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Human Rights in Chechen Republic. O. Orlov’s speech in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 28.01.2020

Publication date: 06.03.2020

O. Orlov’s speech (the Memorial Human Rights Centre), an extended version.

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, hearings on human rights situation in the Chechen Republic

28.01.2020, Strasbourg

Apart from Orlov, three people who have lived in Chechnya spoke at the hearings:

  • Ibrahim Yangulbayev spoke about his unlawful detention and following torture for criticising the republican government on the internet, as well as about the persecution of his family,

  • Neamat Abumuslimova, a resident of Chechnya spoke about her son Apti Abdumuslimov’s (the defendant in the case of “execution list of 27”) abduction by the police,

  • Amin Dzhabrailov, who joined the discussion via teleconferencing, spoke about the persecution of gay men in Chechnya, his abduction and torture

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to address you on this important topic. Today I am speaking here on behalf of a group of human rights organisations. They are Russian NGOs – the Memorial Human Rights Centre, LGBT Network, Committee against Torture, and Stitching Justice Initiative, as well as international Human Rights Watch. All these organisations have been working in Chechnya for many years, monitoring the human rights situation in this region and providing legal assistance to the victims of human rights violations.

We remember the attention that was paid by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to the situation in the North Caucasus, including Chechnya, both during the Second Chechen War and in its aftermath, right until the latest resolution of 2017. Those reports and resolutions gave an objective and rigorous assessment of the critical human rights situation in the region. It really helped the struggle for human rights in the North Caucasus.

We should point out that this struggle is not hopeless. The situation has evolved differently in different regions of the North Caucasus over the past years. We managed to achieve a change for the better in some places. However, not in the Chechen Republic. In recent years, a full totalitarian regime has formed there, and the situation has even become worse in many ways.

I did not use the word “totalitarian” at random. It is not only social, political, and economic life, but also religious, cultural, and private life that is now totally controlled by the authorities. There is no place for any criticism of the authorities in this regime; the police searches for people who have the audacity to speak negatively of the republican authorities online and severely punishes them or forces them into a humiliating public apology, in a best-case scenario. A few years ago Alu Alkhanov, the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of the Chechen Republic, publicly declared the following: “Cursed be those who dare to turn right or left from the path outlined by our leader”1.

Turning left or right from that path has long been life-threatening in Chechnya because Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the republic, has repeatedly and publicly used the term “the enemies of the nation” for human rights activists and the media which he regarded as disagreeable and called for the persecution and even killings of dissenters. Such call for action was last heard on 4 November 2019 during an expanded meeting of the republican government2. Speaking about the critics of the republican authorities that made public statements in the media and online, he urged to stop them using “killings, imprisonment, whatever”.

Kadyrov tried to justify his statements afterwards by referring to adats (customary laws of Chechen people) and by claiming that promising to kill someone is just a figure of speech in an everyday conversation and should not be taken literally. Those excuses are flimsy and unconvincing. Firstly, it was not said in an everyday conversation. Secondly, speaking to the officials in front of him, Kadyrov directly urged the police and public servants to get involved in such criminal activity.

We see that statement as a direct threat. The Memorial Human Rights Centre appealed to the Investigative Committee of Russia and asked to check those public appeals for possible elements of a crime and to initiate criminal proceedings. The deadline which is set by the law has already passed, yet no response has been received so far.

It is clear that such system leaves no room for independent human rights organisations. Tightening repressions against human rights defenders were reflected in PACE’s resolution 2157 (2017). It mentioned in particular, the closure of Chechnya's branch of the Joint mobile group (established by the Committee against Torture) which was forced by a series of attacks in 2016. This office had been smashed several times3. Notably, in June 2015 when an organised mob was smashing the human rights defenders’ office in the centre of Grozny in broad daylight for hours. The police, who arrived more than an hour later, did not intervene. In 2016, there were attacks on journalists and human rights defenders entering Chechnya4, as well as on Igor Kalyapin, the head of the Committee, who was attacked in Grozny5.

Then it was the Memorial Human Rights Centre’s turn.

On 9 January 2018, Oyub Titiyev, the head of the Representative Office of the Memorial Human Rights Centre in the Chechen Republic, was detained by the police on his way to work. The officers planted drugs on him. A criminal case was initiated, and he got arrested.

Titiyev filed a complaint to the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation in the Chechen Republic asking to identify and prosecute the officers who had planted drugs in his car. His complaint was investigated in an incomplete and ineffective manner that involved breaching statutory regulations. The investigators deliberately avoided checking the very circumstances which would inevitably have led to the conclusion that the criminal case had been falsified.

