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Russia Ruled Responsible For Killings Of Four Chechens

The European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg (epa) June 21, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russian forces were responsible for the killings of four members of a Chechen family in 2003.

Zura Bitiyeva, a political activist and antiwar protester, and three members of her family were shot in the head at night by Russian-speaking masked men who the court concluded were members of the Russian special forces.

The court ordered Moscow to pay Bitiyeva's daughter, a plaintiff in the case who currently lives in Germany, a sum equivalent to $114,000.

Unconventional Treatment

The ruling was based on the court's unanimous finding that Russia was responsible for five violations of four articles of the European Convention on Human rights. Three of the violations related to the 2003 killings, and two related to Bitiyeva's treatment while under detention in 2000.

Bitiyeva, her husband Ramzan Iduyev, their son Idris Iduyev, and her brother Abubakar Bitiyev were all killed at their home in the town of Kalinovskaya.

The court heard statements from eyewitnesses attesting that 11 men entered Bitiyeva's home in the early morning of May 21, 2003, while other armed men gathered outside.

All were said to have worn camouflage uniforms "recognized as the special forces uniform," according to a court statement citing an eyewitness account. Six or seven shots were heard and upon entering the home one eyewitness discovered the bodies "with their hands and feet taped together, all shot in the heads."

State Held Responsible

The perpetrators of the crime have never been identified, but the court determined Russia was responsible due to the descriptions of the killers, the vehicles they used, and the fact that they were able to travel with a special permit during curfew hours.

Russia has three months to appeal the court's finding. The Strasbourg-based court currently has dozens of similar cases pending.