CASE OF KUKURKHOYEVA AND OTHERS v. RUSSIA (European Court of Human Rights)

THIRD SECTION

CASE OF KUKURKHOYEVA AND OTHERS v. RUSSIA
(Applications nos. 50556/08 and 9 others – see list appended)

JUDGMENT
STRASBOURG
22 January 2019

This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Kukurkhoyeva and Others v. Russia,

The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:

Branko Lubarda, President,
Pere Pastor Vilanova,
Georgios A. Serghides, judges,
and Stephen Phillips, Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 18 December 2018,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

PROCEDURE

1.  The case originated in ten applications against Russia lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) on the various dates indicated in the appended table.

2.  The Russian Government (“the Government”) were informed of the applications.

3.  The Government did not object to the examination of the applications by a Committee.

THE FACTS

I.  THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE

4.  The applicants are Russian nationals who, at the material time, lived in the Chechen Republic or in theRepublic of Ingushetia. Their personal details are set out in the appended table. They are close relatives of individuals who disappeared after allegedly being unlawfully detained by service personnel during special operations. The events concerned took place in areas under the full control of the Russian federal forces. The applicants have not seen their missing relatives since the alleged arrests. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

5.  The applicants reported the abductions to various law‑enforcement bodies, and official investigations were opened. The proceedings were repeatedly suspended and resumed, and decisions have remained pending for several years without any tangible results being achieved. The applicants lodged requests for information and assistance in the search for their relatives with the investigating authorities and various law-enforcement bodies. Their requests received either only formulaic responses or none at all. The perpetrators have not been identified by the investigating bodies. It appears that all of the investigations are still pending.

6.  Summaries of the facts in respect of each application are set out below. Each account is based on statements provided by the applicants and their relatives and/or neighbours to both the Court and the domestic investigating authorities. The Government did not dispute the principal facts of the cases, as presented by the applicants, but questioned the involvement of service personnel in the events.

A.  Kukurkhoyeva v. Russia (no. 50556/08)

7.  The applicant is the wife of Mr Girikhan Tsechoyev, who was born in 1967.

1.  Abduction of Mr Girikhan Tsechoyev and the subsequent events

8.  On 11 July 2004 Mr Girikhan Tsechoyev was visiting his relative in the village of Muzhichi, Ingushetia, when a group of service personnel from the Bamut military command under Major General Starkov arrested him at the outskirts of the village on suspicion of having committed a murder.They handed him over to officers from the Federal Security Service (Федеральная служба безопасности Российской Федерации – hereinafter “the FSB”), who took him away to an unknown destination.

9.  On the evening of the same date police officers from the Sunzhenskiy district department of the interior (“the Sunzhenskiy ROVD”) arrived at the applicant’s house in the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya, Ingushetia. Having informed the applicant that earlier that day FSB officers had arrested Mr Girikhan Tsechoyev on suspicion of murder, they searched the premises and left.

10.  On 12 July 2004 Mr Girikhan Tsechoyev’s brother, Mr U.Ts., went to the Sunzhenskiy district prosecutor in search of the abducted relative. His acquaintance, Mr G.M., who worked in the prosecutor’s office, told him that Mr Girikhan Tsechoyev had been detained by the FSB.

11.  The next day the prosecutorsummoned Mr U.Ts. for questioning. In the course of the questioning a representative of the prosecutor’s office, Mr Kh., and the head of the criminal investigation department of the Sunzhenskiy ROVD confirmed that Mr Girikhan Tsechoyev had been detained by the FSB and was being held on the latter’s premises in Ingushetia.

2.  Official investigation into the abduction

12.  On 13 July 2004 the applicant asked the authorities to investigate the abduction of her husband.

13.  On 27 August 2004 the Sunzhenskiy district prosecutor in Ingushetia opened criminal case no. 04600057 under Article 126 of the Criminal Code (“the CC”) (abduction).

14.  The Government did not provide the Court with a copy of the criminal case file. From the documents submitted by the applicant it appears that the investigation proceeded as follows.

15.  On 10 September 2004 the investigators granted the applicant victim status in the case.

16.  On 27 October 2004 they suspended the investigation for failure to establish the identity of the perpetrators. Subsequently, it was resumed on 11 January 2005, 27 October 2006, 4 May 2007, and an unspecified date in 2008. It was suspended on 28 February 2005, 27 November 2006 and 4 June 2007 respectively.

17.  In the meantime, on 17 April 2006 and then on 16 January 2008 the applicant enquired about developments in the proceedings. In reply, the investigators informed her that the proceedings had been suspended.

18.  On 10 June 2006 and on 9 October 2008 the applicant asked the investigators to resume the proceedings and to allow her access to the case file. Both of her requests were dismissed. There is no information about further developments.

3.  Proceedings against the investigators

19.  On 13 July 2006 and on an unspecified date in 2007 the applicant lodged a claim with the Sunzhenskiy District Court in Ingushetia alleging the investigators’ failure to investigate the abduction effectively.On 13 October 2006 and 27 April 2007 the court allowed the complaints and ordered that the investigation be resumed.

20.  On 18 February 2008 the applicant complained to the court of the investigators’ inaction and their decision to suspend the investigation on 4 June 2007. On 24 March 2008 the court dismissed her complaint referring to the fact that the decision to suspend the investigation had already been overruled by a higher investigating authority.

21.  On 6 April 2009 the applicant complained to the court about the lack of access to the investigation file. The outcome of the proceedings is unknown.

B.  Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva v. Russia (no. 51029/08)

22.  The first applicant is the mother of Mr Shamkhan Shavkhayev, who was born in 1980 (in certain documents the year of birth also indicated as 1981), and the wife of Mr Sharip Shavkhayev, who was born in 1941. The second applicant is the wife of Mr Umar Bekayev, who was born in 1941.

1.  Abduction of Mr Sharip Shavkhayev and Mr Shamkhan Shavkhayev

23.  At the material time, the first applicant, Mr Sharip Shavkhayev and their children, Mr Shamkhan Shavkhayev, Ms S.Me. and Ms S.Ma., lived in the village of Avtury, Chechnya.

24.  At about 2 a.m. on 9 June 2001 the family was at home when a group of fifteen to twenty armed men in military camouflage uniforms broke into their house. Some of the men were in balaclavas. Those who did not have them were of Slavic appearance. All of the intruders spoke unaccented Russian.

25.  Having threatened the family members with firearms, the men forced the father and the son out of the house and took them away to an unknown destination. Meanwhile, some of the men searched the premises, seized the identity documents of Mr Shamkhan Shavkhayev and Mr Sharip Shavkhayev and left the house. The abduction was witnessed by several people.

26.  The same night, three residents of Avtury, Mr Umar Bekayev, Mr I.Kh. and his brother Mr M.Kh., were abducted by presumably the same group of men under similar circumstances. Eight days later the abductors released Mr I.Kh. and Mr M.Kh. from detention.

2.  Abduction of Mr Umar Bekayev

27.  At about 2 a.m. on 9 June 2001, a group of fifteen to twenty armed men in camouflage military uniforms broke into the second applicant’s house in Avtury, where she was living with her daughter and husband, Mr Umar Bekayev. Speaking unaccented Russian, the men threatened those present with firearms, tied Mr Umar Bekayev’s hands behind his back, put a bag on his head and took him away on foot to an unknown destination.

3.  The applicants’ search for their relatives and the subsequent events

28.  In the morning of 9 June 2001 the applicants went to the Shali district command in search of their relatives. The commanding officer told them that their relatives had been detained by military service personnel.

4.  Official investigation into the abductions

29.  On 9 June 2001 the applicants asked the investigating authorities to open a criminal case into the abductions of their relatives.

30.  Three days later the Shali district prosecutorin Chechnya opened criminal case no. 23170 under Article 126 of the CC (abduction).

31.  On 19 August 2001 the investigators questioned Mr I.Kh. and Mr M.Kh. Theysubmitted that at about 2 a.m. on 9 June 2001 theyhad been abducted by a group of armed men in camouflage uniforms. The abductors had taken them to an unknown destination and placed them in a pit. They had been kept there for about one week, and had been regularly beaten up by the perpetrators. A week later the abductors had blindfolded them, put them in an armored personal carrier (“APC”), transported theminto the fields in the Shali districtand thrown them outof the vehicle. They had been found by Chechens, who had taken them home.

32.  In September 2001 the investigators questioned the relatives of the abducted persons, those who had been eyewitnessesto the abductions, and their neighbours, who gave hearsay evidence. They confirmed the account of the events as described by the applicants in their submissions to the Court.

33.  On 12 October 2001 the proceedings were suspended for failure to establish the identity of perpetrators.

34.  On 23 January 2002 the investigators opened criminal case no. 59039 into the abduction of Mr I.Kh. and Mr M.Kh.

35.  On 12 July 2002 the investigation into the abduction of the applicants’ relatives was resumed, joined to the investigation into the abduction of Mr I.Kh. and Mr M.Kh. and then suspended.

36.  On 21 December 2004 the proceedings were resumed again.

37.  In January 2005 the investigators sent requests to various military authorities and detention facilitates to investigate the applicant’s version of the abduction by State agents. The bodies that responded,stating that they did not have information about the alleged arrest of the applicant’s relatives on 9 June 2001 and their subsequent detention.

38.  On 21 January 2005 the first applicant was granted victim status in the criminal case. On the same day the proceedings were suspended.

39.  On 29 January and 9 February 2007 the first and second applicants respectively asked the investigators to allow them access to the criminal case file. Their requests were dismissed on 1 and 18 February 2007 respectively.

40.  Subsequently the investigation was resumed on 27 December 2007, suspended on 28 December 2007, and then resumed on 12 August 2008 again. In the meantime, in December 2007 the first applicant was given access to the criminal case file. There is no information about further developments.

5.  Proceedings against the investigators

41.  On unspecified dates the applicants complained to the Shali Town Court of the investigators refusals to allow them access to the criminal case file of 1 and 18 February 2007.

42.  On 10 October and 22 November 2007, respectively, the court allowed the first and the second applicants’complaints and ordered the investigators to provide them with partial access to the case file.

43.  The applicants appealed against the above decisions seeking full access to the case file.  On 20 February 2008 the Chechnya Supreme Court allowed their appeals.

C.  Zakriyeva and Muradova v. Russia (no. 22667/09)

44.  The first applicant is the mother of Mr Murad Zakriyev, who was born in 1973. The second applicant is the mother of Mr Rustam Muradov, who was born in 1977.

1.  Abduction of Mr Murad Zakriyev and Mr Rustam Muradov

45.  At the material time the applicants and their sons were temporarily residing in Ingushetia as refugees. Mr Murad Zakriyev and Mr Rustam Muradov were working at a private construction site located on the premises of Mr B.G.’s house in the town of Nazran.

