European Court Orders Russia To Pay Almost $2.4 Million To Relatives Of People Missing In Chechnya

By RFE/RL's Russian Service

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered Russia to pay almost two million euros ($2.4 million) to the relatives of 11 people who went missing in Chechnya in 2005 during a special operation by the Vostok (East) military unit.

The ECHR ruled on June 22 that Russia violated several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to life, when, according to witnesses, the military unit in question killed an elderly man in the town of Borozdinovskaya in Chechnya in October 2005 and abducted 11 local residents, mainly ethnic Avars, whose whereabouts have been unknown since then.

The majority of the Vostok unit's members were ethnic Chechens.

Commanders of the Vostok unit have rejected all the accusations, while Russia has investigated the situation separately.

In October 2005, a commander of the unit, Mukhadi Aziyev, was handed a suspended sentence after a court found him guilty of abuse of power.

Kremlin critics say Russian President Vladimir Putin has turned a blind eye to the alleged abuses and violations of the Russian Constitution by Chechnya's authoritarian ruler Ramzan Kadyrov because he relies on the former rebel commander to control separatist sentiment and violence in Chechnya, the site of two devastating post-Soviet wars and an Islamist insurgency that spread to other mostly Muslim regions in the North Caucasus.

Rights groups say Kadyrov uses repressive measures and has created a climate of impunity for security forces in the region.

They allege he is ultimately responsible for the violence and intimidation of political opponents by Chechen authorities, including kidnappings, forced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

ECHR rulings are binding on members, including Russia, which ratified the European Convention on Human Rights in 1998, and is one of 47 member states in the Council of Europe, which monitors compliance with the convention.

But Russia has often taken issue with rulings against it, and in 2015 adopted a law allowing it to overrule judgements from the ECHR.