Caucasus Theater

European rights court holds Russia liable for for Chechen abductions

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) April 9 issued rulings in four cases ordering Russia to pay a total of €282,000 to compensate six families who claimed government agents abducted their Chechen relatives between 2001 and 2003. In three of the four cases, Dokayev and Others v. Russia, Dzhabrailova v. Russia, and Malsagova and Others v. Russia, masked men clad in camouflage and armed with machine guns abducted five men from their Chechen Republic homes in 2002 and 2003.

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.

Seven dead in Ingushetia blast

Four Russian police and three suspected rebels were killed in fighting in Ingushetia, in Russia's troubled North Caucasus, officials said Feb. 12. Gunmen opened fire and then detonated a landmine when police tried to raid a house in the city of Nazran. The blast destroyed the two-storey house, and a large cache of explosives was reportedly found in the rubble. "While cleaning the rubble, we found four 200-kilogram barrels filled with potassium nitrate and with detonators attached. The bomb could have exploded at any time," a spokesman for the Federal Security Service's Ingushetia department said. (RIA Novosti, BBC News, Feb. 12)

Heroine journalist buried in Moscow

Hundreds in Moscow attended the funeral Jan. 23 of Anastasia Baburova, the 25-year-old journalist killed as she tried to defend human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov when a masked gunman shot him at point-blank range in broad daylight on a busy Moscow street this week. The two had just emerged from a press conference, in which Markelov had said he would appeal the early release of the killer of a Chechen girl, raped and murdered by a Russian army colonel during the war in Chechnya. (RFE/RL, Reuters, Jan. 23)

Human Rights Watch blasts both sides in Georgia war

Both Russia and Georgia share blame for an "indiscriminate and disproportionate" use of force that violated humanitarian law during their August 2008 war, Human Rights Watch announced on Jan. 23. In a 200-page report, the watchdog group also took South Ossetian separatist forces to task for allegedly attempting to "ethnically cleanse" ethnic Georgian villages within the enclave. The report calls for individual "prosecution of war crimes where appropriate." "The violations by one side of the laws of war do not justify or excuse violations by the other side," said Human Rights Watch director Carroll Bogert said at a Tbilisi press conference.

Russia calls for OSCE probe into Georgia war

Russia has asked the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for an inquiry into the findings of military observers stationed in Tskhinvali on the night of August 7-8, when South Ossetia's separatist capital was shelled by Georgian military forces. A Nov. 7 article in the New York Times described newly available accounts by three observers stationed in Tskhinvali for the OSCE, which has monitored the Georgia conflict since the 1990s.

World Court to hear Georgian case on ethnic cleansing

The International Court of Justice Oct. 15 gave Georgia approval to open a suit charging Russia with a campaign of ethnic cleansing in and around the separatist enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The ruling was hailed by Georgia's attorneys as a defeat for Russia, which argued that the court lacks jurisdiction. The ICJ ordered both sides to refrain from discrimination and allow the free movement of civilians and humanitarian aid. (NYT, Oct. 16)

Georgia accuses Russia of ceasefire term violations

Georgia has formally protested the continuing presence of Russian troops in South Ossetia's Akhalgori district and Abkhazia's Kodori Gorge, both areas held by Georgian forces until the August war. Under the ceasefire terms, Russia is to withdraw to positions it held before the fighting broke out, but Moscow and Tbilisi are at odds as to whether this includes territories within the breakaway enclaves. "Akhalgori is within South Ossetia's borders, so the [ceasefire] plan does not cover it," Russian news agencies quoted Moscow's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

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