46.  At about 12.30 a.m. on 14 July 2003 Mr Rustam Muradov, his colleague Mr V.S. and Mr B.G.’s family members, including his son Mr R.G., were at the site, when a group of ten to fifteen armed service personnel in camouflage uniforms and balaclavas arrived in a GAZelle minivan and a VAZ vehicle. Speaking unaccented Russian, the service personnel broke into Mr B.G.’s home, handcuffed and blindfolded Mr Rustam Muradov, Mr V.S. and Mr R.G., forced them into the minivan and drove off.

47.  Several minutes later, allegedly the same group of service personnel arrested Mr Murad Zakriyev on a street on his way to the construction site. They forced him into the minivan and drove off in the direction of the town of Mozdok, passing unrestricted through military checkpoints on their way. The abduction took place in the presence of several witnesses.

48.  Later on the same day Mr V.S. and Mr R.G. were released and returned home.

49.  About a month after the abduction, a man visited the second applicant and told her that Mr Murad Zakriyev was detained at the main military base of the federal forces in Khankala, Chechnya.

50.  At some point later the first applicant learnt from Mr D.M., a police officer from the Ministry of the Interior in Ingushetia, that Mr Rustam Muradov was allegedly detained at a detention facility in Krasnoarmeysk in the Volgograd Region of Russia.

51.  The applicants’ attempts to find their sons were to no avail.

2.  Official investigation into the abduction

52.  On 14 July 2003Mr B.G. contacted the Nazran town prosecutor,complaining of the abductions of Mr Murad Zakriyev and Mr Rustam Muradov. He stated that the culprits’GAZelle minivan’snumber plate had been C293CE95RUS and the VAZ vehicle had had a number plate containing 441 95RUS.

53.  Ten days later the prosecutor opened criminal case no. 03560058 under Article 126 of the CC (abduction).

54.  On 25 July 2003 the investigators questionedMr V.S. and Mr R.G. Their statements wereconsistent with the applicants’account of the events before the Court. Among other details Mr V.S. noted that during the two‑hour trip in the GAZelle minivan after the abduction, the perpetrators had used portable radio sets. From the content of their conversations, he had understood that they had been State agents. He also submitted that their car had passed through security checkpoints without any obstacles.

55.  In the meantime, the investigators asked various authorities, including the FSB in Ingushetia and the Ministry of the Interior to provide them with information about the special operation in Nazran, the alleged detention of Mr Murad Zakriyev and Mr Rustam Muradovon the premises of local law-enforcement agencies andabout the owners of the vehicles with the registration plates noted by Mr B.G.The authorities that responded replied that they had no relevant information.

56.  In August 2003 the second applicant was granted victim status in the criminal case and questioned about the incident on 15 August 2003.

57.  On 17 September 2003 the investigators questioned Mr M.T., a witness to Mr Murad Zakriyev’s abduction. His statement was similar to the applicants’ submission before the Court.

58.  On 24 September 2003 the investigation was suspended for failure to establishthe identity of the perpetrators.

59.  The Government did not submit any documents concerning the further progress of the investigation.

60.  According to the applicants, they were not regularly informed of the developments in the proceedings. Several times they asked the investigators about the progress of the investigation, but each time the latter replied in general terms that all possible measures to establish the whereabouts of the abducted persons were being taken.

61.  On 17 July 2008 the second applicant applied for access to the investigation file. Her request was granted on 13 November 2008. There is no information about further developments.

D.  Akhmetkhanova and Others v. Russia (no. 43706/09)

62.  The first applicant was the mother of Mr Akhdan (also known as Chingiz) Akhmetkhanov, who was born in 1977. She passed away on 16 August 2014, after the Russian Government had been informed of the case.

63.  The second applicant is the wife of Mr Akhdan Akhmetkhanov. The third and fourth applicants are his children.

1.  Abduction of Mr Akhdan Akhmetkhanov

64.  In 2002 the applicants’ family lived in the village of Gekhi, Chechnya. They owned three separate houses with a common garden. The second, third and fourth applicants and Mr Akhdan Akhmetkhanov lived in the first house, the first applicant resided in the second house and Mr B.A., Akhdan Akhmetkhanov’s nephew, lived in the third house.

65.  Late at night on 3 July 2002 a group of fifteen to twenty men in camouflage uniforms and balaclavas, armed with automatic weapons and speaking unaccented Russian, broke into the houses.

66.  Four intruders entered the first house. They forced Mr Akhdan Akhmetkhanov to the ground and took his documents and his shirt. Then they took himinto the garden.

67.  At the same time the first applicant was awakened by two men who walked into her room. They asked her how many sons she had. She replied that she had four sons and confirmed that Akhdan was the youngest. Then she heard the second applicant screaming that Chingiz (Mr Akhdan Akhmetkhanov)was being taken away. The first applicant attempted to run into the garden, but the men ordered her to stay in the house.

68.  At some point the four applicants were able to walk out of their houses into the garden. They saw the service personneltaking Mr Akhdan Akhmetkhanov away. Two service personnel remained at the entrance gate. The first applicant attempted to follow the soldiers, but one of the men shot at the ground under her feet, and she had to return to the yard. Then the two remaining serivcemen left the gate and joined the group.

69.  From the yard the applicants saw the service personnel walking away with Mr Akhdan Akhmetkhanov towards the road to the town of Urus‑Martan. Twenty minutes later the applicants heard the noise of a vehicle which they believed to be an APC. On their way the abductors drove freely through the military checkpoint which blocked the road from Gekhi to Urus-Martan.

70.  The applicants submitted a statement by their neighbours Mr M.T and Mr V.I., who confirmed the account of the events as described above.

71.  It appears that on the same night another village resident, Mr M.I., was abducted under similar circumstances.

2.  The applicants’ search for Mr Akhdan Akhmetkhanov

72.  On 4 July 2002 the applicants learned that the night before a group of armed soldiers had rushed into the house of the Malsagov family, their neighbours. The service personnel had asked one of the family members, Ramzan Malsagov, if his name had been Chingiz. He had answered in the negative and stated that Chingiz had lived nearby. Then the military had left. Malsagov’s had dog started barking, and a serviceman had shot it. Ramzan Malsagov collected a cartridge case left by the service personnel after the shooting and gave it to the first applicant.

3.  Official investigation into the abduction

73.  On 4 July 2002 the applicants applied to various domestic authorities, including the Urus-Martan District Department of the Ministry of the Interior in the Chechen Republic (“the Urus‑Martan ROVD”) asking for assistance in the search for Mr Akhdan Akhmetkhanov. The applicants’requests remained unanswered for about one week.

74.  A week after Mr Akhdan Akhmetkhanov’s abduction, local police officers questioned the first and the second applicants. The first applicant showed the cartridge case to them, but they did nottake it. Owing to her illiteracy she was unable to write anapplication to accept the cartridge caseas evidence. At some point later she lost it.

75.  On 22 July 2002 the Urus-Martan district prosecutor in Chechnya opened criminal case no. 61103 under Article 126 of the CC (abduction) and granted the first applicant victim status in the proceedings.

76.  On the same day the investigators questioned her. She described the circumstances of the abductions as she did in her submission to the Court.

77.  On 24 July 2002 the three applicants’ neighbours, who had witnessed the abduction, were questioned by the investigators. Their statements were consistent with those of the applicants.

78.  On 14 August 2002 the investigation into Mr Akhdan Akhmetkhanov’s abduction was joined with the investigation into the abduction of Mr M.I.

79.  In the meantime, the investigators unsuccessfully contacted various law-enforcement authorities to establish Mr Akhdan Akhmetkhanov’s whereabouts.

80.  On 4 September 2002 the proceedings were suspended for failure to establish the identity of the perpetrators.

81.  On 19 December 2002 the first applicant asked a deputy of the Chechen Parliament to assist in the search for her son. On 4 January 2003 her request was forwarded to the investigators. It is not clear if any reply followed.

82.  On 2 February and 5 July 2004 the first applicant contacted the Chechen Ministry of the Interior and the President of Chechnya seeking their assistance in the investigation. Her requests were also forwarded to the investigators. By a letter of 20 August 2004 the Ministry and the President informed the first applicant in general terms that despite thesuspension of the proceedings in 2002, they were continuing the search for her son.

83.  On 10 January 2007 the investigation was resumed.

84.  In late January 2007 the investigators questioned the second applicant and her neighbours. All of them stated that Mr Akhdan Akhmetkhanov had not been a member ofan illegal armed group.

85.  Owing to the lack of any tangible results the investigators suspended the proceedings on 10 February 2007.

86.  On 21 April 2008 the above decision was overruled as ill-founded and the proceedings were resumed. Having questioned some of the applicants and their relatives about the events of 3 July 2002, the investigators suspended the proceedings once again on 22 May 2008.

87.  On 10 March 2010 the proceedings were resumed. Four days later the investigators examined the crime scene. No evidence was collected.

88.  On 10 April 2010 the proceedings were suspended again. There is no information about further developments.

E.  Mestoyevy v. Russia (no. 66394/10)

89.  The first applicant is the wife of Mr Magomed Mestoyev, who was born in 1964. The second and third applicants are his sons.

1.  Events of August 2002

90.  At about 2 p.m. on 6 August 2002 a white GAZelle minivan without registration plates pulled over at the applicants’ house in the village of Khambi-Irzi, Chechnya. Four armed service personnel waited near the vehicle while the other three entered into the house. Speaking unaccented Russian they asked Mr Magomed Mestoyev to show his identity documents. Hecould not produce the documents, as his passport had been submitted for renewal. Then the service personnel took him away for an identity check.

91.  On 13 August 2002 Mr Magomed Mestoyev was taken by the same service personnel to the outskirts of the village of Khamby-Irzi and then released.

92.  Having returned home, Mr Magomed Mestoyev told the applicants that he had been held in an unacknowledged detention facility on suspicion of illegal activities. He had been detained alone and handcuffed in a damp cage in a dark basement, given only bread and water and had had to sleep on the floor. He had been repeatedly taken to another room for questioning.

2.  Abduction of Mr Magomed Mestoyev

93.  On 29 September 2003 a group of forty to fifty service personnel in camouflage uniforms with semi-automatic weapons arrived at the applicants’ house in five or six UAZ vehicles with registration plates covered with dirt. Some of the service personnel were in helmets without balaclavas and of Slavic appearance. The service personnel surrounded the house; several of them broke inside and searched the premises. They checked the residents’ identity documents and then took Mr Magomed Mestoyev away on suspicion of membership ofan illegal armed group. The abductors told the head of the local council, Ms N.A., whose office was located across from the applicants’ house, that they were from the Urus‑Martan Department for the Fight against Organised Crime (Управление по Борьбе с Организованной Преступностью– “the RUBOP”).

3.  Subsequent events

94.  Immediately after the abduction, Mr Magomed Mestoyev’s brother, sister and a neighbour followed the abductors’ vehicles to the premises of the Urus-Martan ROVD. However, the ROVD police officers denied any involvement in Mr Magomed Mestoyev’s arrest.

95.  On the way back home Mr Magomed Mestoyev’s relatives spoke with traffic police officers manning a checkpoint on the motorway to Grozny. Some of them admitted that the UAZ vehicles had gone through their checkpoint on the way to Grozny.

