The European Court communicated a complaint of the victims of bombardment of Elistanzhi village in Chechnya

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14 September 2017

The European Court of Human Rights communicated a complaint submitted by human rights defenders in the interests of seventy five dwellers of Chechen village Elistanzhi who (or their relatives) became the victims of the bombardment of 7 October 1999. The Russian Federation will have to answer a lot of questions regarding the fact of air attack on Elistanzhi village, which resulted in causalities among its dwellers, as well as regarding the efficiency of the investigation of this tragedy.

The Elistanzhi village dwellers applied for legal assistance to the Chechen branch of the Committee Against Torture in 2006. They reported that on 7 October 1999 between 1 and 2 p.m. their village was subjected to air bombardment by Russian Air Forces.

That is how the Elistanzhi village dwellers remembered that day.

“When I looked up I saw two aircrafts dropping bombs. These bombs opened and a multitude of small ball-shaped components scattered around like seeds. When all these components reached the ground there was a powerful explosion. I seized the children which were nearby and laid on the ground, putting them under myself. There were some more explosions. A lot of dust made it dark like in the night. When the dust started to dissipate I left the kids which were with me and ran to the ruins which used to be our house and pulled my daughter Selima out. Then, having gathered all the kids, I ran to my neighbors’ basement. Only there I noticed I had a phalanx on my index finger severed”, – Taisiya Yaskiyeva described.

“I was at the end of our vegetable garden when I heard explosions. Explosive blast threw me on the ground, after that I stood up and ran to the backyard to see what happened to my family. At the backyard, I saw my son Turpal-Ali carrying my younger son Asvad in his arms. As soon as I ran to them I saw that Asvad was already dead”, – Sanet Nadayeva recalled.

From the evidence of Raisa Artsuyeva: “Two bombs hit our vegetable garden, and my daughter Taisa died due to these bombs and my other kids, Luiza, Razita and Shaikh-Mansur got shrapnel wounds of various gravity”.

It is confirmed by the documents that the missile and bombing raid became fatal for thirty five civilians of the village, and sixty got injuries and wounds of various degree of severity. Some private households and a village school were also destroyed. Several new-born babies were among the deceased. Twenty-three kids aged under fourteen suffered the consequences of the air raid, some of them remained disabled for life. We reported one of these cases in 2008.

The applicants claim that no militants or any military targets were in Elistanzhi. During the attack on the village the weather was fine and the aircrafts could be clearly seen from the ground.

“The criminal case based on the fact of the bombardment of the village was initiated as late as on 14 December 2000 by the Vedeno District Prosecutor’s Office, however, later on it turned out that the materials of the criminal case were lost, possibly, as a consequence of a fire, – lawyer with the Committee for the Prevention of Torture Rustam Khatsiev describes. – Only in 2007 after complaints of our lawyers and applicants the investigation of the criminal case was resumed. Later on it was illegally dismissed several times and we time after time appealed against these rulings”.

According to Khatsiev, for a long time the District Prosecutor’s Office and the Military one were poking at one another, because the latter did not want to accept the case to its proceedings. And only in December 2010 this departmental dispute on jurisdiction was ended, and the criminal case was successfully handed over to the competence of the military investigators. 

“Alas, it did not bring the positive result: the culprits were never identified or brought to responsibility. Moreover, the military investigators obstructed the realization of the rights of the victims, having made the criminal case materials classified”, – Khatsiev emphasized.

Due to the failure to insist on the effective investigation at the national level, in May 2011 the lawyers with the Committee for the Prevention of Torture were forced to submit a complaint on behalf of seventy five dwellers of Elistanzhi village in Chechnya to the European Court of Human Rights.

Today the human rights defenders received a letter from the Strasbourg court, in which it is reported that on 30 August 2017 the Court communicated the complaint.

“Eighteen years after the tragedy the European Court of Human Rights posed some questions to the Russian authorities to which they should answer. As well as to explain the reasons of so many casualties and to tell what was done at the national level for bringing the culprits to responsibility, – lawyer with the international legal protection department of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture Ekaterina Vanslova says. – In our turn, initially in our complaint we indicated that the investigation of this tragedy could not be effective even due to the fact that the investigative authorities opened a criminal case under Article “Murder”, and not as a military crime and a crime against humanity”.