CASE OF DUDAYEVA v. RUSSIA
(Application no. 67437/09)
8 December 2015
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Dudayeva v. Russia,
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Luis López Guerra,
Branko Lubarda, judges,
and Stephen Phillips, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 17 November 2015,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 67437/09) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by a Russian national, Ms Zara Dudayeva (“the applicant”), on 18 November 2009.
2. The applicant was represented by Mr D.S. Itslayev, a lawyer practising in Grozny. The Russian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr G. Matyushkin, the Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Court of Human Rights.
3. The applicant alleged that in July 2002 federal servicemen had killed her son, Mr Aslan Dudayev, during an attack on her house and had abducted and subsequently killed her husband, Mr Ali Dudayev, and that the authorities had failed to carry out an effective investigation into the matter.
4. On 19 June 2013 the application was communicated to the Government.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
5. The applicant was born in 1953 and lives in Grozny.
6. At the material time the applicant’s family lived in a dwelling comprising several houses in one courtyard in Shakhterova Street in the Staropromyslovskiy District of Grozny. The family included the applicant, her husband Mr Ali (also sometimes written as Alik) Dudayev, their sons, Mr Alikhan Dudayev and Mr Aslan Dudayev, Ms Amnat (also sometimes written as Aminat) Yakhyayeva, the wife of Mr Aslan Dudayev, and their five children, including Mr Adam Dudayev. The dwelling was located two blocks from the military commander’s office and the Staropromyslovskiy district police station (the ROVD). The area was under curfew.
A. The events of the night between 8 and 9 July 2002
1. The applicant’s account
7. On the night of 8 to 9 July 2002 (in the documents submitted the date was also referred to as the night between 7 and 8 July 2002) the applicant’s family were at home. The applicant was not there as she had left to spend the night at her relatives’ house in Grozny.
8. At about 2 a.m. on 9 July 2002 a group of about fifteen federal servicemen in uniforms and balaclavas, armed with automatic weapons, arrived in an armoured personnel carrier (APC) at the applicant’s home and unlocked the gate. They then started shooting and throwing grenades at the applicant’s house.
9. One of the applicant’s sons, Mr Alikhan Dudayev, who was a police officer, shot back for about half hour. After that he managed to leave the house and inform the police about the incident. Meanwhile, the applicant’s family lay on the floor to avoid being hit. The applicant’s grandson Adam was injured in the foot and lower back by a hand-grenade explosion. Another APC had arrived at the house in the meantime.
10. About two hours later the servicemen stormed the building. The applicant’s son Mr Aslan Dudayev stood up and started moving towards the servicemen, trying to warn them that there were women and children in the house. He was shot in the head before the eyes of his wife and five children. His body was moved to another room where he was shot in the head again.
11. The servicemen then took the applicant’s husband, Mr Ali Dudayev, outside and put him in the APC and drove off. The applicant’s husband has been missing ever since.
12. At the end of their special operation, the servicemen took the applicant’s family outside and set the house and family car on fire.
13. The applicant heard of the incident at about 4 a.m. and immediately went home. Upon her arrival, the applicant was told by relatives of the circumstances of her son’s killing and of her husband’s abduction.
2. Submissions by the Government
14. In their submissions before the Court the Government did not contest the facts as presented by the applicant. However, they denied any involvement by State agents in the alleged killing of her son and the alleged disappearance of her husband.
B. Official investigation into the events
15. In reply to a request from the Court to submit a copy of the documents reflecting the most important steps taken by the investigation into the events of the night between 8 and 9 July 2002, the Government furnished copies of criminal case files nos. 54042 and 54108, running up to 224 pages. The information submitted may be summarised as follows.
1. Investigation of the criminal case opened into the killing of the applicant’s son
17. On 9 July 2002 the investigators questioned the applicant’s other son, Mr Alikhan Dudayev, a police officer at the ROVD at the time. He stated that at about 2 a.m. he had been at home and had been woken up by someone opening the outside gates. He had then heard a group of men running into the courtyard. He had asked in Chechen and then in Russian who the men were, but had received no reply. He had seen that one of them was in camouflage uniform and a balaclava and was armed with a machine gun. The witness had warned the man that he was a police officer. In reply, the man had opened fire and the witness shot back. Then the other intruders had opened fire with machine guns and grenades, in an attack of about twenty minutes. The witness had been wounded by grenade splinters in the hand and the torso. He had managed to leave the house and run into the neighbouring courtyard. Meanwhile, the shooting continued. The witness had seen five ROVD officers come out after they heard the gunfire. He had explained the situation to them and they had contacted the local military commander’s office and the ROVD by radio. The witness and the police officers had then heard an APC arriving at the witness’s house, after which the shooting had intensified and had lasted for another half an hour. Then the two APCs had driven off and the gunfire stopped. The police officers had left one of their colleagues with the witness and had gone to the house. Upon their return, they had told him that his brother and father had been taken away in the APCs.