96.  Later Mr Magomed Mestoyev’s relatives went to the FSB office in Grozny and enquired about Mr Magomed Mestoyev’s detention, but to no avail.

97.  Shortly after the incident the applicants and their fellow villagers organised a protest, blocking the Rostov-Baku motorwayfor three days to protest against Mr Magomed Mestoyev’s abduction. The protest was stopped after the authorities promised that Mr Magomed Mestoyev would be released.

4.  Official investigation of the abduction

98.  On 12 August 2002 the Achkhoy-Martan district prosecutor opened criminal caseno. 63058 under Article 126 of the CC (abduction) into the events of August 2002. On 30 September 2002 it was closed for lack of evidence of a crime.

99.  On 13 October 2003 the applicants complained to the prosecutor in respect of Mr Magomed Mestoyev’s abduction on 29 September 2003.

100.  On 29 October 2003 the decision to close the criminal case was annulled and the proceedings were resumed.

101.  Several days later (the exact date is illegible), in November 2003, the investigators questioned the head of the local council, Ms N.A., who had witnessed the abduction from her office. She stated that as soon as she had seen the arrest of Mr Magomed Mestoyev, she had left the office and approached the abductors. Having introduced herself she had asked the perpetrators to explain what had been happening. The perpetrators had told her that they – FSB officers –had just arrested a leader of an illegal armed group. Ms N.A. had assured them that Mr Magomed Mestoyev had not been a member of an illegal armed group, but they had not believed her. Later she had learned that the abductors had been RUBOP officers and that their commander’s surname had been of a Chechen originand had started with “A”.

102.  In November 2003 the investigators questioned several neighbours, who confirmed the applicants’account of the events. The investigators also contacted various law-enforcement bodies to establish Mr Magomed Mestoyev’s whereabouts, but to no avail.

103.  On 10 January 2004 the investigation of the criminal case was suspended for failure to establish the identity of the perpetrators.

104.  Following a request by the first applicant, on 19 October 2004 the Achkhoy-Martan District Court of Chechnya declared Mr Magomed Mestoyev a missing person.

105.  On 17 June 2008 the criminal proceedings were resumed and on 18 July 2008 suspended again.

106.  On 11 August 2009 the applicants complained of an ineffective investigation to the Chechen President and a number of local authorities. On 20 August 2009 the first applicant was informed that the investigation had been suspended for failure to establish the identity of the perpetrators.

107.  On 7 September 2009 the first applicant applied for victim status in the criminal proceedings. Three days later the proceedings were resumed and her application was granted.

108.  Subsequently, the proceedings were suspended on 12 September 2009, 25 January 2010, 12 July 2012, 17 June 2013 and 25 April 2014, and then resumed on 25 December 2009, 29 June 2012, 17 May 2013 and 10 April 2014 respectively. No tangible results had been achieved in the meantime. There is no information about further developments.

F.  Umarov and Others v. Russia (no. 5691/11)

109.  The applicants are close relatives of Mr Magomed Umarov, who was born in 1984. The first applicant, his father, passed away on 13 December 2015. The fourth applicant, his stepmother, wished to withdraw her application on 24 January 2016. The second and third applicants are Mr Magomed Umarov’s siblings. They maintain their applications.

1.  Abduction of Mr Magomed Umarov

110.  At about 4 a.m. on 25 May 2005 the first applicant noticed several armed men in camouflage uniforms, helmets and balaclavas climbing over the fence into the courtyard of his house in the village of Duba-Yurt, Chechnya. When he went out the armed men ordered him to put his hands up and searched him. Then the armed men broke into the house, took Mr Magomed Umarov outside and drove him to an unknown destination in a grey UAZ vehicle.

111.  As the first applicant later found out, the abductors had driven from Duba‑Yurt through the Uzhniy checkpoint, whichhad been manned by the Special Police Force,and had arrived at the Russian military base located in the northern outskirts of the village Stariye Atagi.

112.  About one year later, in 2006,the head of a correctional colony in the Kemerovo Region told the applicants that Mr Magomed Umarov had allegedly been detained in his detention facility, but then transported to Chechnya. The applicants have not had any news about their relative since.

2.  Official investigation into the abduction

113.  On an unspecified date the first applicant contacted the NGO Memorial in Chechnya asking for assistance in the search for her son.

114.  On 17 June 2005 Memorial asked the Chechnya prosecutor to open a criminal case into the events of 25 May 2005. The request was forwarded to the Shali district prosecutor. On 4 August 2005 the latter opened criminal case no. 46092 under Article 126 of the CC (abduction).

115.  In July 2005, within the framework of pre-investigation inquiry, the investigators questioned Mr Magomed Umarov’s relatives, who had been in the house during the abduction. Their statements were similar to those submitted by the applicants to the Court.They also mentioned that the abductors had taken from their house two mobile phones and a video camera.

116.  On 9 August and 6 September 2005 the first and second applicantsrespectively were granted victim status in the criminal proceedings.

117.  In the meantime the investigators contacted military authorities, law-enforcement bodies and detention facilitates to check whether Mr Magomed Umarov had been arrested during a special operation in Duba-Yurt and taken into custody. No positive repliesfollowed.

118.  On 4 October 2005 the proceedings were suspended and then on 15 January 2007 they were resumed.

119.  On 26 February 2007 the Shali District prosecutor opened a separate criminal case under Article 161 of the CC (robbery) into the theft of the applicants’ belongings by the abductors. On the same day it was joined with case no. 46092 and then suspended.

120.  On 14 March 2007 the investigators resumed the proceedings. Having questioned the applicants’ neighbours, who gave hearsay evidence about the abduction, they suspended the proceedings on 15 April 2007.

121.  Five days later, in April 2007, the proceedings were resumed again. On 20 May 2007 the investigation was suspended.

122.  On 17 March 2008 the investigators informed the applicants that criminal case no. 46092 had been transferred to the Chechnya investigations committee for further investigation.

123.  On 8 February 2010 the applicants asked the investigating authority to resume the criminal proceedings and grant them access to the investigation file.

124.  On 13 February 2010 the applicants were allowed access to the documents concerning their participation in the proceedings. The request to resume the investigation was dismissed.

125.  On 24 June 2010 the proceedings were resumed. Several weeks later the investigators obtained a DNA sample from the first applicant. They compared it with a database of DNA from unidentified corpses, but no matches were found.

126.  On 23 July 2010 the first applicant was granted civil-claimant status in the criminal proceedings. The next day the investigation was suspended. There is no information about further developments.

3.  Proceedings against the investigators

127.  On 8 June 2010 the applicants challenged the investigators’ refusal of 13 February 2010 to resume criminal proceedings before the Shali District Court in Chechnya.

128.  On 25 June 2010 the court left the complaint without consideration because the investigation had been resumed.

129.  On 5 July 2010 the applicants appealed against the decision of 25 June 2010 to the Chechnya Supreme Court, which upheld it on appeal on 1 September 2010.

G.  Ozdamirova and Bakriyeva v. Russia (no. 59117/11)

130.  The first applicant is the mother of Mr Umar Ozdamirov, who was born in 1962. The second applicant is his sister.

1.  Abduction of Mr Umar Ozdamirov and subsequent events

131.  On 30 July 2002 Russian federal forces in Chechnya conducted a special sweep operation in Grozny. Certain city districts were cordoned off with military vehicles.

132.  At about 2 p.m. on that day (in the documents submitted the date was also stated as 29 July 2002) Mr Umar Ozdamirov was at a bus stop at a crossroads in the centre of Grozny when a group of armed military service personnel in two GAZelle minivans without registration plates forced him into one of the minivans and took him to the premises of a State agency in Grozny. The service personnelwere in balaclavas and camouflage uniforms; they spoke unaccented Russian. The abduction was witnessed by several passers‑by.

133.  On the same day around eleven people were abducted under similar circumstances in Grozny.

134.  On 12 August 2002 military commanders showed journalists passports of several Chechens who were thought to have been members of illegally armed groups andwho had recently been killed. One of those passports belonged to Mr Ozdamirov.

135.   The second applicant denied the possibility of her brother being killed in August 2002 as a member of an illegal armed group (see paragraph144 below).

2.  Official investigation into the abduction

136.  On 1 August 2002 the applicants complained tothe authorities of the abduction and requested that a criminal case be opened.

137.  On 8 August 2002 the Grozny town prosecutor opened criminal case no. 50116 under Article 126 of the CC (abduction).

138.  On 3 October 2002 the first applicant was granted victim status in the proceedings.

139.  On 8 October 2002 the investigation was suspended for failure to establish the identity of the perpetrators.

140.  On 1 September 2004 the proceedings were resumed. The investigators contacted a number of law-enforcement authorities to establish the whereabouts of Mr Umar Ozdamirov, but to no avail.

141.  On 29 September 2004 the investigators questioned Mr B.V., an eyewitness to the abduction. He said that the abductors had been armed with automatic firearms and had been wearing camouflage uniforms. They had arrived in one white GAZelle minivan, one beige VAZ 2106 car and three camouflaged UAZ vehicles. They had seized Mr Umar Ozdamirov and his acquaintanceswho had been standing nearby.

142.  On 1 October 2004 the investigation was suspended.Three days later the Second Operative-Search Bureau of the Main Department of the Ministry of the Interior in the South Region(ORB-2) (Второеоперативно-розыскноебюроприГлавномуправленииМинистерствавнутреннихделРоссийскойФедерациипоЮжномуфедеральномуокругу) informed the investigators that on 11 August 2002 at the outskirts of Malye Varandy village the federal military forces had discovered an illegal armed group consisting of five persons. In a skirmish that followed three members of that group, including Mr Umar Ozdamirov had been killed.It appears that the investigators did not make any assessment of that information.

143.  On 30 August 2007 the investigators resumed the proceedings, and a month later suspended them again.

144.  On 27 May 2011 the investigators resumed the proceedings and four days later questioned the second applicant. She stated that before the events of 30 July 2002 her brother had submitted his passport to the Ministry of the Interior for renewal and had not received it back. Accordingly, he could not have been the person with the passport shot by military service personnelin August 2002.

145.  On 6 June 2011 the investigators suspended the proceedings once again. There is no information about further developments.

3.  Proceedings against the investigators

146.  On 6 May 2011 the applicants lodged a complaint with the Zavodskoy District Court in Grozny regarding the investigators’ decision to suspend the proceedings on 30 September 2007 and their failure to take basic investigative steps.

147.  On 27 May 2011 the court dismissed the claim, having found that the investigation had already been resumed.

148.  On 29 June 2011 the Chechnya Supreme Court upheld that decision on appeal.

H.  Kosumova v. Russia (no. 65052/11)

149.  The applicant is the wife of Mr Mayr-Khadzhi Gerikhanov, who was born in 1970.

1.  Abduction of Mr Mayr-Khadzhi Gerikhanov

150.  At about 5.30 p.m. on 2 October 2004 Mr Mayr-Khadzhi Gerikhanov and an acquaintance of his, Mr Kh.G., were driving on the motorway between the village of Novyye Atagi and the town of Shali, Chechnya, when a group of armed service personnel in camouflage uniforms and balaclavas stopped their car. Speaking unaccented Russian, the service personnel forced Mr Mayr-Khadzhi Gerikhanov and Mr Kh.G into a UAZ minivan parked nearby and drove off in the direction of Novyye Atagi, where a Russian military base was stationed. Later that day Mr Kh.G. was released and returned home.

