The European Court: "Russia violated Zarema Gaysanova's right to life"


12 May 2016

Today, on 12 May 2016, the European Court of Human Rights passed a ruling in the case of abduction of Zarema Gaysanova, a member of humanitarian organization «Danish Council on Refugees», in 2009 in the course of a special operation which was supervised by Ramzan Kadyrov.  The court established the fact of Russia’s violating several articles of the European Convention of Human Rights, as well as the fact that it is the state authorities who are responsible for the abduction. The mother of the abducted girl was awarded a compensation in the amount of  60 000 euro.

 (Photo: Zarema Gaysanova)

As we have previously reported, 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 urgently 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.

Later on the JMG lawyers had 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.

Lida Gaysanova lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights.  Her interests in court were represented by lawyers of Memorial Human Rights Center and the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre.

In their today’s ruling the Strasbourg judges unanimously established a violation of all the aspects of Article 2 of the European Convention: the court delivered a judgment that the state violated Zarema Gayzanova’s right to life, presuming that she was killed. In addition, the state did not protect the daughter of the applicant, violating Article 2 requirements; neither it performed effective investigation of her disappearance and death. A violation of Article 5 was also established in relation with the fact that Zarema Gaysanova was illegally detained. A violation of Article    3 was established in relation to the applicant herself – Zarema’s mother – due to sufferings that she went through because of her daughter disappearance and absence of adequate investigation of this fact.   

Due to that the applicant was awarded a compensation in the amount of 60 000 euro.

«The case of Zarema Gaysanova’s disappearance at least twice became a subject discussions between the Chairman of then called the Committee Against Torture Igor Kalyapin and Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov. Once during the personal conversation, the second time – in the framework of the visiting session of the Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation in 2013 in Grozny. At that time Kadyrov stated that he himself planned and supervised the special operation on 31 October 2009», – lawyer of the Committee for Prevention of Torture Oleg Khabibrakhmanov, who participated in the first shift of the JMG in the Chechen Republic, comments.  

Commenting today’s ruling of the European Court of Human Rights Head of the International Legal Defense section of the Committee for Prevention of Torture Olga Sadovskaya emphasized: «It is very important that the court acknowledged not only the fact of Zarema Gaysanova’s disappearance, but also presumed that she was purposefully abducted in the course of a special operation, and then killed. This is a completely different level of authorities’ responsibility, but we are not at all sure that anyone will be brought to trial for this murder».

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