18. On 9 July 2002 the investigators questioned the applicant’s neighbour, Mr V.M., who stated that on the night between 8 and 9 July 2002 he had been woken up by intense gunfire from automatic firearms at the applicant’s house, which had lasted for about fifty minutes. Then he had seen that the applicant’s house had been set on fire. A group of men had shouted and sworn in unaccented Russian and had then driven off in an APC.
19. On 9 July 2002 the investigators questioned another neighbour of the applicant, Mr A.T., who stated that the night before he had been woken up by intense gunfire at the applicant’s house. When he had tried to open the door to see what was going on, he had been ordered to stay inside or be shot. He had heard men swearing in Russian.
20. On 9 July 2002 the investigators questioned the applicant’s neighbours Mr V.A., Mr A.Ch. and Ms Ay.V., whose statements were similar to the one given by Mr V.M. Ms Ay.V. also stated that at about 3 a.m. someone had demanded that she open her door and let in the wife of Mr Aslan Dudayev, Ms Amnat Yakhyayeva, and her children, including the wounded Adam Dudayev. Ms Amnat Yakhyayeva told the witness that all of the men who had been in their house had been killed by the armed men who had arrived in the APC. On the following morning the witness had found a spent 5.45 mm calibre cartridge at her home, presumably from an automatic gun.
21. On 9 July 2002 the investigators also questioned the applicant’s neighbour, Mr A.I., whose statement was similar to those of the other neighbours (see paragraphs 18-20 above). In addition, he stated that the shooting at the Dudayevs’ house had continued for at least one and a half hours, that the armed men who had attacked the applicant’s family had been an organised group of fifteen to twenty men in camouflage uniforms, that they had sworn a lot in unaccented Russian and that they had driven in an APC. After the shooting he had gone to the house and found the walls and furniture riddled with bullet holes. He had also found the body of the applicant’s son, Aslan, who had been killed in the gunfire.
22. On the same date, 9 July 2002, the investigators also questioned the applicant’s neighbours Ms A.Ya., Ms B.Dzh. and Mr Ab.V., whose statements were similar to those of the other neighbours (see paragraphs 18-21 above).
23. On 10 July 2002 the investigators opened criminal case no. 54042 (in the documents submitted the number was also referred to as 54048) in connection with the murder of the applicant’s son Mr Aslan Dudayev “by a group of fifteen to twenty armed men in camouflage uniforms and balaclavas who had arrived at the [the applicant’s] house”.
24. On 10 July 2002 the investigators ordered a forensic examination of the body of the applicant’s son Mr Aslan Dudayev. On 12 August 2002 the forensic experts concluded that he had died from two gunshot wounds to the head.
25. On 13 July 2002 the investigators ordered a forensic examination of the applicant’s grandson Adam Dudayev. On the same date the experts concluded that he had received a perforating shrapnel wound and a gunshot wound to the torso.
26. On 15 July 2002 the applicant’s son Mr Alikhan Dudayev complained of the incident to the Chechnya Prosecutor. In particular, he stated that on the night of the events he had warned the intruders that he was a police officer, but they had opened fire. After an hour and a half of intense shooting, the perpetrators had taken his brother, Mr Aslan Dudayev, outside and executed him in the courtyard. They had then wounded his nephew Adam, and had taken away his father, Mr Ali Dudayev. Neither the military commander’s office nor the nearby police station had reacted to the gunfire or intervened in any way.
27. On 18 July 2002 the investigators questioned the applicant’s daughter-in-law Ms Amnat Yakhyayeva, whose statement concerning the events was similar to that of her brother-in-law, Mr Alikhan Dudayev. In addition, she stated that her husband, Mr Aslan Dudayev, had been shot dead by the perpetrators, who had been in military uniform and had driven around in two APCs. The perpetrators had also taken away the applicant’s husband, Mr Ali Dudayev.
28. On 18 July 2002 the investigators questioned the applicant’s neighbours Mr A.V. and Mr M.Kh., whose statements were similar to the applicant’s account before the Court. In addition, Mr M.Kh. stated that after the shooting had stopped, several military vehicles had driven down their street in the direction of the applicant’s house. In the morning he had learned that the attack had been carried out by federal servicemen who had been driving in three APCs.
29. On 28 July 2002 the investigators ordered a ballistics report on the cartridges, bullets and machine gun collected from the crime scene on 9 July 2002. On 12 August 2002 the ballistic experts concluded that the machine gun had been set for single shots only and that the cartridges had come from several different Kalashnikov machine guns.
30. On 30 July 2002 the investigators granted the applicant’s son Mr Alikhan Dudayev, the status of victim in the criminal case and questioned him again. He reiterated his previous statement (see paragraph 17 above).
31. On 1 August 2002 the investigators granted the applicant’s daughter-in-law Ms Amnat Yakhyayeva the status of victim in the criminal case and questioned her. Her statement was similar to the one given on 18 July 2002 (see paragraph 27 above). In addition, she stated that the perpetrators had wounded her father-in-law and taken him away in their APC.
