European rights court holds Russia responsible for Chechen death

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled March 5 that Russia is liable for the death of an ethnic Chechen at the hands of Russian forces in 2000, finding Moscow in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. The judgment orders the Russian government to pay damages of nearly €37,000 to the victim’s wife, Russian national Luiza Khalitova, who brought the action after her husband, Lech Khazhmuradov, was killed by Russian troops while chopping wood.

The ECHR found the killing violated Article 2 of the Convention, which protects the right to life and prohibits extrajudicial killing. The court also found that Russia violated Articles 2 and 13, which protect the right to an effective remedy before a national authority, when it failed “to carry out an adequate and effective investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of the applicant’s husband.”

The ECHR has consistently ruled against Russia in cases involving human rights violations in Chechnya. In December, the ECHR ruled against Russia in six Chechen disappearances cases, and ordered the country to pay €320,000 to the victims’ families. In October, the ECHR issued two decisions finding Russia in violation of the human rights convention in several cases concerning the deaths or abductions of Russian nationals in Chechnya in 2000. In May, the court ruled that Russia was responsible for the disappearance of a dozen people during Russian armed raids in Chechnya in 2002 and 2003. In July 2007, the court ruled that Russian authorities were responsible for the shooting deaths of 11 unarmed Chechen civilians, and in June 2007 it held that Russian authorities were liable for the 2003 deaths of four Chechen family members. In early December 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proposed that Russian courts become more transparent in order to restore faith in the justice system and prevent people from turning to the ECHR. (Jurist, March 5)

See our last posts on Russia, Chechnya and the struggle in the Caucasus.