2.  Official investigation into the abduction

151.  It appears that immediately after the abduction of Mr Mayr‑Khadzhi Gerikhanov his relatives contacted the commanding officer of the Shali district in Chechnya and asked for his assistance in the search for their missing relative. In late October 2004theybrought a formal complaint of abduction.

152.  In early December 2004 the investigators of the Shali ROVD questioned Mr Mayr-Khadzhi Gerikhanov’s relatives and Mr Kh.G. The latter stated that on 2 October 2004 he had offered Mr Mayr-Khadzhi Gerikhanov a lift home. They had followed a motorway which had been blocked by a UAZ minivan. As soon as they had stopped, a group of five to six armed individuals in camouflage uniforms and balaclavas approached. Speaking unaccented Russian, they had forced Mr Mayr-Khadzhi Gerikhanov into their car and driven off in the direction of Novyye Atagi.

153.  The above witness statementwas forwarded to the Shali district prosecutor, which on 24 December 2004 opened criminal case no. 36149 under Article 126 of the CC (abduction).

154.  On 26 December 2004 the applicant was granted victim status in the criminal case.

155.  On 11 January 2005 the investigators questioned Mr Mayr-Khadzhi Gerikhanov’s sister, who stated that the commanding officer of the Shali district had established that Mr Mayr-Khadzhi Gerikhanov’s abductors’ car had hadthe registration plate A452AX and that it had been seen entering the premises of military regiment no. 70.

156.  Between 22 January and 1 February 2004 the investigators sent a number of requests to various law-enforcement authorities and detention facilities to obtain information about Mr Mayr-Khadzhi Gerikhanov’s alleged arrest and detention. The respondent authorities replied that they did not have any relevant information.

157.  Subsequently the proceedings were suspended on 24 March and 2 July 2005, 15 March 2006, and 17 November 2008; and then resumed on 26 May 2005, 15 February 2006 and 16 October 2008 respectively.

158.  In the meantime, the investigators repeatedly questioned the applicant and Mr Mayr-Khadzhi Gerikhanov’s other relatives and submitted new requests to various civil and military authorities, but no tangible results were achieved.

159.  On 14 April 2009 the applicant asked the Chechen President to assist in the search for her husband. Her request was forwarded to the investigators. There is no information about further developments.

3.  Proceedings against the investigators

160.  On 14 October 2008 the applicant lodged a claim with the Shali Town Court, seeking tohave the decision to suspend the investigation on 15 March 2006 quashed, and an order for the investigation’s resumption. She alleged that the investigating authoritieshad not conducted the proceeding with the required promptness.

161.  On 17 October 2008 the court dismissed her claim, finding that on 16 October 2008 the investigators had already resumed the criminal proceedings.

I.  Isayevy v. Russia (no. 70640/11)

162.  The first applicant is the sister of Mr Rizvan Isayev, who was born in 1981, and the aunt of Mr Anzor Isayev, who was born in 1983. The second and third applicants are the brothers of Mr Rizvan Isayev and the uncles of Mr Anzor Isayev.

1.  Abduction of Mr Rizvan Isayev and Mr Anzor Isayev

163.  On 16 March 2003 Mr Rizvan Isayev and Mr Anzor Isayev were taking a bus from Ingushetia to the village of Samashki, Chechnya. At about 2.20 p.m. the bus was stopped at the Kavkaz checkpoint at the border between Ingushetia and Chechnya to check the passengers’ identity. A group of armed service personnel in camouflage uniforms asked the passengers to show their identity documents. The service personnel spoke unaccented Russian; some of them were wearing balaclavas. Having checked the passports, they forced Mr Rizvan Isayev and Mr Anzor Isayev outside, put them into an UAZ minivan and took them away to an unknown destination. The abduction was seen by numerous witnesses.

2.  Official investigation into the abduction

164.  The applicants submitted that immediately after the abduction they attempted to search for their relatives on their own. They went in person to various law-enforcement and military agencies asking about their relatives’ whereabouts, but to no avail. On an unspecified date they lodged an official complaint with the Achkhoy-Martan inter-district prosecutor,asking him to open an investigation into the abduction.

165.  On 12 June 2003 the latter opened criminal case no. 44046 under Article 126 of the CC (abduction).

166.  Despitea request by the Court, the Government did not submit a copy of the file ofthe investigation into the Isayevs’ abduction. Instead, they submitted a copy of the case file concerning the abduction of Mr M.Kh., which is irrelevantto the present application.

167.  According to the applicants, the investigation proceeded as follows.

168.  On 2 November 2003 the investigators suspended it for failure to establish the identity of the perpetrators.

169.  On 27 May 2004 the Achkhoy-Martan inter-district prosecutor criticised the above decision and ordered that the proceedings be resumed.

170.  On an unspecified date after the resumption of the proceedings the investigators questioned Ms Kh.Yu. and Ms R.S, two eyewitnesses to the abduction, who had beentravelling on the same bus as Mr Rizvan Isayev and Mr Anzor Isayev on 16 March 2003. Their submissions to the investigators were similar to those of the applicants before the Court. Several days later the bus driver, Mr A.E. was also questioned. His statement was consistent with those of Ms Kh.Yu. and Ms R.S.

171.  On 1 November 2004 the proceedings were suspended again. It is unclear whether the applicants were informed of that decision.

172.  On 31 January 2011 the first applicant asked the investigators to resume the proceedings, to grant her civil-claimant statusand to allow her accessto the investigation file.

173.  The above request was granted in part. The investigators resumed the proceedings on 2 February 2011, on the same day they granted the first applicant victim status and civil-claimant status in the criminal case. Access to the case file was, however, refused.

174.  On 2 February 2011 the first applicant was also questioned about the circumstances of her brother’s and nephew’s abduction. Among other things, she stated that immediately after the abduction she had gone to the Kavkaz checkpoint and spoken with the commanding officer there. The latter said that her relatives had been abducted by officers from the Main Intelligence Directorate (Глаавное управленние Генерального штаба Вооружённых Сил Росси́йской Федерации). After that she had searchedin various different ways in Chechnya, but to no avail.

175.  It appears that shortly after that, in February 2011, the proceedings were suspended.

176.  On 23 June 2011 the first applicant again contacted the investigators seeking resumption of the proceedings and access to the case file. Her requests weredismissed. There is no information about further developments.

3.  Civil proceedings for compensation

177.  On 1 April 2011 the first applicant lodged a civil claim for compensation for non-pecuniary damage caused by the abduction.

178.  On 3 May 2011 the Presnenskiy District Court of Moscow provisionally deferred the examination of the claim in view of a number of procedural defects. The applicant was given time to remedy the defects.The outcome of the proceedings is unknown.

4.  Proceedings against the investigators

179.  On 27 June 2011 the first applicant challenged her lack of access to the investigation file before the Sunzhenskiy District Court in Ingushetia. Her claim was dismissed on 5 July 2011.

180.  On 16 August 2011 the Supreme Court of Ingushetia upheld the above decision on appeal.

J.  Demelkhanova v. Russia (no. 59203/13)

181.  The applicant is the wife of Mr Abdula (also spelled as Abdul) Demelkhanov, who was born in 1970.

1.  Abduction of Mr Abdula Demelkhanov

182.  In the afternoon of 28 March 2004 Mr Abdula Demelkhanov was at the junction of Musorova Street and 8 Marta Street in Grozny, Chechnya, when a group of armed service personnel in camouflage uniforms arrived in APCs, grabbed him and took him away to an unknown destination.The arrest took place in the presence of several witnesses.

2.  Official investigation into the abduction

183.  On 28 March 2004 the sister of Mr Abdula Demelkhanov, Ms S.D., informed the authorities – apparently the Urus-Martan ROVD – of the disappearance of her brother. She stated that he had left the town of Urus‑Martan in his car, but hadnever arrived at his sister-in-law’s house in Grozny.

184.  The next day the traffic police found a car belonging to Mr Abdula Demelkhanov in Grozny. It was parked in the vicinity of the Department of the Interior officesin Oktyabrskiy district in Grozny (“the Oktyabrskiy ROVD”).

185.  On 8 April 2004 the investigators from the Urus-Martan ROVD questioned the first applicant and the sister of Mr Abdula Demelkhanov, who confirmed that the latter had been missing since 28 March 2004. Later that day the investigation was transferred to the Oktyabrskiy ROVD, which had to take the decision on the merits of the case.

186.  The next day the applicant complained of the abduction to the Oktyabrskiy District prosecutor in Grozny. It appears that on an unspecified date she and the sister of Mr Abdula Demelkhanov were questioned.

187.  On 17 April and 25 December 2004 the Oktyabrskiy ROVD and the Oktyabrskiy District prosecutor respectively refused to open a criminal case into the abduction.

188.  In the meantime,on 22 April and 9 June 2004 the Oktyabrskiy ROVD, apparently following the applicant’s allegation that her husband had been abducted by State agents, contacted the FSB in Chechnya and thecommanding officer of the army in Chechnyato check if Mr Abdula Demelkhanov had been arrested in the course of a special operation. The replies received were in the negative.

189.  On 9 August 2005 the Chechnya prosecutor annulled the decision of 17 April 2004 and opened criminal case no. 42104 under Article 105 of the CC (murder). On the same day the Oktyabrskiy district prosecutor in Grozny opened criminal case no. 42094 into the same events under the same Article of the CC. Eight days later the two cases were joined underno. 42094.

190.  On 16 August 2005 the applicant was granted victim status in the case.

191.  On 9 November 2005 the investigation was suspended for failure to establish the identity of the perpetrators.

192.  On 22 March 2006 the applicant contacted the Chechen President asking him to assist in the search for her husband. Her letter was forwarded to the investigators.

193.  It appears that on 4 May 2006 the investigators resumed the proceedings and questioned the applicant. She repeated her previous statements and added that her husband had not been a member of any illegal armed groups. Shortly after thatthe proceedings were suspended again.

194.  Subsequently, the investigation was resumed on 17 May 2011,6 February and 25 May 2012, 9 December 2013, 28 December 2015 and 1 July 2016. It was then suspended on6 June 2011, 10 February and 22 July 2012, 19 December 2013 and 30 December 2015 respectively.

195.  In the meantime, on 4 June 2011 and 7 February 2012, the investigators questioned two eyewitnesses to the abduction, Ms R.K. and Ms T.D. They submitted that at about 5 p.m. on 28 March 2004 they had been in front of 8 Marta Street in Grozny when an APC had stopped besideMr Abdula Demelkhanov’s car. A group of five to six service personnel in camouflage uniformsarmed with automatic weapons had emerged from the vehicle. Some of them had been wearing balaclavas and had spoken unaccented Russian. The men asked Mr Abdula Demelkhanovto show his identity documents. Then they had pulled him out of the car and forced him into the APC, which had driven off in the direction of Chernorechye village.