32. On 1 August 2002 the investigators questioned the applicant’s neighbour Ms Yakh. Dzh., whose statement about the events was similar to those given by the other neighbours and to the applicant’s account before the Court.
33. On 1 August 2002 the Chechnya Prosecutor wrote to the Chechnya Military Prosecutor asking for assistance in the investigation of the criminal case. The letter stated, inter alia, the following:
“... The Chechnya prosecutor’s office is investigating a criminal case concerning the killing of Mr A. Dudayev and the wounding of Mr A.M. Dudayev by a group of unidentified persons armed with automatic rifles.
One of the theories being pursued by the investigation is that of the involvement in the crime of military servicemen from the United Group Alignment (the UGA). In connection with this I request that an investigator from unit no. 20102 of the military prosecutor’s office be included in the investigators’ group to assist in solving the crime...”
34. On 21 August 2002 the Grozny military commander’s office informed the investigators that they had no information about the possible identity of the perpetrators and had not issued orders for a special operation at the applicant’s house.
36. On 18 July 2003 the Staropromyslovskiy district prosecutor overruled the decision to suspend the investigation as unlawful and premature. He pointed out, among other things, that the investigators had failed to take basic steps, such as questioning the police officers whom Mr Alikhan Dudayev had met after his escape from the house or questioning the officers from the military commander’s office about the attackers’ use of APC military vehicles. The investigation resumed on the same day.
37. On an unspecified date in July 2003 the applicant complained of her son’s killing and her husband’s abduction to the Staropromyslovskiy district administration, which on 30 July 2003 forwarded her complaint to the investigators for examination.
39. On 18 August 2003 the investigation of the criminal case was suspended owing to a failure to identify the perpetrators. The applicant and her relatives were not informed of this decision.
41. On 5 July 2009 the investigators granted the applicant the status of a victim in the criminal case and questioned her. The applicant’s statement concerning the circumstances of her son’s killing and the abduction of her husband by military servicemen was similar to her account before the Court. In addition, she stated that even though the servicemen had known that her son Mr Alikhan Dudayev worked in the police, they had still opened fire.
42. On 7 July 2009 the investigators again suspended the investigation owing to a failure to identify the perpetrators. They informed the applicant of this decision.
43. The applicant appealed against that decision to the Staropromyslovskiy District Court in Grozny. On 29 September 2009 the court rejected the complaint because earlier that day the investigators had resumed the proceedings in the criminal case.
45. On 4 October 2009 the investigators suspended the proceedings in the joint criminal case and informed the applicant.
2. Investigation of the criminal case opened into the disappearance of the applicant’s husband
50. On 20 December 2002 the investigators questioned the applicant’s daughter-in-law Ms Amnat Yakhyayeva and her son Mr Alikhan Dudayev. Their statements were similar to the applicant’s account before the Court.
51. On 24 and 25 December 2002 the investigators questioned the applicant’s neighbours Ms A.V. and Ms Z.I., whose statements were similar to the applicant’s account before the Court. In addition, they stated that the perpetrators of the abduction had been military servicemen.
58. The applicant appealed against the decision to suspend the proceedings to the Staropromyslovskiy District Court. On 29 September 2009 the court rejected the complaint because earlier on the same day the investigators had resumed proceedings in the criminal case.
60. On 4 October 2009 the investigators again suspended the proceedings in the criminal case and informed the applicant. The document submitted shows that the joint investigation is still pending (see above).
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW
61. For a summary of the relevant domestic law and practice and for international and domestic reports on disappearances in Chechnya and Ingushetia between 1999 and 2006, see Aslakhanova and Others v. Russia (nos. 2944/06, 8300/07, 50184/07, 332/08 and 42509/10, §§ 43-59 and §§ 69-84, 18 December 2012).
62. The Court will deal with the procedural matters in the case before considering the applicant’s complaints concerning the abduction and the killing of her relatives and the allegedly ineffective investigation.
I. THE GOVERNMENT’S PRELIMINARY OBJECTION
A. The parties’ submissions
63. The Government submitted that the applicant had failed to comply with the six-month requirement as she had lodged her application with the Court after “an unexplained and significant delay” of seven years from the events.
64. The applicant argued that she had complied with the six-month rule and that there had been no excessive and unexplained delays in submitting her application to the Court. In particular, she pointed out that she had lodged the application as soon as she had realised the ineffectiveness of the criminal investigation into the events. She stated that she had complained to the authorities shortly after the incident, and had hoped that the criminal investigations initiated thereafter would produce results. She had assisted the authorities in their search in every possible way. The armed conflict in Chechnya had also led her to believe that some delays in the investigation were inevitable. Nonetheless, she had not been informed of the decisions to suspend the proceedings in either of the criminal cases and had lodged her application as soon as she had been informed of the suspension of the criminal proceedings in October 2009 after her court appeal against the previous decision to suspend the investigation.