In March 2019, the court found Titiyev guilty. Judge Madina Zainetdinova, who conducted his trial, was conspicuously biased towards incrimination6.

The judge was not surprised by the fact that on the day of Titiyev’s arrest all the surveillance cameras installed along the route the police officers took him through were malfunctioning. Cameras installed on the buildings of the prosecutor's office, the pension fund, the district administration, banks’ offices, pharmacies’, hairdressers’ salons, shops, as well as inside the police station were all “malfunctioning”. The judge dismissed Titiyev’s lawyers’ reasonable request to examine those “malfunctioning” surveillance cameras, although their records could have helped to determine whose account of events was accurate – the one told by the police officers or the one told by Titiyev.

The judge dismissed the request to check Titiyev’s mobile billing. He claimed that during his first unlawful detention, his mobile phones were seized and later went missing. According to the official version, he did not carry any mobile phones at all. Mobile billing would have helped to establish whose version was true – the one given by Titiyev or the one given by the police officers.

The judge also refused to enter documents proving a political motive for Oyub’s persecution, in particular, the text of a speech by Magomed Daudov, the chairman of the Chechen Parliament, who called for the persecution of human rights defenders in late 20177.

The defence filed 31 requests aimed at establishing facts in the case. The judge granted only 3 of them.

That being said, the judge granted all the requests of the prosecution.

The court showed uncritical trust in the prosecution’s version of events and unwillingness to investigate it at the request of the defence.

Soon after Titiyev’s arrest, there was a series of attacks on the representatives’ offices and the employees of the Memorial Human Rights Centre in the North Caucasus outside the Chechen Republic:

- the representative’s office in Ingushetia was set on fire on the night of 17 January 2018,

-the car belonging to the representative’s office in Dagestan was set on fire on the night of 23 January 2018,

- the employees of the representative’s office in Dagestan were threatened on 2 January 2018; Sirazhutdin Datsiev, the head of the representative’s office in Dagestan, was attacked and received a head injury on 28 March 2018.

We have reasons to believe that the masterminds behind those attacks are in Chechnya.

Criminal cases were initiated in the aftermath of all of the aforementioned attacks. However, their investigations were suspendeddue to the inability to find the perpetrators”.

Apart from that, drugs were planted in the representative’s office in Grozny, and our staff members received serious threats. As a result, we were forced to evacuate our employees from Chechnya (some of them – from Russia) and to cease the activity of the representative’s office in the Chechen Republic.

Now there is not a single independent human rights organisation permanently working in the Chechen Republic.

And yet Chechnya needs human rights work.

In 2017, the world was struck by reports of homosexuals being brutally persecuted in Chechnya. It makes Kadyrov’s regime similar to other totalitarian regimes, e.g. Nazi Germany or Soviet Union.

The cases of this persecution are thoroughly documented by LGBT Network. The PACE Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination issued a special report about them.

How did the Chechen authorities react to those reports? They were completely appalled – not because they were accused of abduction, torture, and even murder, but because of the assumption that Chechen homosexuals exist. Magomed Selimkhanov, the State Duma member from the Chechen Republic, said in an interview: "There are no gays in Chechnya... Personally, I believe that they should be two meters underground"8. No comment necessary.

So, how did the federal authorities react?

Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for the President of the Russian Federation, said that the Kremlin is not in possession of “any reliable information about any problems in this sphere” in Chechnya. He added that appeals or complaints to law enforcement bodies on this matter are “unheard of”9.

On 5 May 2017, Vladimir Putin met Russia’s Commissioner for human rights Tatyana Moskalkova. The Commissioner mentioned the persecution of gays in Chechnya during their conversation. She pointed out that such crimes should be investigated by a team that operates independently of Chechen law enforcement agencies, and that state protection should be provided to the applicants and witnesses of such crimes. Putin promised to discuss it with security chiefs.

However, no real investigation followed, as demonstrated by the case of Maxim Lapunov, a gay man who used to live in Chechnya temporarily and who was unlawfully detained there on 16 March 2017. He spent 12 days in a cellar where the police officers tortured and severely beat him. After that, he was released and forced to leave Chechnya. It happened only because his relatives from another region of Russia had managed to initiate criminal proceedings due to his disappearance in Chechnya.

