Crimes

The Court found that terminating pending investigations into the abductions solely on the grounds that the time-limit has expired was contrary to the obligation to investigate alleged violations of the right to life. It also reiterated that, in cases of disappearance, the obligation to investigate persists as long as the fate of the person is unaccounted for. The Court found the existence of systemic problems at the national level for which no effective domestic remedy was available, holding that criminal investigations of abductions in circumstances suggesting the carrying out of clandestine security operations are inadequate, as they normally do not reveal the fate of the disappeared persons.

The Court also departed from its own practice by clearly listing the necessary measures to be taken by the State to address the systemic failure to investigate disappearances in the Northern Caucasus. The measures concerning the suffering of the relatives of the victims of disappearances included the creation of a single, sufficiently high-level body in charge of solving disappearances in the region which would enjoy unrestricted access to all relevant information, the allocation of specific resources to carry out large-scale forensic work, and the payment of financial compensation to the victims’ families. The measures concerning the ineffectiveness of the criminal investigation and resulting impunity for the perpetrators included access of the investigators to the relevant data of the military and security agencies, access of the victims’ relatives to the case files, the application of statute of limitations to cases of abduction, and the adoption of a general strategy to address issues such as identification of the leading agencies and commanding officers of special operations, responsibility for the detainees, and access to records of the passage of service vehicles through roadblocks.

Judgment Date

April 29, 2013

Country

Russia

Judicial Body

European Court of Human Rights

Articles violated

Article 2 (procedural) [ECHR], Article 2 (substantive) [ECHR], Article 3 [ECHR], Article 5 [ECHR]

Facts of the Case

The eight victims disappeared in the Grozny area between March 2002 and July 2004. They were all arrested at their homes or in the streets by groups of armed and masked men, in a manner resembling a security operation. According to a number of witnesses, some of the victims were brought away in military vehicles and mistreated during their detention. Criminal investigations were opened, but either remained pending without having produced any tangible results, or were closed due to the application of the statute of limitations.

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