B. The Court’s assessment
1. General principles
65. The Court reiterates that the purpose of the six-month rule is to promote legal certainty and to ensure that cases raising issues under the Convention are dealt with within a reasonable time. Furthermore, it is also meant to protect the authorities and other concerned parties from being left in a state of uncertainty for a prolonged period of time (see Bayram and Yıldırım v. Turkey (dec.), no. 38587/97, ECHR 2002-III, and Bulut and Yavuz v. Turkey (dec.), no. 73065/01, 28 May 2002).
66. Where no remedies are available, or are judged to be ineffective, the six-month time-limit in principle runs from the date of the act complained of (see Hazar and Others v. Turkey (dec.), no. 62566/00, 10 January 2002). However, special considerations may apply in exceptional cases where an applicant avails himself of, or relies on, an apparently existing remedy and only subsequently becomes aware of circumstances which render the remedy ineffective; in such a case it is appropriate to take as the start of the six-month period the date when he or she first became aware or ought to have become aware of those circumstances rendering the remedy ineffective (see Paul and Audrey Edwards v. the United Kingdom (dec.), no. 46477/99, 7 June 2001).
67. In a number of cases concerning ongoing investigations into the deaths of applicants’ relatives, the Court has examined the period of time from which the applicant could or should have started doubting the effectiveness of a remedy and distinguished the approach in assessing the applicant’s compliance with it from the situations of enforced disappearance. Where a death has occurred, applicant relatives are expected to take steps to keep track of the investigation’s progress, or lack thereof, and to lodge their applications with due expedition once they are, or should have become, aware of the lack of any effective criminal investigation (see Varnava and Others v. Turkey [GC], nos. 16064/90, 16065/90, 16066/90, 16068/90, 16069/90, 16070/90, 16071/90, 16072/90 and 16073/90, § 158, ECHR 2009). On the same basis, where time is of the essence in resolving the issues in a case, there is a burden on the applicant to ensure that his or her claims are raised before the Court with the necessary expedition to ensure that they may be properly, and fairly, resolved (ibid., § 160).
68. Although the Court has refrained from indicating a specific period for establishing when an investigation has become ineffective for the purposes of assessing when the six-month period should start to run, the determination of such a period by the Court has depended on the circumstances of each case and other factors, such as the diligence and interest displayed by the applicants, as well as the adequacy of the investigation in question. In this connection, in the Varnava and Others judgment, cited above, the Court noted that where the lack of progress or ineffectiveness of an investigation was readily apparent, the requirements of expedition could require an applicant to bring such a case before the Court within a matter of months, or at most, depending on the circumstances, a very few years after the events. This is particularly pertinent in cases of unlawful death where there is generally a precise point in time at which the death is known to have occurred and some basic facts are in the public domain; thus the lack of progress or ineffectiveness of an investigation will generally be more readily apparent (ibid., § 162).
69. As for disappearance cases, the Court considers that applications can be rejected as out of time where there has been an excessive or unexplained delay on the part of applicants once they have, or should have, become aware that no investigation has been instigated or that the investigation has lapsed into inaction or become ineffective and, in any of those eventualities, there is no immediate, realistic prospect of an effective investigation being provided in the future. Where there are initiatives being pursued in regard to a disappearance situation, applicants may reasonably await developments which could resolve crucial factual or legal issues. Indeed, as long as there is some meaningful contact between families and authorities concerning complaints and requests for information, or some indication, or realistic possibility, of progress in investigative measures, considerations of undue delay will not generally arise. However, where there has been a considerable lapse of time, and there have been significant delays and lulls in investigative activity, there will come a moment when the relatives must realise that no effective investigation has been, or will be provided. When this stage is reached will depend, unavoidably, on the circumstances of the particular case (ibid., § 165).
2. Application of the principles to the present case
70. In the present case, the Court notes that the applicant lodged her application with the Court seven years after the incident as a result of which her son had been killed and her husband had disappeared, and that the investigation was formally pending at the time when the application was submitted.
71. The Court notes that the killing and the abduction took place during the same sequence of events and were perpetrated by the same group of persons. They were also investigated simultaneously (see paragraph 44 above). Considering this, the Court finds that the applicant’s compliance with the six-month requirement in respect of the killing and the disappearance should be assessed as a whole.
72. The Court notes that the applicant complained to the authorities shortly after the incident and submitted her application to the Court seven years after the events. From the documents submitted it appears that the authorities immediately reacted to her complaint by examining the crime scene, questioning a number of witnesses, initiating the investigation into the events and ordering expert examination of the evidence (see paragraphs 17-25 above). The applicant and her relatives provided their statements to the authorities and continued to contact them with requests and complaints (see paragraphs 17, 26, 27, 30, 31, 50 and 52 above). When the investigators suspended the proceedings, neither the applicant nor her relatives were informed thereof (see paragraphs 35, 39, 53 and 54 above). The investigation was resumed more than five years and nine months later as a result of the applicant’s request (see paragraphs 40 and 55 above). Furthermore, the subsequent suspension of the investigation in July 2009, of which the applicant was apprised, led to her appealing against it to the local court, with the proceedings then being resumed (see paragraphs 43 and 57 above).