Lapunov filed a complaint about the crime with the Investigative Committee. He was represented by the lawyers of the Committee against Torture and LGBT Network. The institution that took up the investigation was, as Commissioner Moskalkova had suggested, a federal institution based outside Chechnya – the Main Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia in the North Caucasus Federal District. The investigator’s only achievement in the course of several months was a thorough interrogation of Lapunov. However, the cellar where he had been held was not examined, the police officer who tortured him was not identified. A forensic medical examination was scheduled when Lapunov’s beating marks had already disappeared. He was not given any state protection. Moreover, according to the Committee against Torture’s data, Lapunov’s testimonies were likely leaked to the police of the Chechen Republic. That gave them the opportunity to hide evidence. Given those circumstances, Maxim Lapunov had to be evacuated from Russia for security reasons. On 21 March 2018, the investigation was dropped “due to the absence of the event of a crime”.

The head of the Committee against Torture, Igor Kalyapin, commented on that event: “The Investigative Committee of Russia is covering up grave crimes in the Chechen Republic”10.

Maxim Lapunov’s petition was filed with the European Court of Human Rights in May 2018; it was communicated in November 201911.

The events that I have been talking about are tragic.

However, the Chechen authorities trying to put everything under control sometimes give a rather comical impression.

In the summer of 2018, it became known that there is a special commission of the Chechen Ministry of Culture “created by the order of the head of the Republic” – and that it is the sole institution that can authorise public singing. Moreover, as it was said in a republican TV report, “Chechen artists have to dress properly, while the performance should be modest and should not go beyond the established norms of the Chechen Republic”12. Those who did not follow the instructions were taken to the police departments for explanatory work13.

This system simply does not provide any legal possibility to protest. However, the protest feelings are accumulating implicitly, especially among young people. And this makes them susceptible to terrorist propaganda.

It is no wonder that we have witnessed those young people (sometimes mere children) performing suicidal attacks on law enforcement officers and institutions (see Attachment 1). They have no actual connection to the underground resistance, they are mostly unarmed, they sometimes use knives and axes to attack police officers – which, needless to say, results in their death, with only a minimum damage caused to the officers.

State’s typical reaction to that is terrorism.

One notable example is the case of extrajudicial execution of 27 people who were suspected of connection to the armed underground resistance in January 2017.

It was briefly described in the OSCE’s report on Chechnya issued on 20 December 2018 within the framework of the Moscow mechanism14.

This case is extremely important because it is thoroughly documented and clearly demonstrates how the mechanisms of impunity work.

A group of very young people carried out an armed attack on police officers in Grozny (there were casualties from both the police and the attackers).

Mass arrests followed between December 2016 and January 2017. All detainees “disappeared” for some time; none of them were provided with any legal assistance. Some of them were released after a few days. Other detainees “disappeared” for more than a month and later “confessed” to crimes. The fate of some of them remained unknown for a very long time.

On 10 July 2017, Novaya Gazeta published an article titled It was an execution with a list of 27 people of those detained and missing15. According to the source from law enforcement officers, those people were secretly executed without any trial in Grozny, at the base of the 2nd Regiment of the Patrol Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Chechen Republic on the night of 25 to 26 January 2017.

To prove that those people had been captured by the police, Novaya Gazeta published photos of detainees’ photoboards (a standard operational document of the Ministry of Internal Affairs containing brief data and photos of the detained persons), as well as a photo of a scheme of illegal armed formation and its suspected participants, prepared by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Chechen Republic. 26 of 27 people from the “execution list” were in those documents.

Those documents were provided to Novaya Gazeta by their law enforcement sources (You can see the Attachment 2). The photos were apparently taken after the detention – some people are handcuffed, others have visible beating marks on their faces. Despite the poor image quality, you can see that some detainees are in some kind of room reminding a gym hall with something like a wall bar in the background.

In those photoboards, there are people who disappeared (I marked them with red), as well as those who were formally charged later and officially sentenced to different terms of imprisonment.

These documents prove that the state officials detained people who went missing later.

The Memorial Human Rights Centre tried to verify this information independently. The relatives and neighbours of those on the “execution list” were interviewed, and it was confirmed that at least 25 of 27 people had been detained by law enforcement officials of the Chechen Republic (see Attachment 3). Most of them were captured by the officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Chechen Republic in front of their families, and in one case, that of Adam Ilyasov, he was brought to the police department by his uncle. All these people then disappeared without a trace, and the police threatened their relatives to make sure that they would not complain and would stop searching for the missing people.

