In a landmark decision, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia was responsible for the “disappearance” and subsequent killing of a Chechen man in February 2000. Human Rights Watch first documented the case in mid-2000 and has since repeatedly brought it to the attention of the authorities. In 2001, together with a British barrister, we helped the victim’s mother bring a claim to the European Court of Human Rights, which in July ruled unanimously in her favor.
Although there are more than two hundred cases from Chechnya pending before the court, the majority of which concern “disappearances,” this is the court’s first ever ruling on a Chechen “disappearance.” Enforced disappearances have been the hallmark abuse of the conflict in Chechnya, with an estimated three to five thousand people disappeared over the last seven years at the hands of Russian or pro-Moscow Chechen troops. Over the course of the conflict, Human Rights Watch has documented hundreds of enforced disappearances and characterized them as crimes against humanity under international law. Going forward, we will use the court’s ruling to press the Russian government and the international community to take effective steps to stop enforced disappearances and bring perpetrators to justice.