73. The Court considers that in the circumstances of the case the applicant did all that could be expected of her to assist the authorities with the investigation into her son’s killing and her husband’s disappearance. The steps taken by the investigators upon resumption of the proceedings, spurred by her initiative in July 2009, when she was questioned, must have appeared as a promising new development to her. Her efforts to obtain information about the progress in the investigation, in the absence of any notification of the suspension of the investigation in August 2003, do not enable the Court to find that the applicant failed to show the requisite diligence by unreasonably waiting for the pending investigation to yield results, in particular as the authorities did resume the proceedings after her request for information on their progress. The Court notes the gap in the proceedings of five years and nine months, but it considers that in the present case this cannot be held against the applicant or interpreted as a failure on her part to comply with the six-month requirement (compare to Gambulatova v. Russia, no. 11237/10, § 50, 26 March 2015).
74. The Court thus considers that an investigation, albeit a sporadic one, was being conducted during the period in question, and that the applicant explained the delay in her application to the Court by the way in which the the domestic proceedings developed (see Varnava and Others, cited above, § 166, and Er and Others v. Turkey, no. 23016/04, § 60, 31 July 2012). In the light of the foregoing, the Court finds that the applicant complied with the six-month time-limit.
II. THE COURT’S ASSESSMENT OF THE EVIDENCE AND ESTABLISHMENT OF THE FACTS
A. The parties’ submissions
75. The Government did not contest the essential facts underlying the application, but claimed that the applicant’s submission was unsubstantiated and that there was no evidence proving “beyond reasonable doubt” that State agents had been involved in the killing of the applicant’s son and the disappearance of her husband. In particular, they stated that the applicant herself had not witnessed the incident and that her application had been based “only on the suppositions of her relatives and neighbours” as none of the alleged witnesses had been able to say for sure that the man taken away in the APC by the abductors had been Mr Ali Dudayev.
76. The applicant submitted that it had been established “beyond reasonable doubt” that State agents had been involved in the attack on her house, which had resulted in the abduction of her husband and the killing of her son. In support of that assertion she referred to the ample evidence contained in her submissions and those of the Government, as well as the contents of the criminal investigation file. In particular, she pointed out that the perpetrators had arrived as a large group in APCs, which could only have been used by the federal forces, and that they had been able to move around freely during the curfew. The local military commander’s office had not reacted to the intense gunfire in the middle of the town during the curfew and the attack had taken place close to the local police station and lasted for more than an hour. She submitted that she had made a prima facie case that State agents had killed her son and abducted her husband and that the Government had failed to provide a plausible explanation for the events. In view of the absence of any news of her husband for a long time and the life-threatening nature of unacknowledged detention in the region at the relevant time, she asked the Court to consider him dead.
B. The Court’s assessment
77. The Court will examine the application at hand in the light of the general principles applicable in cases where the factual circumstances are in dispute between the parties (see El-Masri v. “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” [GC], no. 39630/09, §§ 151-53, ECHR 2012).
78. The Court has addressed a whole series of cases concerning allegations of disappearances and deaths of applicants’ relatives in Chechnya. Applying the above-mentioned principles, it has concluded that if applicants make a prima facie case of abduction or killing by servicemen, this is sufficient for them to show that their relatives fell within the control of the authorities, and it is then for the Government to discharge their burden of proof, either by disclosing the documents in their exclusive possession or by providing a satisfactory and convincing explanation of how the events in question occurred (see, among many examples, Aslakhanova and Others, cited above, § 99, and Inderbiyeva v. Russia, no. 56765/08, § 96, 27 March 2012). If the Government fail to rebut that presumption, this will entail a violation of Article 2 of the Convention in its substantive part. Conversely, where applicants fail to make a prima facie case, the burden of proof cannot be reversed (see, for example, Shafiyeva v. Russia, no. 49379/09, § 71, 3 May 2012, and Udayeva and Yusupova v. Russia, no. 36542/05, § 78, 21 December 2010).
79. The Court has also found in many cases concerning disappearances that a missing person may be presumed dead. Having regard to the numerous cases of disappearances in Chechnya which have come before it, the Court has found that in the particular context of the conflict in the region, when a person has been detained by unidentified State agents without any subsequent acknowledgment of the detention, this could be regarded as life-threatening (see, among many others, Yandiyev and Others v. Russia, nos. 34541/06, 43811/06 and 1578/07, 10 October 2013, and Dovletukayev and Others v. Russia, nos. 7821/07, 10937/10, 14046/10 and 32782/10, 24 October 2013).
