The Associated Press reports:
Russia must pay damages to the families of 13 Chechens presumed dead after being abducted during armed raids between 2001 and 2003 in Chechnya, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday. The court — the legal arm of the Council of Europe rights watchdog — said Russia was responsible for the men’s disappearances and should pay damages and court fees totaling around euro531,000 ($679,000).
The rights court was set up after World War II to uphold the European Convention on Human Rights, but has no power to enforce its rulings. As a member of the council, Russia is obliged to uphold the convention. Failure to implement the rulings would place the issue before the Council of Europe, which could issue an order demanding Russia do so.
The court gave Thursday’s rulings in three cases involving 35 relatives of the missing men. The court said evidence presented by the families “established beyond a reasonable doubt” that the men “had to be presumed dead,” because Russian authorities failed to present proof to the contrary.
There was no immediate comment from Moscow, where in the past officials have denied that Russian security forces are guilty of atrocities in the southern Muslim republic of Chechnya.
The rulings said Russia violated the rights of the abducted, restricting their right to life and failing to conduct a proper investigation to explain why the 13 were taken, with some put in temporary detention “in manifest contradiction” to guarantees under Russian law. The rulings also said Russia violated relatives’ rights.
Russia has three months to appeal after which the ruling becomes binding.
Dozens of other similar cases are still pending at the court. Two wars have been fought to re-establish Russian control in Chechnya following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Recently, survivors and relatives of Chechen victims have sought — and won — reparations from the Strasbourg-based human rights court.
Russians have filed about 46,000 complaints with the rights court since 1998, most concerning noncompliance with Russian court rulings.