Постановление Европейского суда по правам человека от 22.07.2010 «Дело Ахматхановы (akhmatkhanovy) против России» [англ.]

Город принятия

EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
FIRST SECTION
CASE OF AKHMATKHANOVY v. RUSSIA
(Application No. 20147/07)
JUDGMENT*
(Strasbourg, 22.VII.2010)
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*This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Akhmatkhanovy v. Russia,

The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:

Christos Rozakis, President,

Nina {Vajic}*,

____________________________
*Здесь и далее по тексту слова на национальном языке набраны латинским шрифтом и выделены фигурными скобками.

Anatoly Kovler,

Elisabeth Steiner,

Khanlar Hajiyev,

Dean Spielmann,

Sverre Erik Jebens, judges,

and {Soren} Nielsen, Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 1 July 2010,

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

PROCEDURE
1. The case originated in an application (No. 20147/07) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") by four Russian nationals listed below.

2. The applicants were represented by lawyers of the Stichting Russian Justice Initiative ("SRJI"), an NGO based in the Netherlands with a representative office in Russia. The Russian Government ("the Government") were represented by Mr G. Matyushkin, Representative of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights.

3. On 9 March 2009 the Court decided to apply Rule 41 of the Rules of Court and to grant priority treatment to the application and to give notice of the application to the Government. Under the provisions of Article 29 § 1 of the Convention, it decided to examine the merits of the application at the same time as its admissibility.

THE FACTS
I. The circumstances of the case
4. The applicants are:

1) Ms Bilat Akhmatkhanova, who was born in 1956,

2) Mr Sharpudi Akhmatkhanov, who was born in 1952,

3) Ms Toita Akhmatkhanova, who was born in 1989, and
4) Ms Taisa Akhmatova, who was born in 1986.

The applicants live in Shali, Chechnya. The first and the second applicants are the parents of Artur Akhmatkhanov (also spelled Akhmetkhanov), who was born in 1980. The third applicant is his sister and the fourth applicant is his wife.

5. The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.

A. Disappearance of Artur Akhmatkhanov
1. The applicants' account
6. At the material time Artur Akhmatkhanov was a third-year student at the Grozny Oil Institute; he received positive character references from his neighbours, the head of the Shali district department of the interior (the ROVD) and the imam of the Shali district.

7. At about 9 a.m. on 2 April 2003 the first applicant went with Artur Akhmatkhanov to the Shali town centre to run errands. In the centre the first applicant realised that she had left a document at home. She returned to the family house, situated at 86 Melnichnaya Street in Shali, whereas her son remained in the town centre as he was going to talk to his cousin Mr A.A., who worked in the ROVD.

8. About ten minutes after the applicant returned home she heard shooting coming from the former medical storehouse located about 250 metres from her house. The first applicant thought the Russian military were conducting a special operation to catch one of their neighbours, Mr R.Ch., who was an active member of illegal armed groups.

9. Having fetched the document, the applicant walked back to the town centre. On her way there she approached the storehouse and saw that the area was cordoned off by Russian military servicemen, who were not letting people in or out of the cordon. About half an hour later the applicant saw the military leaving in four APCs (armoured personnel carriers). About ten masked soldiers in new camouflage uniforms with white stripes on their sleeves were on each vehicle. One of the APCs was painted in camouflage colours.

10. As soon as the military left, the applicant and other locals went to the site. There the applicant found a white bandage with traces of blood on it and blood spattered around it on the ground.

11. After that the first applicant went to the town centre where she was supposed to meet her son. She did not find him there and decided to ask their relative Mr A.A. whether Artur Akhmatkhanov had called in at his office. She went to the ROVD, where she was told that her son had stopped off, looking for Mr A.A., but the latter had not been in the office and the applicant's son had left.

12. Meanwhile, the second applicant informed the ROVD that his son's yellow cap had been found at the site of the shooting. When the first applicant returned home, she was told that her son's cap had been found on the site of the medical storehouse.