80. The Court has made findings of presumptions of deaths in the absence of any reliable news about disappeared persons for periods ranging from four years (see Askhabova v. Russia, no. 54765/09, § 137, 18 April 2013) to more than ten years.
81. Turning to the circumstances of the present case, the Court notes that the documents from the investigation file provided by the Government (see, for example, paragraphs 17, 21, 24 and 31 above) demonstrate that the applicant’s son Mr Aslan Dudayev was shot dead on the night of 8 to 9 July 2002 by a group of armed servicemen who drove around in APCs and opened fire on the applicant’s house during curfew hours. As a result of the two-hour attack, which took place in proximity of the military commander’s office and the police station, the applicant’s husband, Mr Ali Dudayev, was taken away by the same group of servicemen and has been missing since. In their submissions to the authorities, the applicant, her relatives and neighbours, pointed out that the killing of Mr Aslan Dudayev and the abduction of Mr Ali Dudayev had been carried out by the same group of perpetrators, who belonged to the federal forces (see paragraphs 27, 28 and 41 above). The investigators considered this version of events and took steps to verify this assertion (see paragraphs 33 and 36 above). In view of all the evidence in its possession, the Court finds that the applicant has presented a prima facie case that State agents killed her son and abducted her husband, who subsequently disappeared.
82. The Government neither contested the essential facts underlying the application nor provided a satisfactory and convincing explanation for the events in question. Bearing in mind the general principles set out above, the Court finds that Mr Aslan Dudayev was killed on the night of 8 to 9 July 2002 in the applicant’s house by a group of State agents and that her husband Mr Ali Dudayev was taken into custody on the same night by the same group of State agents. In view of the absence of any reliable news of the applicant’s husband since that date and the life-threatening nature of such detention (see paragraph 79 above), the Court also finds that Mr Ali Dudayev may be presumed dead following his unacknowledged detention.
III. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 2 OF THE CONVENTION
83. The applicant complained under Article 2 of the Convention that her son had been killed and her husband abducted by State agents and that the domestic authorities had failed to carry out effective investigations into the matter. Article 2 reads as follows:
“1. Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.
2. Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary:
(a) in defence of any person from unlawful violence;
(b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;
(c) in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection.”
A. The parties’ submissions
84. The Government contended that the complaint should be rejected as unsubstantiated, as the investigation into the disappearance had not obtained any evidence that State agents had killed Mr Aslan Dudayev, that Mr Ali Dudayev had been abducted by them or that he was dead. They further noted that all the necessary steps were being taken to comply with the obligation to conduct an effective investigation into the killing and the abduction.
85. The applicant maintained her complaint.
B. The Court’s assessment
86. The Court considers, in the light of the parties’ submissions, that the complaint raises serious issues of fact and law under the Convention, the determination of which requires an examination of the merits. The complaint under Article 2 of the Convention must therefore be declared admissible.
(a) Alleged violation of the right to life of Mr Aslan Dudayev and Mr Ali Dudayev
87. The Court reiterates that Article 2 of the Convention, which safeguards the right to life and sets out the circumstances when deprivation of life may be justified, ranks as one of the most fundamental provisions in the Convention, from which no derogation is permitted. In the light of the importance of the protection afforded by Article 2 of the Convention, the Court must subject deprivation of life to the most careful scrutiny, taking into consideration not only the actions of State agents but also all the surrounding circumstances (see, among other authorities, McCann and Others v. the United Kingdom, 27 September 1995, §§ 146-47, Series A no. 324, and Avşar v. Turkey, no. 25657/94, § 391, ECHR 2001-VII (extracts)).
88. The Court has already concluded that the applicant’s son was killed by State servicemen on the night of 8 to 9 July 2002. Without any plausible explanation for the death by the Government, the Court finds that there has been a violation of Article 2 of the Convention in its substantive aspect in respect of Mr Aslan Dudayev.
89. The Court has already found that the applicant’s husband must be presumed dead following his detention by State servicemen on the night of 8 to 9 July 2002 and that his death can be attributed to the State. In the absence of any justification put forward by the Government, the Court finds that there has been a violation of Article 2 of the Convention in its substantive aspect in respect of Mr Ali Dudayev.
(b) Alleged inadequacy of the investigation into the killing of Mr Aslan Dudayev and abduction of Mr Ali Dudayev
90. Considering that the killing and the abduction were the result of the same incident and were perpetrated by the same group, the Court does not find it necessary to examine the issue of compliance with the procedural aspect of Article 2 of the Convention separately and will examine the investigation into the events as a whole.
