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European Court Criticizes Russia for Chechen Killings

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in a recent judgment strongly condemned Russia for the enforced disappearance and killing of three Chechen men whose cases Human Rights Watch documented in 2001. The judgment quotes Human Rights Watch's report, which cited evidence indicating that many of the bodies in a mass grave, including those of the three victims in the ECHR case, were the remains of people last seen alive in the custody of the Russian military. In 2001, Human Rights Watch researchers founded the Russian Justice Initiative (RJI) to help Chechen victims seek justice for abuses they and their family members suffered in the conflict. Since Russian courts are woefully ineffective when it comes to justice for abuses committed in Chechnya, RJI has brought Chechen victims' cases to the ECHR. The ECHR's ruling in this case, which awarded the family members of the dead 80,000 Euros in damages, affirms Russian misconduct in Chechnya and imposes an obligation on Russia to prevent further abuses there. We will continue to work with European diplomats at the Council of Europe to see that they pressure Russia to comply with the ECHR ruling. More than simply paying damages to the families affected, Russia must take concrete steps toward improving the human rights situation in Chechnya.

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