196.  On 29 December 2015 the investigators granted victim status to Mr Abdula Demelkhanov’s mother. There is no information about further developments.

3.  Proceedings before the domestic courts

(a)  Proceedings for compensation

197.  On 28 January 2013 the applicant lodged a court claim seeking compensation for non-pecuniary damage caused by the alleged abduction of her husband.

198.  On 12 March 2013 the Urus-Martan Town Court granted the claim and awarded the applicant1,000,000 Russian roubles (RUB) (approximately 13,200 euros (EUR)) in compensation.

199.  On 28 May 2013 the Chechnya Supreme Court quashed the above decision on appeal and dismissed the claim as unfounded.

(b)  Proceedings against the investigators

200.  On 22 June 2016 the applicant complained to the Oktyabrskiy District Court in Grozny of the ineffectiveness of the investigation into her husband’s abduction. In particular, she requested that the decision of 30 December 2015 to suspend the investigation be annulled as ill-founded.

201.  On 1 July 2016 the court rejected her claim, finding that the decision to suspend the investigation had already been annulled by the investigating authority.

II.  RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND INTERNATIONAL MATERIALS

202.  For a summary of the relevant domestic law and international and domestic reports on disappearances in Chechnya and Ingushetia, see Aslakhanova and Others v. Russia (nos. 2944/06 and 4 others, §§ 43-59 and §§ 69-84, 18 December 2012).

THE LAW

I.  JOINDER OF THE APPLICATIONS

203.  In accordance with Rule 42 § 1 of the Rules of Court, it decides to join the applications, given their similar factual and legal background.

II. PRELIMINARY ISSUE

204.  The Court notes that the fourth applicant in Umarov and Others(no. 5691/11), Ms Madina Gaysultanova, withdrewher complaints on 24 January 2016 (see paragraph 109 above).

205.  The Court, having regard to Article 37 of the Convention, finds that she does not intend to pursue her application within the meaning of Article 37 § 1 (a). The Court also finds no reasons of a general character affecting respect for human rights as defined in the Convention, which require the further examination of the present complaints by virtue of Article 37 § 1 of the Convention in fine (see, for example,Asukhanova v. Russia (dec.), no. 53322/11, 9 April 2013,and Vakayeva and Others v. Russia, no. 2220/05, §§ 168-69, 10 June 2010).

206.  It follows the application of Umarov and Others (no. 5691/11) must be struck out in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention as far as it concerns Ms Madina Gaysultanova.

III.  COMPLIANCE WITH THE SIX-MONTH RULE

A.  The parties’ submissions

1.  The Government

207.  In their observations, the Government argued that the applicants had lodged their applications with the Court several years after the abductions of their relatives and more than six months after the date when they ought to have become aware of the ineffectiveness of the ensuing investigation, or more than six months after the most recent decision of the investigators. They also pointed out that the applicants had remained passive and had not maintained contact with the investigating authorities for significant amounts of time.In Mestoyevy(no. 66394/10) the Government noted that the applicants’ representative had unduly delayed lodging the application with the Court. According to the Government, all the applications should be declared inadmissible as brought “out of time”.

2.  The applicants

208.  The applicants submitted that they had complied with the six‑month rule. They had taken all possible steps within a reasonable time frame to initiate the search for their missing relatives and to assist the authorities in the proceedings. They submitted that there had been no excessive or unexplained delays in lodging their applications with the Court, which had been brought as soon as they considered the domestic investigations to be ineffective. According to them, the armed conflict which had been taking place in Chechnya at the material time had led them to believe that investigative delays were inevitable. Owing to their lack of legal knowledge and financial means to hire a lawyer, and in the absence of any domestic provisions for free legal assistance to victims of enforced disappearances, they had been unable to assess the effectiveness of the investigations. It was only with the passage of time and a lack of information from the investigating authorities that they began to doubt the effectiveness of the investigation and started looking for free legal assistance to assess the effectiveness of the proceedings and then, subsequently, to lodge their applications with the Court without undue delay.

B.  The Court’s assessment

1.  General principles

209.  A summary of the principles concerning compliance with the six‑month rule in disappearance cases may be found in Sultygov and Others (cited above, §§ 369‑74, 9 October 2014).

2.  Application of the principles to the present case

210.  Turning to the circumstances of the cases, the Court notes that in each application the applicants lodged their complaints with the Court within less than ten years of the incidents and the initiation of the related investigations (see Varnava and Others v. Turkey [GC], nos. 16064/90 and 8 others, § 166, ECHR 2009).

211.  It further notes that in each application the applicants informed the authorities about the abductions of their relatives within a reasonable time.

212.  In particular, in the followingsix cases,Kukurkhoyeva (no. 50556/08), Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08), Zakriyeva and Muradova, Akhmetkhanova and Others, Ozdamirova and Bakriyeva(no. 59117/11) and Demelkhanova(no. 59203/13) the applicants brought formal complaints within six days of the abductions of their relatives (see paragraphs 8, 12, 24, 27, 29, 46, 52, 65, 73, 132, 136, 182 and 183above). In Mestoyevy (no. 66394/10) the formal complaint was brought two weeks after the abduction, and in Umarov and Others (no. 5691/11) and Kosumova(no. 65052/11)within aboutone month ofthe incidents, which does not appear to have been unreasonable in the circumstances of the cases (see paragraphs 93, 99, 110, 114, 150and 151above). In Isayevy(no. 70640/11) the date the formal complaint was made remains unknown owing to the Government’s failure to submit the investigation file (see paragraph 166 above). However, in that case the Government did not dispute that immediately after the abduction the applicants had in person contacted law‑enforcement and military authorities asking them to find their missing relative. Thus the authorities had become aware of the incident shortly after it had taken place (see paragraph 164above).

213.  The Court further observes that in each of the applications the authorities opened a criminal investigation into the applicants’ complaints of abduction, which was repeatedly suspended and then resumed following supervisors’ criticism. In each case the investigation was still pending when the application was lodged with the Court (see paragraph 5 above).

214.  The Court also notes certain lulls in the criminal proceedings. The most significant took place in Demelkhanova (no. 59203/13); it amounted to five years (see paragraphs193and 194 above). However at that time the applicant did not remain passive;she contacted the authoritieswith requests to assist in the search for her husband (see paragraph192 above).

215.  In Akhmetkhanova and Others(no. 43706/09) andMestoyevy (no. 66394/10) the proceedings remained suspended for about four years and five months (see paragraphs 80, 83, 103 and 105 above). While the investigation was dormant the applicants in both cases contacted a number of authorities in attempts to establish the fate of their abducted relatives (see paragraphs 81,82and104above).

216.  In Umarov and Others (no. 5691/11) and Ozdamirova and Bakriyeva (no. 59117/11) the lulls did not exceed three years and one month and three years and eight months respectively (see paragraphs 121, 125, 143 and 144 above). While the applicant in the first case sought the resumption of the proceedings, the applicants in the second case apparently did not maintain contact with the investigating authorityat that time. However, throughout the proceedings taken as a whole, they actively cooperated with the investigators (see paragraphs 136-148 above).

217.  In Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08)and Kosumova (no. 65052/11) the relevant lulls in the proceedings were even less significant and did not exceed two years and eleven months (see paragraphs 38, 40 and 157 above). In the meantime, the first and second applicantsin Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08) maintained contact with the investigators, seeking access to the case file (see paragraph 39 above). During the period in question, the applicant in Kosumova (no. 65052/11)actively collaborated with the investigators and demonstrated her interest in the proceedings (see paragraphs 151-161 above).

218.  Lastly, the Court notes with regret the Government’s failure to submit a copy of entire investigation files in the cases ofKukurkhoyeva (no. 50556/08), Zakriyeva and Muradova(no. 22667/09) and Isayevy, owing to which it is impossible to establish the exact periods the investigators were inactive and the applicants’ conduct during the time frame in question.

219.  In assessing the circumstances of the cases, the Court takes into account all of the applications were lodged within ten yearsof the incidents. It also bears in mind that the authorities became aware of the abductions within a reasonable time. The alleged delay in lodging a formal complaint in Isayevy (no. 70640/11) could not be held against the applicants, as it did not preclude the authorities from making enquiries into the applicants’oral submissions, given the seriousness of the matter complained of.

220.  The Court also notes the applicants’ efforts to resume the dormant proceedings in Demelkhanova (no. 59203/13), Akhmetkhanova and Others, Umarov and Others (no. 5691/11)and Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08). It considers that the absence of important information concerning the investigators’ and the applicants’ conduct in Kukurkhoyeva (no. 50556/08),Zakriyeva and Muradova (no. 22667/09) and Isayevy (no. 70640/11) resulting from the lack of the respective investigation files, could not be held against the applicants. Therefore, the Court concludes that they acted diligently and maintained contact with the investigators. The Court also takes into account that in Mestoyevy(no. 66394/10), Ozdamirova and Bakriyeva (no. 59117/11) and Kosumova (no. 65052/11)the periods of inactivity were not particularly significant and that the applicants in those cases demonstrated an active stance in the proceedings as a whole.

221.  Given the fact that the investigations were complex and concerned very serious allegations, the Court concludes that it was reasonable for the applicants to wait for developments that could have resolved crucial factual or legal issues (see El-Masri v. the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia [GC], no. 39630/09, § 142, ECHR 2012). The delays inopening the criminal cases or the lulls in the proceedings cannot, therefore, be interpreted as failure on the partof the applicants to comply with the six‑month requirement (see Abdulkhadzhiyeva and Abdulkhadzhiyev v. Russia, no. 40001/08, §§ 9, 15 and 67, 4 October 2016, where the delay in lodging a formal complaint amounted to eight months, and contrast Doshuyeva and Yusupov v. Russia (dec.), 58055/10, §§ 41-47, 31 May 2016, where the applicants did not contact the investigating authorities for about eight years and three months, while the investigation was seemingly dormant).

222.  The Court, therefore, concludes that the investigations in the cases at hand were being conducted during the periods in question, albeit sporadically, and that it is satisfied with the explanations submitted by the applicants (see Varnava and Others, cited above,§ 166). Accordingly, they complied with the six-month rule.

IV.  COMPLIANCE WITH THE EXHAUSTION RULE

A.  The parties’ submissions

1.  The Government

223.  The Government argued that it had been open to the applicants to challenge in court any actions or omissions of the investigating authorities, and raise the issue of the effectiveness of the investigation, or claim compensation for pecuniary damage, but the applicants in Kosumova (no. 65052/11), Isayevy, Zakriyeva and Muradova, Akhmetkhanova and Others (no. 43706/09) and Mestoyevy(no. 66394/10)had failed to do so. Accordingly, they had not exhausted domestic remedies.

2.  The applicants

224.  The applicants stated that lodging complaints against the investigators would not have remedied the shortcomings in the proceedings. They submitted that the only effective remedy – a criminal investigation – had proved to be ineffective.

