European Court Rules Against Russia

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, November 10, 2006

MOSCOW, Nov. 9 -- In two separate cases, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that Russia was responsible for the disappearance and presumed death of two Chechens, a father and son, and the killing of a Chechen woman whose body was later found in a mass grave.

The court, based in Strasbourg, France, held that Russian forces seized Said-Khuseyn Imakayev, then 23, at a roadblock in the southern republic of Chechnya in 2000. His father, Said-Magomed Imakayev, who had repeatedly demanded an explanation for his son's arrest, disappeared four months after he appealed to the court. Neither man has been seen since.

The court rebuked Russian authorities for not turning over requested documents related to the case. Officials said the documents contained state secrets.

Marzet Imakayeva, the wife and mother of the victims, said she was satisfied with the verdict but wants to know what happened to her husband and son so that she can bury them if they are dead. Imakayeva moved to the United States as a refugee in 2004 with her son, daughter and grandson. "To save my remaining children, I had to leave," she told The Washington Post last year.

In the second case, the court held Russia responsible for the murder of Nura Luluyeva, whose body was found with 50 others in February 2001 in the largest mass grave ever discovered in Chechnya. The grave was found less than a mile from a Russian military base. Many of the victims, dressed in civilian clothes, had bound hands and feet.

Luluyeva, 40, was arrested in June 2000 by a group of Russian soldiers, the court found.

"The Court considered that there existed a body of evidence that attained the standard of proof 'beyond reasonable doubt,' which made it possible to hold the State authorities responsible for Nura Luluyeva's death," the court said in a statement.

Jan ter Laak, chairman of the board of the Russian Justice Initiative, which brought the cases before the court, said they demonstrated not only the "unimaginable violations" that take place in Chechnya but also the indifference of Russian authorities to the violations and the lengths to which they are willing to go to protect their own servicemen.

"The Russian government's commitment to human rights and the European Convention will now be apparent by the way they respond to these judgments," he said.

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