91. The Court has already found that a criminal investigation does not constitute an effective remedy in respect of disappearances which occurred, in Chechnya and Ingushetia in particular, between 1999 and 2006, and that such a situation constitutes a systemic problem under the Convention (see Aslakhanova and Others, cited above, § 217). In the case at hand, as in many similar cases reviewed by the Court, the investigation into the events of the night of 8 to 9 July 2002 has been pending for a number of years without leading to any significant progress in uncovering the identities of the perpetrators of Mr Aslan Dudayev’s killing or determining the fate of the missing Mr Ali Dudayev. While the obligation to investigate effectively concerns the means to be employed and not the results to be achieved, the Court notes that the criminal proceedings have been plagued by a combination of defects similar to those enumerated in Aslakhanova and Others (cited above, §§ 123-25). The investigation contained a long period of inactivity, which further diminished the prospects of solving the crime.
92. From the documents submitted it appears that the investigation failed to take any meaningful steps to have the crime resolved. For instance, the authorities failed to identify and question the servicemen who could have witnessed or participated in the shooting at the applicant’s house on the night of 8 to 9 July 2002, or to identify the military APCs and the firearms used by the abductors, in spite of the examination of the large number of cartridges collected from the crime scene. The investigation failed to collect and examine the bullets from Mr Aslan Dudayev’s body and to question the heads of the military commander’s office and the police station concerning their lack of response to more than an hour of intense gunfire in the middle of town during a curfew.
93. It is obvious that these measures, if they were to produce any meaningful result, should have been taken immediately after the initiation of either of the criminal cases. The Court reiterates that it is crucial in cases of death or disappearance for the investigation to be prompt. The inexplicable delays in taking vital steps and the failure to take even the most basic measures to uncover the facts of the incident which resulted in the death of the applicant’s son and the disappearance of her husband not only demonstrate the authorities’ failure to act of their own motion but also constitute a breach of the obligation to exercise exemplary diligence and promptness in dealing with such a serious crime.
94. In the light of the foregoing, the Court finds that the authorities failed to carry out an effective criminal investigation into the circumstances of the death of Mr Aslan Dudayev and the disappearance of Mr Ali Dudayev. Accordingly, there has been a violation of Article 2 of the Convention in its procedural aspect.
IV. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLES 3 AND 5 OF THE CONVENTION
95. The applicant complained of a violation of Articles 3 and 5 of the Convention, as a result of the mental suffering caused to her by the disappearance of her husband Mr Ali Dudayev and the unlawfulness of his detention. Articles 3 and 5 read, in so far as relevant:
“No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
“1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:
(c) the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so;
2. Everyone who is arrested shall be informed promptly, in a language which he understands, of the reasons for his arrest and of any charge against him.
3. Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 (c) of this Article shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial.
4. Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful.
5. Everyone who has been the victim of arrest or detention in contravention of the provisions of this Article shall have an enforceable right to compensation.”
A. The parties’ submissions
96. The Government noted that the abduction of the applicant’s husband must have caused the applicant emotional shock. However, as State agents had not been involved in the alleged violation, the national authorities could not therefore be held liable for the applicant’s mental suffering. In addition, the applicant had not witnessed the attack on the night of 8 to 9 July 2002 and had only learnt of the events the following morning.
97. The Government further submitted that according to the investigation file, the applicant’s husband had neither been arrested by State agents nor held in any detention facilities.
98. The applicant stated that she was the wife of the missing Mr Ali Dudayev and that she had actively sought the authorities’ assistance in establishing his whereabouts and prosecuting the people who had abducted him. The applicant had not received any proper explanation or information as to what had happened to her missing husband after his detention by State agents. The way in which the authorities had responded to her requests constituted a violation of Article 3 of the Convention.
99. The applicant further maintained that Mr Ali Dudayev had been unlawfully deprived of his liberty.
B. The Court’s assessment
100. The Court notes that these complaints are not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention. It further notes that they are not inadmissible on any other grounds. They must therefore be declared admissible.
101. The Court has found on many occasions that a situation of enforced disappearance gives rise to a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in respect of the close relatives of the victim. The essence of such a violation does not lie mainly in the fact of the “disappearance” of the family member, but rather concerns the authorities’ reaction and attitude to the situation when it is brought to their attention (see Orhan v. Turkey, no. 25656/94, § 358, 18 June 2002, and Imakayeva v. Russia, no. 7615/02, § 164, ECHR 2006-XIII (extracts)). When there is a long time between the missing person’s disappearance and the news of his or her death, there is a distinct period during which the applicants suffer the uncertainty, anguish and distress characteristic of the specific phenomenon of disappearances (see Aslakhanova and Others, cited above, § 133).
102. The Court reiterates its findings regarding the State’s responsibility for the abduction of Mr Ali Dudayev and the failure to carry out a meaningful investigation into his fate. It finds that the applicant, who is the wife of the disappeared person, must be considered a victim of a violation of Article 3 of the Convention on account of the distress and anguish which she suffered, and continues to suffer, as a result of her inability to ascertain the fate of her husband and of the manner in which her complaints have been dealt with.