Nevertheless, some complaints were filed to the investigating bodies. The authorities had to start a pre-investigation check, which was carried out by the investigators of the same Main Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee in the North Caucasus Federal District, which is a federal structure.

As a result, all 8 attempts to file a criminal complaint were rejected by the investigators, but it was later overturned by higher authorities as an unlawful and unjustified dismissal. After a short while, however, the investigators dismissed them again. The final dismissal was made on 9 February 2018.

Although it was very difficult, we did manage to get the 27 volumes of the pre-investigative inquiry case-file. As it turned out, these volumes did not contain any results of the actual inspection, but only the results of the sabotaged inspection.

According to the file’s analysis, the inspection was incomplete, biased, partial, and with some gross violations. I would like to give only a few examples.

The findings of the investigators were largely based on the information provided by the police officers from the Chechen Republic. The investigators accepted them in good faith and did not bother to verify them. The file provided no explanation of how the people on the “execution list” appeared on the photoboards of detainees.

According to those findings, 22 people from the “execution list” had allegedly left Russia for Syria to fight for the terrorists. In case of 13 of those people, that allegation was based exclusively on the controversial testimonies of three prisoners. No evidence at all was given for the remaining 9. The allegation that some people who had left for Syria had left their passports at home was not verified during the inspection. No mobile billing of those who supposedly left for Syria was done.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Chechen Republic, two more persons from the “execution list” had allegedly died from injuries in the Republican Clinical Hospital. Another person had allegedly died of a heart attack. However, there had been no postmortem examination of their bodies. Even the burial places of two of them are still unknown. There were some gross violations in the death certificate of the third person, and there is a good reason to believe that it had been falsified.

During the inspection of the base of the 2nd Regiment of the Patrol Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Chechen Republic all the buildings were thoroughly searched, except those where the detainees could actually have been kept.

Two people from “the execution list” were allegedly alive and were interviewed during the inspection. However, there is evidence that those could have been their brothers who were brought in and interviewed of them. The investigators did not try to verify the identity of those brought in for the interview.

These are only a few question about the quality of the inspection.

The refusal to initiate criminal proceedings was appealed in court (see Attachment 4).

On 14 December 2018, our application was dismissed by the court of first instance. In March 2019, the dismissal was upheld by the court of second instance.

But what was the court’s line of reasoning?

I would like to quote the main point of the court’s ruling:

The arguments set forth in the complaint <...> about the need for the investigator to conduct the verification measures, about the unmotivated and biased decision, about the discrepancy of the dates of criminal proceedings, about the inaccuracies in the addresses and number of cameras <...>, about not filling out the death certificate did not constitute grounds for the satisfaction of the complaint, because according to the provisions of criminal procedure law, the investigator shall assess the evidence according to his or her inner conviction, based on the totality of available evidence <…>.”

In other words, the court told us: “You can bring as many arguments as you like, but the court will not evaluate them, because the investigators evaluate the evidence according to their own inner conviction. That’s it”.

Any arguments about the incompleteness and bias of the inspection would prove meaningless with such attitude.

Let me draw your attention to the fact that the investigation was carried out by investigative bodies of the federal level, not the republican one. Our complaints were examined by the courts of the Stavropol Krai, which is outside the Chechen Republic.

All this indicates that mass grave crimes committed by the Chechen Republic’s security forces are being covered at the federal level. In fact, federal structures are the accomplices of these crimes.

On 16 September 2019, a complaint on behalf of the relatives of eight persons of the “execution list” was filed with the European Court of Human Rights.

The work of human rights organisations went on.

As I have already mentioned, some of the people depicted in the photoboards who were unlawfully detained (effectively abducted) at the beginning of 2017, were later “legalised”. They faced official charges, and their cases were examined by the courts. In two cases, human rights activists managed to introduce their attorneys (all the attorneys were not from Chechnya but from other regions of Russia).

In the first of these cases there were 14 defendants accused of participating in illegal armed formation, possession of weapons and explosives. All of them were depicted in the photoboards (see Attachment 2). They were marked in blue by me.

It turned out that on 9 to 10 January 2017 all of them were detained in front of witnesses, most of them were arrested by police in their own homes. However, according to the official version, they were all detained in February 2017. Moreover, the circumstances of the “detention”, as the investigation describes them, are absurd – the police had found each of them by chance, one by one, as they had been walking on the outskirts of their native villages, and, for some reason, they had been doing so with hand grenades or machine guns hidden under their clothes.

