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European Court Hears Chechens' Lawsuits

Published: October 15, 2004 (Issue # 1012)


BRUSSELS, Belgium - Europe's top human rights court on Thursday heard the first cases involving alleged abuses by Russian military forces of six civilians who lived in Chechnya.

Lawyers for the six civilians - five of whom were in the packed courtroom - told a seven-judge panel at the European Court of Human Rights that Russian authorities had violated their clients' rights under the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. Russia, as member of the 45-nation Council of Europe, is bound to uphold that convention.

Russia's representative at the court, Pavel Laptev, expressed hope that the case would not be "politicized."

"We view this case as a kind of test for the European Court: Will it comply with all principles of the European Convention and, most important, will it avoid double standards in its verdict?" he said, Interfax reported.

Bill Bowring, a human rights lawyer and professor at London Metropolitan University who is representing the Russian civilians, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The six are seeking 10,000 to 30,000 euros ($12,300 to $37,000) in moral damages and separate compensation for lost property and income at the court which is based in Strasbourg, France.

They hope to draw international attention to widespread human rights abuses of civilians during the military campaigns in Chechnya, lawyers said.

"This will be quite important recognition by a very authoritative international body that at least some operations in the course of the military conflict have been conducted in violation of current international law," Kirill Koroteyev, a lawyer for the victims, said ahead of Thursday's hearing.

Lawyers for the first two plaintiffs, Magomed Khashiyev and Roza Akayeva, argued their relatives were tortured and killed in 2000 during so-called sweep operations when federal forces searched households for suspected rebels.

They claim their right under the convention's articles right to life, prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, and a right to an effective legal remedy were violated.

A second case involves Medka Isayeva, Zina Yusupova and Libkan Bazayeva, who claim their relatives were killed and their property destroyed in October 1999 by military planes.

The incident took place on Oct. 29 when thousands of civilians streamed from Chechnya to neighboring Ingushetia, having been promised a safe corridor out by authorities.

However, after they found the border was closed and were turned back, they were shelled by military planes, which left dozens killed and wounded. Russian officials later claimed they were targeting a rebel truck, the victims' lawyers said.

The court will also consider the case of Zara Isayeva, who says her son and three nieces were killed when the Russian military bombed the village of Katyr-Yurt in February 2000 in an attempt to destroy rebels.

Her lawyers argued her right to life and right to protection of property were violated, as well as her right to effective legal action.

Thursday's hearing lasted about 2 1/2 hours. A ruling is not expected for several months, court officials said.

o

New Chechen President Alu Alkhanov reappointed Sergei Abramov as the region's prime minister, Interfax reported Thursday.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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