13. After that one of the applicants' neighbours, Mr A.Sh., told the applicants that at about 10.30 a.m. he had been walking through the yard of the medical storehouse when he had met Artur Akhmatkhanov and had a brief conversation with him. According to Mr A.Sh., after that he had continued walking to the town centre when, about a minute later, he had heard shooting coming from the direction in which Artur Akhmatkhanov had gone.

14. According to the applicant's neighbour, Ms L.Yu., at about 10 a.m. on 2 April 2003 she was walking home when she saw a group of masked armed men in camouflage uniforms surrounding the medical storehouse. These men were in four APCs; they were shooting and not letting anybody on to the site. From a distance she saw that the armed men were dragging a young man in black clothing with a sack over his head. They forced the man into one of the APCs and drove away.

15. According to another resident of Shali, Ms R.Kh., at about 10.30 a.m. on 2 April 2003 she was walking down the applicants' street when she saw military servicemen in four APCs. The servicemen were surrounding the former medical storehouse and were shooting. Then the witness had seen the servicemen putting a young man with a plastic bag over his head into one of the APCs; after that they had driven away in the direction of the town centre.

16. According to the applicants' neighbours, the family L., on the day of Artur Akhmatkhanov's abduction they were driving home in a tractor when they saw the military servicemen who had surrounded the former medical storehouse. The servicemen were taking one young man to an APC and dragging another one. They put both men into the APC and drove away.

17. In support of their statements the applicants submitted the following documents: a statement by the first applicant dated 21 February 2007; a statement by Mr A.Sh. dated 21 February 2007; a statement by Ms L.Yu. dated 13 December 2006; a statement by Ms R.Kh. dated 13 December 2006; a statement by Ms T.M. dated 6 September 2006, and a statement by Mr D.A. dated 6 September 2006.

2. Information submitted by the Government
18. The Government did not dispute the matter as presented by the applicants.

B. The search for Artur Akhmatkhanov and the investigation
1. Information submitted by the applicants
19. At about 3 p.m. on the same date, 2 April 2003, representatives of the ROVD and the Shali district prosecutor's office (the district prosecutor's office) visited the applicants' house. In the documents submitted the date was also referred to as 3 April 2003.

20. After that the investigators went to the former medical storehouse with the applicants and other local residents. There they collected cartridge cases left by the servicemen after the shooting and found two spots of blood, one of them containing just a few drops of blood and the other looking like a puddle of blood. The investigators from the district prosecutor's office collected the blood for forensic examination. A child from Shali also found a service identification document which he handed over to the investigators.

21. On the following day, 3 April 2003, two investigators from the district prosecutor's office, Mr Ka. and Mr Bu., returned to the medical storehouse and examined it again together with the applicants and other local residents. According to the first and second applicants investigator Ka. told them that the cartridge cases collected by the investigators from the scene of the shooting would assist the authorities in identifying the weapon and the officer to whom it belonged.

22. On 4 April 2003 the district prosecutor's office initiated an investigation into the disappearance of Artur Akhmatkhanov under Article 126 § 2 of the Criminal Code (aggravated kidnapping). The case file was given the number 22054 (in the submitted documents it was referred to as 22055).

23. On 6 April 2003 the second applicant was granted victim status in the criminal case.

24. On 15 May 2003 the Chechnya Ministry of the Interior (the Chechnya MVD) forwarded the applicants' complaint about the abduction of Artur Akhmatkhanov to the ROVD for examination. In response, on 29 January 2004 the ROVD informed the applicants that they were "taking measures to establish his whereabouts".

25. On 22 December 2003 and 3 February 2004 the Chechnya prosecutor's office forwarded the applicants' requests for assistance in the search for Artur Akhmatkhanov to the district prosecutor's office for examination. In response, on 16 January and 2 April 2004 the investigators informed the applicants that the operational-search measures aimed at establishing Artur Akhmatkhanov's whereabouts were under way.

