Robert Hårdh is Executive Director Civil Rights Defenders, an international human rights organisation based in Sweden. Here he reports on recent judgements from the European Court of Human Rights:
Russia has for the 100th time been held responsible by the European Court of Human Rights for gross human rights violations in the North Caucasus in a case operated within a framework of cooperation between Civil Rights Defenders and Stichting Russian Justice Initiative.
On 10th February 2011 the court announced its decisions in the cases of Nasukhanovy v. Russia and Dudarovy v. Russia in which Russia was held responsible for the deaths of two Chechen civilians and the disappearance of one Chechen man in 2002.
On February 14, 2002, Russian servicemen took Movsar, Movladi and Vakha (born -80, -81 and -83) from their parents’ house to a filtration camp near a mill in the Chechen village of Starye Atagi. Two days later they released Vakha. The young man had to be carried home. He couldn’t walk after being severely beaten during his time in detention. Six days after the brothers had been abducted, the parents identified the burnt corpses of their two sons Movsar and Movladi. The Prosecutor’s Office in the Chechen capital of Grozny found that the bodies had probably been burned to conceal a murder, but the investigation was closed down due to lack of results.
At two o’clock in the morning of November 18, 2002, armed men in military uniforms broke into Magomed Dudarov’s (born 1979) parents’ house and took him away. Magomed has not been seen since, and his body has never been found. Even though convincing evidence could be presented to law enforcement agencies, the investigation into Magomed’s disappearance produced no results.
The Court awarded the relatives of the brothers Nasukhanovy and of Magomed Dudarov 100 000 and 60 000 EUR respectively in damages. In total, Russia has been ordered by the Court to pay over 8 million EUR in damages since I was in place in the European Court to witness the trial of our first case, Bazorkina v. Russia, in 2006. There have been a total of 160 judgments against Russia in the Court in Strasbourg in cases of extrajudicial killings, torture and disappearances in the North Caucasus, and Stichting Russian Justice Initiative, in co-operation with Civil Rights Defenders, represent a majority of these cases.
Russia usually pays the damages to the applicants. But so far no one has been held accountable for the gross human rights violations that have taken place by Russian forces in the region, despite substantial evidence in many cases (for instance in the case Bazorkina v. Russia, where CNN filmed a Russian officer ordering the execution of Bazorkina’s son). On the contrary, Russia has promoted a number of military officers identified as suspects.
This climate of impunity allows conflicts to remain unsolved and the perpetrators can continue to commit atrocities, knowing that they most likely will never be punished for it. The vast majority of cases we have in the European Court are from 2002 and the so-called second Chechen war. Human rights violations are still being committed and they have spread to other republics in the region.
Open wounds and continued acts of terrorism against the government in the Kremlin, in combination with an upcoming Russian presidential election in 2012, might once again turn this powder keg north of the Caucasus Mountains into a burning inferno. Europe and the international community must therefore put pressure on Russia to ensure that all court decisions lead to real change.
Civil Rights Defenders is an international human rights organisation that defends people’s civil and political rights and empowers human rights defenders at risk. Civil Rights Defenders was founded in 1982 in Stockholm, Sweden, under the name Swedish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.
Find the full judgements at the following URLs:
- Bazorkina v. Russia: http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int/tkp197/view.asp?%20action=html&documentId=807138&portal=hbkm&source=externalbydocnumber&table=1132746FF1FE2A468ACCBCD1763D4D8149
- Nasukhanovy v. Russia: http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int/tkp197/view.asp?item=39&portal=hbkm&action=html&highlight=&sessionid=66555962&skin=hudoc-en
- Dudarovy v. Russia: http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int/tkp197/view.asp?item=40&portal=hbkm&action=html&highlight=&sessionid=66555962&skin=hudoc-en