103. Further, the Court has established that Mr Ali Dudayev was detained by State servicemen and then deprived of his life. His detention was not acknowledged, was not logged in any custody records and no official trace of his subsequent whereabouts or fate exists. The Court has found on many occasions that unacknowledged detention is a complete negation of the guarantees contained in Article 5 of the Convention and discloses a particularly grave violation of its provisions (see Çiçek v. Turkey, no. 25704/94, § 164, 27 February 2001, and Luluyev and Others v. Russia, no. 69480/01, § 122, ECHR 2006-XIII (extracts)).
104. Consequently, the Court finds that Mr Ali Dudayev was held in unacknowledged detention without any of the safeguards contained in Article 5 of the Convention. This constitutes a particularly grave violation of the right to liberty and security enshrined in Article 5 of the Convention.
V. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 13 OF THE CONVENTION
105. The applicant complained that there had been no effective remedies at her disposal in respect of the aforementioned violations, contrary to Article 13 of the Convention, which reads as follows:
“Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in [the] Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.”
A. The parties’ submissions
106. The Government contended that the applicant had had effective remedies at her disposal and that the authorities had not prevented her from using them. The applicant could have appealed to a court regarding the steps taken during the investigation and she could have also claimed civil damages.
107. The applicant maintained her complaint.
B. The Court’s assessment
108. The Court notes that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention. It further notes that it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.
109. The Court reiterates that in circumstances where, as here, the criminal investigation into a violent death and disappearance was ineffective and the effectiveness of any other remedy that may have existed, including civil remedies, was consequently undermined, the State has failed in its obligation under Article 13 of the Convention (see Khashiyev and Akayeva v. Russia, nos. 57942/00 and 57945/00, § 183, 24 February 2005).
110. The Court reiterates its findings concerning the general ineffectiveness of criminal investigations in cases such as those under examination. In the absence of any results from the criminal investigations into the killing of Mr Aslan Dudayev and the abduction and death of Mr Ali Dudayev, any other possible remedy becomes inaccessible in practice.
111. Consequently, there has been a violation of Article 13 in conjunction with Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention in respect of the applicant.
112. As regards the applicant’s reference to Article 5 of the Convention, the Court considers that, in the circumstances, no separate issue arises in respect of Article 13 read in conjunction with Article 5 of the Convention (see Alikhadzhiyeva v. Russia, no. 68007/01, § 96, 5 July 2007).
VI. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
113. Article 41 of the Convention provides:
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
114. The applicant made no claim in respect of pecuniary damage. As for non-pecuniary damage, she left the amount to be determined by the Court.
115. The Government submitted that the award should be determined on an equitable basis.
116. The Court notes that it has found violations of Articles 2, 3, 5 and 13 of the Convention in the present case. The Court thus accepts that the applicant has suffered non-pecuniary damage which cannot be compensated for solely by the findings of violations. It considers it appropriate to award the applicant 120,000 euros (EUR) under this heading, plus any tax that may be chargeable to her.
B. Costs and expenses
117. The applicant was represented by Mr Dokka Itslayev, who claimed EUR 3,061 for legal representation. The amount claimed comprised legal research and preparation amounting to EUR 2,568, administrative expenses amounting to EUR 125 and translation expenses of EUR 368.
118. The Government stated that the applicant had failed to substantiate the costs and expenses to the extent claimed; that the legal research and preparation of her application was not complex; and that the translation and administrative costs were speculative. They invited the Court to reject the claim.
119. The Court has to establish first whether the costs and expenses were actually incurred and, second, whether they were necessary and reasonable (see McCann and Others, cited above, § 220, and Fadeyeva v. Russia, no. 55723/00, § 147, ECHR 2005-IV).
120. In view of its conclusions, the principles enumerated above and the parties’ submissions, the Court awards the applicant EUR 3,000, plus any tax that may be chargeable to her. The award in respect of costs and expenses is to be paid into the representative’s bank account, as identified by the applicant.
C. Default interest
121. The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest rate should be based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which should be added three percentage points.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,
1. Declares the application admissible;
2. Holds that there has been a substantive violation of Article 2 of the Convention in respect of Mr Aslan Dudayev and Mr Ali Dudayev;
3. Holds that there has been a procedural violation of Article 2 of the Convention in respect of the failure to investigate the killing of Mr Aslan Dudayev and the disappearance of Mr Ali Dudayev;
4. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in respect of the applicant on account of her mental suffering;
5. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 5 of the Convention in respect of Mr Ali Dudayev on account of his unlawful detention;
6. Holds there has been a violation of Article 13 of the Convention in conjunction with Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention;
7. Holds that no separate issue arises in respect of Article 13 read in conjunction with Article 5 of the Convention;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, the following amounts, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable on the date of settlement:
(i) EUR 120,000 (one hundred twenty thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage;
(ii) EUR 3,000 (three thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicant, in respect of costs and expenses, the net award to be paid into her representative’s bank account, as identified by the applicant;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
9. Dismisses the remainder of the applicant’s claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 8 December 2015, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Stephen Phillips Luis