B.  The Court’s assessment

225.  The Court has already concluded that the ineffective investigation of disappearances that occurred in Chechnya between 2000 and 2006 constitutes a systemic problem, and that criminal investigations are not an effective remedy in this regard (see Aslakhanova and Others, cited above, § 217).

226.  As regards a civil action to obtain redress for damage sustained through the allegedly illegal acts or unlawful conduct of State agents, the Court has already found in a number of similar cases that this procedure alone cannot be regarded as an effective remedy in the context of claims brought under Article 2 of the Convention (see Avkhadova and Others v. Russia, no. 47215/07, § 76, 14 March 2013 with further references).

227.  In such circumstances, and noting the absence of tangible progress in any of the criminal investigations into the abductions of the applicants’ relatives, the Court concludes that this objection must be dismissed, since the remedy relied on by the Government would not havebeen effective in the circumstances (for similar reasoning see Ortsuyeva and Others v. Russia, nos. 3340/08 and 24689/10, § 79, 22 November 2016).

V.  ASSESSMENT OF THE EVIDENCE AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE FACTS

A.  The parties’ submissions

1.  The Government

228.  The Government did not contest the essential facts underlying each application, but submitted that the applicants’ allegations were based on assumptions as there was no evidence proving beyond reasonable doubt that State agents had been involved in the alleged abductions, or that the applicants’ relatives were dead.

2.  The applicants

229.  The applicants submitted that it had been established “beyond reasonable doubt” that the men who had taken their relatives had been State agents. In support of that assertion, they referred to evidence contained in their submissions and documents from the criminal investigation files disclosed by the Government. They also submitted that they had each made a prima facie case that their relatives had been abducted by State agents, and the essential facts underlying their complaints had not been challenged by the Government. Given the lack of any news about their relatives for a long time and the life‑threatening nature of unacknowledged detention in Chechnya at the relevant time, they asked the Court to consider their relatives dead.

B.  The Court’s assessment

1.  General principles

230.  A summary of the principles concerning assessment of evidence and establishment of facts in disappearance cases and the life-threatening nature of such incidents may be found in Sultygov and Others(cited above, §§ 393‑96).

2.  Application of the above principles to the present cases

231.  Turning to the circumstances of the cases presently before it, and in view of all the material, including the copies of the documents from the relevant criminal case files as submitted by the parties, the Court finds that the applicants have presented prima facie cases that their relatives were abducted by State agents in the circumstances set out above. The Court notes that each of the abductions took place in areas under State control.

232.  The abductors in all cases save for Kukurkhoyeva (no. 50556/08) wore camouflage uniforms. In Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08), Zakriyeva and Muradova, Akhmetkhanova and Others, Ozdamirova and Bakriyeva (no. 59117/11), Kosumova (no. 65052/11) and Isayevy (no. 70640/11) they also spoke unaccented Russian. Eye witnesses to the events in Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08) and Mestoyevy (no. 66394/10) stated that the perpetrators were of Slavic appearance. In Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08), Akhmetkhanova and Others (no. 43706/09) and Demelkhanova (no. 59203/13) it was stated that the abductors used APCs. In Mestoyevy (no. 66394/10), Ozdamirova and Bakriyeva (no. 59117/11), Kosumova (no. 65052/11) and Isayevy (no. 70640/11) they arrived in UAZs, a brand of military vehicle. In the cases of Zakriyeva and Muradova, Mestoyevy (no. 66394/10) and Umarov and Others (no. 5691/11) the culprits’ vehicles passed freely through road checkpoints. In Isayevy (no. 70640/11) the arrest itself took place at the checkpoint. In Kosumova (no. 65052/11) the abductors’ car was seen entering premises of a military regiment. Moreover, as submitted by the applicants and not disputed by the Government in Umarov and Others (no. 5691/11),Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08), Zakriyeva and Muradova, Mestoyevy, Kukurkhoyeva (no. 50556/08) and Isayevy (no. 70640/11) various State authorities confirmed either the fact of the arrest of the applicants’ relatives by State agents, or their detention in custody (see paragraphs8-11, 23-28, 46-50, 65-69, 93, 95, 97, 101, 110‑112, 132, 150, 155, 163, 174, 182 and 195 above).

233.  The Court notes that in the cases at hand, the investigating authorities themselves accepted as fact the primary versions of events presented by the applicants and took steps to verify whether State service personnel had indeed been involved therein by sending information requests to the relevant authorities. They did so even in the case of Demelkhanova (no. 59203/13), where the applicant’s first complaint had not explicitly referred to a possible abduction by State agents, and the relevant allegation was apparently made at a later stage (see paragraphs 185 and 188 above).

234.  In their submission to the Court, the Government did not provide a satisfactory and convincing explanation for the events in question. They have therefore failed to discharge their burden of proof.

235.  Bearing in mind the general principles enumerated above, the Court finds that the applicants’ relatives were taken into custody by State agents during special operations. Given the lack of any news about Mr Girikhan Tsechoyev, Mr Sharip Shavkhayev, Mr Shamkhan Shavkhayev, Mr Umar Bekayev, Mr Murad Zakriyev, Mr Rustam Muradov, Mr Akhdan Akhmetkhanov, Mr Magomed Mestoyev, Mr Magomed Umarov, Mr Mayr‑Khadzhi Gerikhanov, Mr Rizvan Isayev, Mr Anzor Isayev and Mr Abdula Demelkhanov since their detention and its life‑threatening nature they may be presumed dead following their unacknowledged detention.

236.  The Court notes that in Ozdamirova and Bakriyeva (no. 59117/11) the applicants received some news about their missing relative’s fate after his abduction. There was an official statement that about eleven days after the alleged abduction, federal service personnel had found and killed Mr Umar Ozdamirov in a skirmish with the illegal armed group to which he belonged (see paragraphs 134 and142 above). However, regard being had to the applicants’ objection to that version (see paragraphs 135 and 144above), the lack of its consideration by the investigating authority, or any comments by the Government, the Court cannot accept it. Therefore it finds that Mr Umar Ozdamirov can also be presumed dead following his unacknowledged detention.

VI.  ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 2 OF THE CONVENTION

237.  The applicants complained, under Article 2 of the Convention, that their relatives had disappeared after having been detained 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…”

A.  The parties’ submissions

238.  InShavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08),Akhmetkhanova and Others, Mestoyevy and Umarov and Others (no. 5691/11) the Government contended that Article 2 of the Convention was not applicable to the applicants’ complaints of abductions, which should instead be examined under Article 5 of the Convention. To this end they referred to the case of Kurt v. Turkey (25 May 1998, §§ 101‑09, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1998‑III).

239.  In Akhmetkhanova and Others, Ozdamirova and Bakriyeva (no. 59117/11), Kosumova (no. 65052/11) and Isayevy (no. 70640/11) the Government submitted that the complaints should be dismissed, because the applicants had failed to substantiate their allegations of enforced disappearances perpetrated by State service personnel. Furthermore, the Government submitted that the domestic investigation had obtained no evidence that the applicants’ relatives had been held by the State or that they had been killed.

240.  InShavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08),Akhmetkhanova and Others,Mestoyevy and Umarov and Others (no. 5691/11) the Government submitted that the mere fact that the investigations had not produced any specific results, or only limited ones, did not mean that they had been ineffective. The Government claimed that all necessary steps had been taken to comply with the positive obligation under Article 2 of the Convention.

241.  The Government did not commenton Kukurkhoyeva(no. 50556/08), Zakriyeva and Muradova (no. 22667/09) and Demelkhanova (no. 59203/13).

242.  The applicants maintained their complaints alleging that their relatives had been abducted and intentionally deprived of their lives in circumstances that had violated Article 2 of the Convention. They further argued that the investigation into the incidents had fallen short of the standards set down in the Convention and national legislation. Lastly, the applicantin Kukurkhoyeva(no. 50556/08) noted the Government’s failure to provide the Court with a copy of the investigation file.

B.  The Court’s assessment

1.  Admissibility

243.  The Court considers, in the light of the parties’ submissions, that the complaints raise serious issues of fact and law under the Convention, the determination of which requires an examination of the merits. The complaints under Article 2 of the Convention must therefore be declared admissible.

2.  Merits

(a)  Alleged violation of the right to life of the applicants’ relatives

244.  The Court observes that it is undisputed by the parties that the whereabouts of the applicants’ relatives remained unaccounted for from the time of their abduction to the lodging of the applications with the Court. The question arises whether, as the Government submitted, Article 2 of the Convention is applicable to the applicants’ situations.

245.  The Court has already examined the Government’s objection in similar cases concerning alleged abductions by State agents and dismissed it (see, for example, Sultygov and Others, cited above, §§ 441-42 and Dzhabrailov and Others v. Russia, nos. 8620/09 and 8 others, §§ 317-18, 27 February 2014), Accordingly, the Court finds that Article 2 of the Convention applies and that the Government’s objection in this respect should be rejected.

246.  Based on the above and noting that it has already been found that in all of the applications under examination the applicants’ relatives may be presumed dead following their unacknowledged detention by State agents (see paragraphs235and 236above). The Court finds, in the absence of any justification put forward by the Government, that the deaths of the applicants’ relatives can be attributed to the State and that there has been a violation of the substantive aspect of Article 2 of the Convention in respect of Mr Girikhan Tsechoyev, Mr Sharip Shavkhayev, Mr Shamkhan Shavkhayev, Mr Umar Bekayev, Mr Murad Zakriyev, Mr Rustam Muradov, Mr Akhdan Akhmetkhanov, Mr Magomed Mestoyev, Mr Magomed Umarov, Mr Umar Ozdamirov, Mr Mayr-Khadzhi Gerikhanov, Mr Rizvan Isayev, Mr Anzor Isayev and Mr Abdula Demelkhanov.

(b)  Alleged inadequacy of the investigations into the abductions

247.  The Court notes that despite its request, the Government failed to submit copies of the investigation files in their entirety as requested in three cases, Kukurkhoyeva (no. 50556/08), Zakriyeva and Muradova (no. 22667/09) and Isayevy (no. 70640/11)(see paragraphs 14, 59 and 166above). However, considering the volume of the material provided by the applicants, the Court considers that it is not precluded from the examination of the issues raised in the applications.

248.  The Court has already found that a criminal investigation does not constitute an effective remedy in respect of disappearances which occurred, in particular, in Chechnya between 1999 and 2006, and that such a situation constitutes a systemic problem under the Convention (see paragraph 225 above). In the case at hand, as in many previous similar cases reviewed by the Court, the investigations have been pending for many years without bringing about any significant developments as to the identities of the perpetrators or the fate of the applicants’ missing relatives.

249.  The Court observes that each set of criminal proceedings has been plagued by a combination of the defects similar to those enumerated in the Aslakhanova and Othersjudgment (cited above, §§ 123‑25). Each was subjected to several decisions to suspend the investigation, followed by periods of inactivity, which further diminished the prospects of solving the crimes. No timely and thorough measures were taken to identify and question the service personnel who might have participated in the abductions.