What was happening to them in the period of January to February 2017?

According to the testimonies of all the defendants, they were kept in the cellar of the base of the 2nd Regiment of the Patrol Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Chechen Republic – same as the people from the “execution list of 27” – where they were constantly tortured and threatened with rape (see Attachment 5 and Attachment 6). All the 14 people were forced to sign confessions first, and only after that they were issued with a fake official decision on their detention in February.

The court hearings were clearly biased towards incrimination, and the defence’s petitions to check the version of the prosecution were repeatedly refused by the judge. During the trial, a lot of inconsistencies and contradictions in the statement of prosecution were revealed. On 12 July 2019, the final verdict was passed – all 14 persons were sentenced from 9,5 to 10,5 years of imprisonment.

The name of the defendant of the second case is Abdul-Halim Abdulmezhidov. He is also depicted on the photoboard. I marked him in green. The circumstances of his case are similar: on 13 January, he was detained in front of witnesses, but the date was recorded as 25 March 2017. He was also kept in the premises of the 2nd Regiment of the Patrol Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Chechen Republic. According to 14 defendants of the first case, he was with them in the basement. Abdulmezhidov's lawyer petitioned for the interrogation of these witnesses in court, but he was refused. During the court hearings, Abdulmezhidov described those who were in the basement in detail. All these people are depicted in photoboards. In particular, he claims that he saw those from the “execution list” there.

Before his arrest, he was perfectly healthy, now he is badly hurt and bears marks of electric shock torture.

In May 2019, the verification of Abdulmezhidov’s statement about the police officers who committed crimes against him began. On 2 June, the decision that a criminal case should not be initiated due to the “absence of criminal event” was issued. Obviously, it is impossible to conduct a serious inspection in such short time.

Meanwhile, his lawyer and human rights activists conclusively established that Abdulmezhidov carried a bank card on the day of his detention (13 January). On 17 January 2017, all the money on the account (17,000 rub) was withdrawn. The location of the ATM used to withdraw the money was proved to be within the premises of the base of the 2nd Regiment of the Patrol Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Chechen Republic. An ordinary person cannot get in there. What other evidence of Abdulmezhidov’s unlawful detention at that base is necessary?

To sum up, let’s go back to the photoboards again (see Attachment 2). Those from the “execution list of 27” are marked in red, currently convicted defendants of the “case of 14” are marked in blue, and Abdulmezhidov is marked in green. And yellow is used to mark all those whom the defendants testified to have seen in the basements of the 2nd Regiment of the Patrol Service.

This is one of the results of the big work conducted by our organisations. In fact, we did the investigators’ job.

But the investigating authorities, both at the federal and republican levels, are sabotaging the check of complaints about crimes by law enforcement agencies in Chechnya.

The same thing is happening with the investigation of cases of enforced disappearances and killings of civilians during military operations and special operations in the Chechen Republic, in relation to which the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter – the ECHR) has condemned Russia for violating the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. None of these cases have been investigated at the national level, the perpetrators have not been found, and the fate of the disappeared people is still unknown.

In total, the group of «Khashiyev and Akayeva» currently has 275 cases of mainly enforced disappearances, as well as killings of civilians during military conflicts and special operations in the Chechen Republic. In all these cases, the ECHR condemned Russia for violating the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The implementation of these judgments is controlled by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

In all rulings, a lack of effective investigation of enforced disappearances was found by the court. Our representatives were engaged in many of these cases, including the representation of the interests of victims in criminal proceedings. As a rule, the investigators of those cases simply made enquiries to different enforcement agencies about whether the abducted person had been detained by them and conducted interviews of the abducted person’s relatives and friends. The inspection of the place of abduction was not carried out properly; as a result, it was impossible to collect evidence in time. Investigators have absconded from investigative actions against law enforcement officers, who had probably been involved.

The ineffectiveness of the investigation of enforced disappearances was exacerbated by the fact that the military prosecutor's office and military investigation refused to pursue such cases and required the civil prosecutor's office and civil authorities to establish the involvement of the military in these crimes. The information about roadblocks at which people disappeared, military units that performed the “mopping up operations”, and the licence plates of the armoured vehicles that were used for abductions, was insufficient for the military prosecutor’s office and the military investigation as evidence of military involvement. But it was only in the military prosecutor’s office or military investigation authorities’ power to collect substantial evidence of their own involvement. A vicious circle.

As a rule, the investigations of such criminal cases were repeatedly suspended “due to the failure to identify the perpetrators”, then it was resumed again and suspended again for the same reasons.