26. On 14 January 2004 the military prosecutor's office of the United Group Alignment (the UGA) forwarded the applicants' complaint about the abduction to the military prosecutor's office of military unit No. 20116. In response, on 20 February 2004 the latter informed the applicants that military unit No. 20116 had not participated in a special operation on 2 April 2003 and had not detained Artur Akhmatkhanov. On 11 March 2004 the military prosecutor's office of the UGA confirmed this information.

27. On 3 June 2004 the Chechnya prosecutor's office informed the applicants that the operational-search measures aimed at establishing Artur Akhmatkhanov's whereabouts and identifying the culprits were under way.

28. On 4 June 2004 the Main Department of the Ministry of Justice in the Rostov Region informed the applicants that Artur Akhmatkhanov was not being held in their detention centres.

29. On 26 July 2004 the Chechnya prosecutor's office forwarded the applicants' request for assistance in the search for Artur Akhmatkhanov to the district prosecutor's office for examination. In response, on 10 August 2004 the district prosecutor's office informed the applicants that on 10 July 2004 they had suspended the investigation in the criminal case.

30. On 15 August 2004 the Shali district military commander's office (the district military commander's office) informed the applicants that they, with the ROVD and the district prosecutor's office, were searching for Artur Akhmatkhanov.

31. On 17 May 2005 the Chechnya prosecutor's office again forwarded the applicants' request for assistance in the search for Artur Akhmatkhanov to the district prosecutor's office for examination. In response, on 3 July 2005 the district prosecutor's office informed the applicants that on 3 July 2004 they had suspended the investigation in the criminal case.

32. On 19 October 2005 the district prosecutor's office informed the applicants that their complaint had been examined and included in the investigation file.

33. On 20 March 2006 the Chechnya prosecutor's office again forwarded the applicants' request for assistance to the district prosecutor's office for examination.

34. On 5 May 2006 the Russian Federal Service of the Execution of Punishment informed the applicants that Artur Akhmatkhanov was not being held in their detention centres.

35. In December 2006 the first applicant visited the district prosecutor's office to request information about the progress of the investigation. The investigator, who was in charge of the case at the time, Mr R.Ya., told her that the investigation file did not contain any information about the collection of the blood samples and the cartridge cases from the crime scene.

36. On 10 January 2007 the second applicant wrote to the district prosecutor. He described in detail the circumstances of his son's abduction and stated that during the crime scene examination the investigators had collected cartridge cases and blood samples; that the investigator, Mr Ka., had told him that this collected evidence had been forwarded to the expert evaluation centre in Rostov-on-Don and that the results were supposed to be received in forty-five days; that the investigator had explained to him that the cartridge cases would allow the experts to identify the weapons used during the shooting, as the latter were supposed to be individually registered. The applicant requested the district prosecutor to provide him with a copy of the crime scene examination report of 3 April 2003 and a copy of the decisions ordering the expert evaluation of the evidence collected at the crime scene.

37. On 16 January 2007 the Chechnya prosecutor's office informed the applicants that on the same date they had resumed the investigation in the criminal case.

38. On 25 January 2007 the ROVD informed the applicants that on 13 April 2002 (it appears that the date is incorrect) they had opened search file No. 71442 to establish the whereabouts of Artur Akhmatkhanov and that a search for the applicants' relative was under way.

39. On 26 February 2007 the second applicant again wrote to the district prosecutor. He stated that in spite of the numerous pieces of evidence, such as the cartridge cases left by the perpetrators, the APCs and the fact that on 2 April 2003 the Shali law enforcement agencies had conducted a special operation to find a leader of illegal armed groups, Mr R.Ch., the investigators had failed to identify the servicemen who had conducted this operation and abducted Artur Akhmatkhanov. He further stated that his son's whereabouts had not been established for several years and that the investigation file in the criminal case did not contain the evidence collected from the crime scene on 3 April 2003. The applicant requested the prosecutor to provide him with access to the investigation file, to allow him to make a copy of its contents and to resume the investigation in the criminal case. No reply was received from the authorities.

2. Information submitted by the