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Chechnya: Court Condemns Russia For 'Disappearance'

  • Robert Parsons

http://gdb.rferl.org/C628C32A-58A7-4590-A715-A3CB10FC85EE_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/C628C32A-58A7-4590-A715-A3CB10FC85EE_mw800_mh600.jpg Fatima Bazorkina during a court session in December 2005 (archive photo) (epa) PRAGUE, July 27, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- In a landmark ruling, the European Court of Human Rights has held Russia responsible for the disappearance and presumed death of a Chechen man.


Khadzhi-Murat Yandiyev disappeared in 1999 after being detained by Russian troops. His mother brought the case against Russia in 2001 on the grounds that the Russian authorities had failed adequately to investigate the case. She alleged that Russian troops murdered her son.


Landmark Case


It is the first time the European Court of Human Rights has heard a case like this from Russia. It is thought it could now set a precedent for hundreds of other cases concerning disappearances in Chechnya.

For Fatima Bazorkina, mother of Khadzhi-Murat Yandiyev, the ruling is vindication for six years battling with the Russian judicial system and trying to establish the truth.

She brought the case after she saw television footage in 2000 in which a Russian officer appeared to order her son, then 25 years old, to be taken away and shot. The incident occurred in the village of Alkhan-Kala during the Russian military campaign to recapture Grozny in 1999.

In the footage, the Russian general, Aleksandr Baranov, is seen to shout, "Take him away, finish him off, shoot him, damn it!"

Yandiyev, dressed in camouflage fatigues, is then taken away, never to be seen again.

Unanimous Decision


A chamber of seven judges on July 27 ruled unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect to Yandiyev's disappearance, and the failure of the Russian authorities to conduct an effective investigation.

The chamber also ruled that Article 5 on the right to liberty and security had been violated, as had Article 13 in respect to Bazorkina's right to an effective remedy.

The court awarded Bazorkina 35,000 euros ($44,100) in damages and 12,241 euros ($15,420) in costs and expenses.

Human rights activists estimate that as many as 5,000 people have disappeared in Chechnya since the start of the second conflict in 1999. Most are feared dead.

Human Rights Watch is one of several organizations that has tried to keep a record of the disappeared -- a data bank containing the evidence of the grieving relatives who have seen their loved ones disappear.

Personal Account


One such account comes from Taisa Imakayeva, whose husband, Balavdi, was taken from her in March 2000 at a Russian military checkpoint.

"We walked up to the checkpoint," Imakayeva said. "There were 11 men with us. They separated us from them and pushed them behind a hill. There was a small hill there. And they loaded us and the children onto a Ural truck -- a military truck. An officer came up to me. I was six months pregnant. I begged him to let my husband go, he's sick, he's epileptic. He said: 'So go and give birth to another fighter. Who needs your sick men?'"

She has found no trace of him ever since.

Today, though, Imakayeva and thousands like her may see a glimmer of hope.

Close to 200 more cases involving disappearances in Chechnya have been lodged with the court.

The Chechnya Conflict

The aftermath of a December 2002 Chechen resistance attack on the main government building in Grozny (epa)

CHRONOLOGY

The fighting in Chechnya has raged, with short breaks, since 1994. It has brought misery, death, and destruction to the North Caucasus republic and to Russia as a whole. View an annotated timeline of the conflict.



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