The fact that the investigative authorities only imitated rather than actually performed the investigation is quite apparent.

After the ECHR decision, the investigation of enforced disappearance would usually resume. In the Chechen Republic, a special Investigation Department for Particularly Important Crimes whose complaints are filed with the ECHR was created in the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Chechen Republic. The cases with the decisions issued by the ECHR were transferred to this department. The investigators of this department notified the victims of the resumption of the investigation, and the progress, as well. But the investigation was not effective. Some formal activities, such as new requests to various law enforcement agencies or new interrogations of the victims and their relatives were performed by the investigator. At the same time, the findings of the ECHR ruling were often ignored, and the shortcomings of the investigation were not eliminated. Then the criminal investigation was suspended again. According to our information, no criminal cases on enforced disappearances were referred to the court by this department.

Sometimes the criminal cases were not resumed at all, or resumed without informing the applicants after the ruling of the ECHR. In a few instances, it turned out that the applicant who won the case at the ECHR was not recognised as the victim in the criminal case.

Sometimes, after the decision of the ECHR, the applicants filed complaints to the Russian courts about the ineffective investigation, using Art. 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which makes it possible to appeal against action or inaction of governmental bodies. The applicants drew attention to the investigator’s failure to carry out specific investigative actions and to the fact that the findings of the ECHR decision were not taken into account by the new investigation. The courts concluded that under Art. 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the courts do not have the authority to assess the need for specific investigative actions. Therefore, it can be concluded that there is no effective judicial control of the efficacy of investigation into these crimes in Russia.

None of the criminal cases of enforced disappearance in relation to which the ECHR made decisions have been solved, the perpetrators have not been found, the fate of those gone missing has not been established. In the cases where the bodies of the abducted were found, the killers have not been identified.

It is worth noting that there are similar violations in the investigation of the killings of civilians during military conflicts and special operations in the North Caucasus. In those cases, the fact of death was often established by national authorities, while the ECHR ruled that the state is responsible for the deaths. These cases are also included in the group of «Khashiyev and Akayeva».

The most striking example of the failure to comply with the ECHR judgments is the story of non-investigation of the bombing of the Chechen village of Katyr-Yurt in February 2000. As a result of the bombing, 46 civilians were killed and 95 were injured. In several years, three rulings were issued by the ECHR successively. The second and third ruling stated that the authorities did not conduct any new effective investigations after the previous ruling. Now the ECHR is considering a new fourth complaint regarding the ineffectiveness of the investigation conducted after its third decision.

Many facts from the ECHR judgments, in this case, are not disputed by the authorities of Russia. They do not deny that when the combatants had entered the village and occupied locals’ houses (against their will), the military consciously decided to bombard those houses despite civilians being inside. Authorities do not deny that many of the residents did not have enough time to leave the village before the start of the military operation, and were held hostage by the militants. Authorities do not deny that the bombing resulted in civilians’ deaths. The names of the military who planned and conducted this operation were established during the investigation.

However, Russian authorities dispute the legal conclusions of the ECHR that this military operation violates the state’s obligations in the field of the right to life. The authorities believe that such an operation was necessary in a military conflict. This is the conclusion of investigators and national courts, who pronounce it over and over again for the new investigations of this case after the decisions of the ECHR.

We can say that the Katyr-Yurt case is a symbolic example of the dispute between the ECHR and the Russian authorities on the need to comply with international humanitarian law during a military conflict. The same dispute is present in other cases of killings of civilians in the North Caucasus which were reviewed by the ECHR.

Let me conclude by emphasising that the state must combat terrorism and illegal armed groups. But it must only do so within the scope of the law.


1 “Grozny” TV channel, February 3, 2014.

2 "Grozny" TV channel https://grozny.tv/video.php?id=35737; see the translation of the part of Ramzan Kadyrov’s speech from Chechen to Russian here: https://memohrc.org/ru/news_old/vyderzhka-iz-vystupleniya-ramzana-kadyrova-na-zasedanii-pravitelstva-prilozhenie-k.

Программа: Горячие точки
Программа: Поддержка политзэков

Титиев Оюб Салманович родился 24 августа 1957 года, живёт в селе Курчалой Чеченской Республики, правозащитник, руководитель грозненского представительства Правозащитного центра (ПЦ) «Мемориал».

Программа: Горячие точки

В статье «Это была казнь», опубликованной 10 июля 2017 года «Новой газетой