No justice in sight for grave crimes in Chechnya

Chechnya – Torture – Impunity

Chechnya, an autonomous republic in Russia, and a black hole in the Council of Europe’s human rights protection system: civil society has been the target of severe human rights violations for years. Having resumed office as head of the Chechen Republic in 2007, Ramzan Kadyrov and his close allies have repeatedly deployed military and police forces to terrorize the civilian population in order to “ensure political stability.” Local state authorities have subjected hundreds of Chechens to unlawful arrests, sexual violence, torture, enforced disappearances and killings.

Case

Given the absolute impunity for these and other crimes committed by Chechen authorities at the national level, alternative legal avenues for redress must be pursued. To address this accountability gap, ECCHR works closely with partner organizations from the region.

ECCHR repeatedly intervened with national authorities to highlight international crimes committed in Chechnya, which states have a legal obligation to pursue. In 2012, ECCHR and Human Rights Watch submitted a joint report to the UN special rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, providing information regarding sexual violence perpetrators’ de facto impunity.

In June 2008, Austrian lawyers filed a complaint on ECCHR’s behalf against Kadyrov on charges of torture and attempted duress before the Salzburg Public Prosecutor. Seven months later, in January 2009, the key witness, Umar Israilov, was shot dead in the streets of Vienna. The Austrian authorities’ final report of the murder accuses Kadyrov of inciting it. ECCHR supported Israilov’s family during the murder trial, and highlighted the severe human rights situation in Chechnya through expert witnesses. While three of the accused were sentenced, Kadyrov himself was not prosecuted.

Context

Chechnya has suffered from two armed conflicts with Russia, in which several thousand people were killed, and numerous cities and villages destroyed. During the post-conflict reconstruction process under Kadyrov, his security forces and special units promoted a climate of fear among the local population. Numerous killings and abductions have been reported since then, including acts committed by Kadyrov himself. The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly sentenced Russia for human rights violations committed in Chechnya.

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Documents (3)

Glossary (1)

Definition

European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg in 1959 to enforce states’ obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECtHR adjudicates on complaints brought by individuals against a state party or parties (individual applications) and complaints brought by a state party against another state party (inter-state applications) concerning alleged violations of a right or rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Topics (2)

Insight

Sexual and gender-based violence

Rape, sexual assault, forced pregnancy and sexual slavery: these are all sexual violence. In repressive regimes and armed conflict, the military, secret services and police often use these and similar methods as part of their strategy to oppress the civilian population. Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is used as a tool against women and girls, as well as men and boys – based on their socially-assigned roles or deviation from such norms (as in the case of LGBTIQ persons). Sexual and gender-based violence attacks the dignity and sexual integrity of those affected. Social norms often prevent those affected from talking about their experiences, and crimes are rarely reported to authorities, prosecuted or dealt with socially. The physical, psychological, economic and social consequences affect the survivors but also their families and communities.

International criminal law allows sexual and gender-based crimes to be prosecuted as acts of genocide, crime against humanity and war crime. In practice, however, investigations, trials and rulings fail to reflect the prevalence and magnitude of these crimes. This is due to gender discrimination being both a root cause of SGBV, as well as the reason impunity for crimes persists. Sexual and gender-based crimes’ depiction and legal classification as an individual, rather than widespread and systematic, crime fails to reflect its frequent nature and the political aim behind their commission.

ECCHR has worked to counter the silencing and trivialization of, and impunity for sexual and gender-based crimes since 2010.

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