Final warning from the European Court

Событие | Пресс центр

24 September 2013

The European Court of Human Rights declared admissible the application in the case of Zarema Gaysanova’s abduction in the course of a special operation under Ramzan Kadyrov’s command (read the decision). Now the Court is to determine if State agents violated Zarema Gaysanova’s right to life, and to make legal findings concerning effectiveness of the investigation carried out by the Investigative Committee of Russia.

(Photo: Zarema Gaysanova)

The case of Zarema Gaysanova’s disappearance was one of the first cases in the practice of the Joint Mobile Group (JMG) of Russian Human Rights Organizations operating in the Republic of Chechnya. In November 2009 Zarema’s mother Lida Gaysanova applied to the JMG. According to her, on 31 October 2009 law enforcement authorities launched a special operation in their village, during which their house was burnt down, and her daughter Zarema was taken away by law enforcement officers. The applicant has had no news of Zarema Gaysanova since then. It must be noted that the special operation on 31 October 2009 was headed up by Ramzan Kadyrov himself.

In spite of the fact that Zarina’s mother reported the abduction to the district police department, the officers of the shift on duty did not take the necessary operational steps: immediate crime scene officers arrival at the incident scene was not arranged, special urgent actions were not taken by the police. Later the Department of the Interior staff faked the dates of the applicant’s complaint registration and her questioning in order to conceal their failure to act in due time following the crime report. A separate inquiry was conducted into these circumstances. Expert examination reported that the dates had been changed, but the perpetrators haven’t been identified yet.

The criminal case into abduction of Zarema Gaysanova was opened on 16 November 2009. The version that security forces servicemen were implicated in the crime was determined as one of the main ones. In February 2010 the human rights defenders representing the applicant’s interests filed a request asking for interrogating Ramzan Kadyrov in order to obtain information on the circumstances which he possesses.

Despite the request having been granted, the investigator for a long time could not take the necessary investigative actions. The Republic Investigative Committee subsequently provided the following official explanation of its investigator’s failure to act: «it has been impossible to interrogate Mr Kadyrov due to his being overloaded at work». It goes without saying that such grounds are not provided for by any law of the Russian Federation.

In a year lawyers working with the JMG at last attained interrogation of the key witness in the case. However, the procedure was conducted only formally, for the sake of appearances, and did not give the investigators any sufficient information.

After four years of working on the case the JMG lawyers have to conclude that the result of numerous violations is so that in the course of several years no steps have been taken by the authorities that could have led to any positive results in the case, and the opportunity to carry out an effective investigation into the circumstances in question has practically been lost. The crime is not solved, whereabouts of the disappeared person have not been established, not all the servicemen who performed the special operation have been identified and interrogated. During the investigation law enforcement bodies under the Ministry of the Interior ignored a number of orders and special instructions from the Investigative Committee, while security forces downright refused to provide data concerning their staff members who had taken part in that special operation, in breach of law which obliges them to do so.

These instances of sabotage of investigation were included into a report prepared by the Joint Mobile Group of Human Rights Organizations in Chechnya specially for the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights.

It appears that Russian authorities display total unwillingness to investigate abduction of Lida Gaysanova’s daughter, so the woman had to lodge relevant complaints with the European Court of Human Rights. She is represented before the Court by lawyers of the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre and Memorial Human Rights Centre. The ECHR communicated the case to the Russian Government, and having obtained submissions from the parties, found that the application raises serious issues of fact and law under the Convention, the determination of which requires an examination of the merits, and declared the application admissible. Now the Court is to examine the merits of the case.

The Chairman of the INGO «Committee Against Torture» Igor Kalyapin comments on the news as follows: «When the ECHR delivers its judgment in this case and holds that the Russian Federation has violated the most fundamental provisions of the European Convention, – right to life, prohibition of torture and the positive obligation of the State to carry out an effective investigation, – we will publish a list of those state officials who are directly responsible for the failure to investigate Zarema Gaysanova’s disappearance. I am not satisfied with such a vague formulation as “Russia has violated the European Convention», for the country must know its «heroes». I hope, these officials will sooner or later be brought to justice».

Anton Ryzhov, a lawyer working with the JMG, adds: «For the Russian Federation it is a final warning, an urgent plea to start investigating this case and other similar cases at last, to interrogate those police officers who have always been untouchable, to conduct identification parades and confrontations, to search all those quarters and cellars where victims were tormented. The ECHR is trying its best to give Russia a chance of rehabilitation».