250.  In the light of the foregoing, the Court finds that the authorities failed to carry out effective criminal investigations into the circumstances of the disappearance and death of Mr Girikhan Tsechoyev, Mr Sharip Shavkhayev, Mr Shamkhan Shavkhayev, Mr Umar Bekayev, Mr Murad Zakriyev, Mr Rustam Muradov, Mr Akhdan Akhmetkhanov, Mr Magomed Mestoyev, Mr Magomed Umarov, Mr Umar Ozdamirov, Mr Mayr-Khadzhi Gerikhanov, Mr Rizvan Isayev, Mr Anzor Isayev and Mr Abdula Demelkhanov. Accordingly, there has been a violation of the procedural aspect of Article 2 of the Convention.

VII.  ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OF ARTICLES 3, 5 AND 13 OF THE CONVENTION

251.  All the applicants complained of a violation of Article 3 of the Convention on account of their mental suffering caused by the disappearance of their relatives.

252.  The applicants in all of the applications except for Kosumova (no. 65052/11)also complained of a violation of Article 5 of the Convention on account of the unlawfulness of their relatives’ detention.

253.  The applicants in all of the applicants also argued that, contrary to Article 13 of the Convention, they had no effective domestic remedies against the alleged violation of Article 2 of the Convention.

254.  Furthermore, the applicants in Kukurkhoyeva (no. 50556/08), Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08), Zakriyeva and Muradova (no. 22667/09), Akhmetkhanova and Others (no. 43706/09), Ozdamirova and Bakriyeva (no. 59117/11), Kosumova (no. 65052/11), Isayevy (no. 70640/11) and Demelkhanova (no. 59203/13) alleged a lack of effective domestic remedies in respect of their complaints under Article 3 of the Convention.

255.  Lastly, the applicants in the abovelistedcases (see paragraph 254 above), save for Kosumova (no. 65052/11),alleged a lack of effective domestic remedies in respect of their complaints under Article 5 of the Convention.

256.  The Articles relied on read, in so far as relevant:

Article 3

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Article 5

“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.”

Article 13

“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

257.  The Government contested the applicants’ claims. They stated, in particular, that the applicants’ mental suffering had not reached the minimum level of severity to fall within the scope of Article 3 of the Convention, particularly on account of the young age of some of the applicants,and that there was no evidence of the applicants’ relatives’ arrest by State agents. Lastly, they averred that domestic legislation, including Articles 124 and 125 of the Russian Code of Criminal Procedure,had provided the applicants with effective remedies for their complaints.

258.  The applicants maintained their complaints.

B.  The Court’s assessment

1.  Admissibility

259.  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.

2.  Merits

260.  The Court has found on many occasions that a situation of enforced disappearance gave rise to a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in respect of the close relatives of the victim irrespective of their age (seeAslakhanova and Others, cited above, § 133, and Dzhabrailov and Others, cited above, §§ 326-27).

261.  Given the above findings regarding the State’s responsibility for the abductions of the applicants’ relatives and the failure to carry out meaningful investigations into the incidents (see paragraphs 250 above), the Court finds that the applicantsmust be considered victims of a violation of Article 3 of the Convention on account of thedistress and anguish they suffered, and continue to suffer, as a result of their inability to ascertain the fate of their missing family members and of the manner in which their complaints have been dealt with.

262.  The Court has found on a number of 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)). The Court furthermore confirms that since it has been established that the applicants’ relatives were detained by State agents, apparently without any legal grounds or acknowledgement of such detention, this constitutes a particularly grave violation of the right to liberty and security of persons enshrined in Article 5 of the Convention in respect of the applicants’ relatives in Kukurkhoyeva (no. 50556/08), Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08), Zakriyeva and Muradova (no. 22667/09), Akhmetkhanova and Others (no. 43706/09), Mestoyevy (no. 66394/10), Umarov and Others (no. 5691/11), Ozdamirova and Bakriyeva (no. 59117/11), Isayevy (no. 70640/11) and Demelkhanova (no. 59203/13).

263.  The Court reiterates its findings regarding the general ineffectiveness of criminal investigations in cases such as those under the examination. In the absence of the results of a criminal investigation, any other possible remedy becomes inaccessible in practice.

264.  In the light of the above and taking into account the scope of the applicant’s complaints, the Court finds that the applicants in all the cases did not have at their disposal an effective domestic remedy for their grievances under Article 2 in breach of Article 13 of the Convention.

265.  In addition, the applicants inKukurkhoyeva (no. 50556/08), Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08), Zakriyeva and Muradova (no. 22667/09), Akhmetkhanova and Others (no. 43706/09), Ozdamirova and Bakriyeva (no. 59117/11), Kosumova (no. 65052/11), Isayevy (no. 70640/11) and Demelkhanova (no. 59203/13) did not have at their disposal an effective domestic remedy for their grievances under Article 3 of the Convention in breach of Article 13 of the Convention.

266.  As regards the alleged breach of Article 13 read in conjunction with Article 5 of the Convention as submitted by the applicants inKukurkhoyeva (no. 50556/08), Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08), Zakriyeva and Muradova (no. 22667/09), Akhmetkhanova and Others (no. 43706/09), Ozdamirova and Bakriyeva (no. 59117/11), Isayevy (no. 70640/11) and Demelkhanova (no. 59203/13) the Court has already stated in similar cases that no separate issue arises in respect of Article 13 read in conjunction with Article 5 of the Convention (see Zhebrailova and Others v. Russia, no.40166/07, § 84, 26 March 2015, and Aliyev and Gadzhiyeva v. Russia, no. 11059/12, § 110, 12 July 2016).

VIII.  APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION

267.  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.”

A.  Damage

1.  Pecuniary damage

268.  The applicants in all of the cases, except forKukurkhoyeva (no. 50556/08), Umarov and Others (no. 5691/11)and Demelkhanova (no. 59203/13)claimed compensation for loss of financial support from the primary breadwinners in their families.

269.  The applicants in Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08), Akhmetkhanova and Others (no. 43706/09) and Mestoyevymade their calculations on the bases of the UK Ogden Actuary Tables using domestic subsistence levels and inflation rates.The applicants in Zakriyeva and Muradova (no. 22667/09) relied on the average monthly salary in construction, where their missing relatives had allegedly worked.The applicants in Ozdamirova and Bakriyeva (no. 59117/11), Kosumova (no. 65052/11) and Isayevy (no. 70640/11) relied on the minimum monthly salary in Russia.The amounts claimed are indicated in the appended table.

270.  The Government stated that the claim in Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08) should be dismissed by the Court as the applicants had failed to submit any evidence that their missing relatives had been employed; the UK Ogden Actuary Tables were not applicable to Russia, and because the applicants could apply for a pension for the loss of the breadwinner in their families. In Akhmetkhanova and Others (no. 43706/09) the Government submitted that the issue of compensation for pecuniary damage should be resolved within civil proceedings at the domestic level.

271.  In the remainder of the cases the Government left the issue to the Court’s discretion.

2.  Non-pecuniary damage

272.  The amounts claimed by the applicants under that head are indicated in the appended table.

273.  In Akhmetkhanova and Others (no. 43706/09) the Government submitted that the compensation sought by the applicant was excessive.In the remainder of the cases they left the issue to the Court’s discretion.

B.  Costs and expenses

274.  The amounts claimed by the applicants are indicated in the appended table. The applicantsasked the awards to be transferred into the bank accounts of their representatives.

275.  The Government stated that in Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08) the applicants failed to support their claims by relevant documents and that in any event the sums claimed were excessive. In Akhmetkhanova and Others (no. 43706/09) the Government submitted that the applicants’ claim was unsubstantiated, because the documents furnished by the applicants had not been duly sealed. In the remainder of the cases the Government left the issue to the Court’s discretion.

C.  The Court’s assessment

276.  The Court reiterates that there must be a clear causal connection between the damage claimed by the applicants and the violation of the Convention, and that this may, where appropriate, include compensation in respect of loss of earnings. The Court further finds that loss of earnings applies to close relatives of the disappeared persons, including spouses, elderly parents and minor children (see, among other authorities, Imakayeva v. Russia, no. 7615/02, § 213, ECHR 2006‑XIII (extracts)).

277.  Wherever the Court finds a violation of the Convention, it may accept that the applicants have suffered non-pecuniary damage which cannot be compensated for solely by the finding of a violation, and make a financial award.

278.  As to costs and expenses, the Court has to establish whether they were actually incurred and whether they were necessary and reasonable as to quantum (see McCann and Others v. the United Kingdom, 27 September 1995, § 220, Series A no. 324).

279.  Having regard to the conclusions and principles set out above, and the principle of ne ultra petitum (“not beyond the request” or “not beyond the scope of the dispute”), as well as the parties’ submissions, the Court awards the applicants the amounts detailed in the appended table, plus any tax that may be chargeable to them on those amounts. The awards in respect of costs and expenses are to be paid into the representatives’ bank accounts, as indicated by the applicants.

D.  Default interest

280.  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.

IX.  ARTICLE 46 OF THE CONVENTION

281.  The applicant inKukurkhoyeva (no. 50556/08)asked the Court to indicate that there is anobligation on the respondent Government to identify and prosecute those responsible for the abduction of her husband, and that an award inrespect of non-pecuniary damage should be coupled with a decision bythe Court that a fresh investigation should follow the entry into force of the Court’s judgment. The applicant also asked the Court to indicate that, irrespective of the outcome of the investigation, the respondent Government should undertake all possible measures to locate the body of her abducted relative and return it to the family members, and should provide the applicant with access to the investigation file.

282.  The Government did not comment on this part of the applicant’s submission.

283.  Article 46 of the Convention provides as far as relevant:

“1.  The High Contracting Parties undertake to abide by the final judgment of the Court in any case to which they are parties.

2.  The final judgment of the Court shall be transmitted to the Committee of Ministers, which shall supervise its execution.”

284.  Keeping in mind its findings in Aslakhanova and Others (cited above, §§ 220-38) concerning the systemic problem of ineffective investigations into disappearances in the region at the material time, along with its findings in a number of similar cases in which it has decided, with reference to its established principles, that it was most appropriate to leave it to the respondent Government to choose the means to be used in the domestic legal order with a view to discharging their legal obligation under Article 46 of the Convention (see, among other authorities, Mutsolgova and Others v. Russia, no. 2952/06, § 168, 1 April 2010, and Sultygov and Others, cited above § 504), the Court does not see any exceptional circumstances which would lead it to reach a different conclusion in the present case.

FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,

1.  Decides to join the applications;

2.  Decides to strike the application of Umarov and Others (no. 5691/11) out of its list of cases as far as it concerns Ms Madina Gaysultanova’s complaints;

3.  Declares the applications admissible;

4.  Holds that there has been a substantive violation of Article 2 of the Convention in respect of the applicants’ relatives Mr Girikhan Tsechoyev, Mr Sharip Shavkhayev, Mr Shamkhan Shavkhayev, Mr Umar Bekayev, Mr Murad Zakriyev, Mr Rustam Muradov, Mr Akhdan Akhmetkhanov, Mr Magomed Mestoyev, Mr Magomed Umarov, Mr Umar Ozdamirov, Mr Mayr-Khadzhi Gerikhanov, Mr Rizvan Isayev, Mr Anzor Isayev and Mr Abdula Demelkhanov;

5.  Holds that there has been a procedural violation of Article 2 of the Convention on account of the failure to investigate effectively the disappearance of the applicants’ relatives;

6.  Holds that there has been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in respect of the applicants on account of their mental suffering caused by their relatives’ disappearance and the authorities’ response to their suffering;

7.  Holds that there has been a violation of Article 5 of the Convention in respect of the applicants’ relatives in Kukurkhoyeva v. Russia (no. 50556/08), Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva v. Russia (no. 51029/08), Zakriyeva and Muradova v. Russia(no. 22667/09), Akhmetkhanova and Others v. Russia(no. 43706/09), Mestoyevy v. Russia (no. 66394/10), Umarov and Others v. Russia(no. 5691/11), Ozdamirova and Bakriyeva v. Russia (no. 59117/11), Isayevy v. Russia(no. 70640/11) and Demelkhanova v. Russia (no. 59203/13) on account of their unlawful detention;

8.  Holds that there has been a violation of Article 13 of the Convention in conjunction with Article 2 of the Convention;

9.  Holds that there has been a violation of Article 13 of the Convention in conjunction with Article 3 of the Convention in Kukurkhoyeva (no. 50556/08), Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08), Zakriyeva and Muradova (no. 22667/09), Akhmetkhanova and Others (no. 43706/09), Ozdamirova and Bakriyeva (no. 59117/11), Kosumova v. Russia (no. 65052/11), Isayevy (no. 70640/11)and Demelkhanova (no. 59203/13);

10.  Holds that no separate issue arises under Article 13 of the Convention in conjunction with Article 5 of the Convention inKukurkhoyeva (no. 50556/08), Shavkhayeva and Bekayeva (no. 51029/08), Zakriyeva and Muradova (no. 22667/09), Akhmetkhanova and Others (no. 43706/09), Ozdamirova and Bakriyeva (no. 59117/11), Isayevy (no. 70640/11) and Demelkhanova (no. 59203/13);

11.  Holds

(a)  that the respondent State is to pay the applicants, within three months, the amounts indicated in the appended table, plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicants, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement. The awards in respect of costs and expenses are to be paid into the representatives’ bank accounts as indicated by the applicants;

(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;

12.  Dismisses the remainder of the applicants’ claims for just satisfaction.

Done in English, and notified in writing on 22 January 2019, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.

Stephen Phillips                                                                   Branko Lubarda
Registrar                                                                              President

 

APPENDIX

No. Application no. and date of introduction Applicant

Date of birth

Place of residence

Kinship with the abducted person(s)

Abducted person(s) Represented by Pecuniary damage Non-pecuniary damage Costs and expenses
1. 50556/08

24/09/2008

Ms Aza KUKURKHOYEVA

01/09/1965

Ordzhonikidzevskaya

wife

 

Mr Girikhan TSECHOYEV MEMORIAL HUMAN RIGHTS CENTRE Sought by the applicant:

Sought by the applicant in the amount to be determined by the Court Sought by the applicant:

EUR 2,000 and GBP 1,601

Awarded by the Court:

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 60,000

(sixty thousand euros)

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 2,000 (two thousand euros)

2. 51029/08

30/09/2008

1) Ms Marzhan SHAVKHAYEVA

03/06/1953

Argun

mother of Mr Shamkhan SHAVKHAYEV and wife of Mr Sharip SHAVKHAYEV

2) Ms Banata BEKAYEVA

04/04/1947

Avtury

wife of Mr Umar BEKAYEV

 

(1) Mr Sharip SHAVKHAYEV

 

(2) Mr Shamkhan SHAVKHAYEV

 

(3) Mr Umar BEKAYEV

 

SRJI/

ASTREYA

Sought by the applicants:

RUB 1,625,233 (EUR 23,490) to the first applicant,

RUB 247,141 (EUR 3,570) to the second applicant

Sought by the applicants in the amount to be determined by the Court Sought by the applicants: EUR 3,867

 

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 12,000 (twelve thousand euros) to the first applicant

EUR 2,000 (two thousand euros) to the second applicant

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 120,000 (one hundred twenty thousand euros) to the first applicant and EUR 60,000

(sixty thousand euros) to the second applicant

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 2,000 (two thousand euros)

3. 22667/09

23/03/2009

1) Ms Yakha ZAKRIYEVA

02/08/1949

Grozny

mother of Mr Murad ZAKRIYEV

 

 

2) Ms Taus MURADOVA

03/07/1955

Grozny

mother of Mr Rustam MURADOV

 

(1) Mr Murad ZAKRIYEV

 

(2) Mr Rustam MURADOV

Mr Dokka ITSLAYEV Sought by the applicants:

EUR 33,840 to the first applicant and EUR 45,120 to the second applicant

 

 

Sought by the applicants:

EUR 1,000,000 each

Sought by the applicants: EUR 4,114
Awarded by the Court:

EUR 12,000 (twelve thousand euros) to each of the applicants

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 60,000 (sixty thousand euros) to each of the applicants

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 2,000 (two thousand euros)

4. 43706/09

28/07/2009

1) Ms Dukka AKHMETKHANOVA

08/02/1937

Grozny

Mother, passed away

 

 

2) Ms Khava BESULTANOVA

11/11/1979

Gekhi

wife

 

 

3) Mr Baysangur AKHMETKHANOV

05/03/2000

Urus-Martan region

son

 

4) Ms Tamila AKHMETKHANOVA

08/02/2002

Urus-Martan region

daughter

 

Mr Akhdan (also known as

Chingiz) AKHMETKHANOV

 

SRJI/

ASTREYA

Sought by the applicants:

RUB 470,677 (EUR 11,400) to the first applicant, RUB 759,148 (EUR 18,281) to the second applicant, RUB 205,673 (EUR 4,980) to the third applicant, and RUB 240,324 (EUR 5,820) to the fourth applicant

Sought by the applicants:

EUR 100,000 jointly

Sought by the applicants: EUR 7,284
Awarded by the Court:

EUR 9,000 (nine thousand euros) to the second applicant, EUR 2,500 (two thousand and five hundred euros) to the third applicant, and EUR 3,000 (three thousand euros) to the fourth applicant

 

 

 

 

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 60,000 (sixty thousand euros) to the second, third and fourth applicants jointly

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 2,000 (two thousand euros)

5. 66394/10

20/10/2010

1) Ms Zharadat MESTOYEVA

05/03/1978

Khambi-Irzi

wife

 

2) Mr Dzhokhar MESTOYEV

06/08/1997

Khambi-Irzi

son

 

3) Mr Ramzan MESTOYEV

30/08/2003

Khambi-Irzi

son

 

Mr Magomed MESTOYEV SRJI/

ASTREYA

Sought by the applicants:

RUB 725,804 (EUR 8,124) to the first applicant, RUB 231,188 (EUR 2,590) to the second applicant, and RUB 563,396 (EUR 6,640) to the third applicant

Sought by the applicants in the amount to be determined by the Court Sought by the applicants: EUR 3,716
Awarded by the Court: EUR 4,000 (four thousand euros) to the first applicant, EUR 1,500 (one thousand and five hundred euros) to the second applicant, and EUR 3,000 (three thousand euros) to the third applicant Awarded by the Court:

EUR 60,000 (sixty thousand euros) to the applicants jointly

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 2,000 (two thousand euros)

6. 5691/11

06/12/2010

1) Mr Movldi

UMAROV

24/12/1950

Duba-Yurt

father, passed away

 

2) Mr Rasul UMAROV

26/07/1985

Duba-Yurt

brother

 

3) Ms Ayshat BULACHEVA

30/10/1973

Duba-Yurt

sister

 

4) Ms Madina GAYSULTANOVA

20/07/1974

Duba-Yurt

stepmother (withdrew the application)

 

Mr Magomed

UMAROV

MATERI CHECHNI and subsequently by SRJI/
ASTREYA
Sought by the applicants:

Sought by the applicants in the amount to be determined by the Court Sought by the applicants: EUR 2,943
Awarded by the Court: –

 

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 60,000 (sixty thousand euros) to the second and third applicants jointly

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 2,000 (two thousand euros) to SRJI/Astreya

7. 59117/11

29/08/2011

1) Ms Zimalu OZDAMIROVA

1933

Grozny

mother

 

2) Ms Yakhita BAKRIYEVA

11/01/1960

Grozny

sister

 

Mr Umar OZDAMIROV MATERI CHECHNI Sought by the applicants:

EUR 12,539 to the first applicant and EUR 8,956 to the second applicant

Sought by the applicants: EUR 80,000 Sought by the applicants: EUR 9,830
Awarded by the Court:

EUR 6,000 (six thousand euros) to the first applicant and EUR 4,000 (four thousand euros) to the second applicant

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 60,000 (sixty thousand euros) to the applicants jointly

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 1,000 (one thousand euros)

8. 65052/11

13/10/2011

Ms Malika KOSUMOVA

17/06/1979

Lomza

wife

 

Mr Mayr-Khadzhi GERIKHANOV MATERI CHECHNI Sought by the applicant:

EUR 27,131

Sought by the applicant: EUR 70,000 Sought by the applicant:

EUR 4,894

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 12,000 (twelve thousand euros)

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 60,000 (sixty thousand euros)

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 1,000 (one thousand euros)

9. 70640/11

27/10/2011

1) Ms Zeyman ISAYEVA

02/09/1957

Samashki

sister of Mr Rizvan ISAYEV and aunt of Mr Anzor ISAYEV

 

2) Mr Ruslan ISAYEV

15/01/1984

Samashki

brother of Mr Rizvan ISAYEV and the uncle of Mr Anzor ISAYEV

 

3) Mr Yusup ISAYEV

02/12/1985

Samashki

brother of Mr Rizvan ISAYEV and the uncle of Mr Anzor ISAYEV

 

1) Mr Rizvan ISAYEV

 

2) Mr Anzor ISAYEV

MATERI CHECHNI Sought by the applicants:

EUR 23,501 jointly

Sought by the applicants: EUR 80,000 Sought by the applicants: EUR 10,342
Awarded by the Court:

EUR 12,000 (twelve thousand euros) to the applicants jointly

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 80,000 (eighty thousand euros) to the applicants jointly

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 1,000 (one thousand euros)

10. 59203/13

08/07/2013

Ms Khava DEMELKHANOVA

26/06/1970

Urus-Martan

wife

Mr Abdula (also spelled as Abdul) DEMELKHANOV Mr Said MUSHAYEV Sought by the applicant:

Sought by the applicant:

“not less than EUR 60,000”

 

Sought by the applicant: EUR 4,900
Awarded by the Court:

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 60,000 (sixty thousand euros)

Awarded by the Court:

EUR 850 (eight hundred and fifty euros)

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