Cases I worked on recently (or quite recently):

Case No 1. Damage Infliction During Counter-Terrorist Operation in Dagestan (Vremenniy village, Dagestan) 

Village Vremeniy is located in the highland of the Caucuses mountains in the republic of Dagestan (Russia). This is a village of approximately 1000 inhabitants.

 In the early morning of 18 September 2014 between 1000 and 3000 security officers with military vehicles entered the village. Each entrance to the village was blocked by three masked officers.

During the first day of operation, the inhabitants of the village were asked to undergo an identification procedure. During this procedure, the inhabitants were assigned with the identification number which was required to enter or exit the village. It was explained to the villagers that identification was necessary because of the ongoing counter-terrorist operation. On 18 September 2014 first searches took place.  The searches were carried out by a group of 5-10 security offices. Neither a search warrant nor another similar document authorizing thereof was produced by the servicemen. At the beginning of the search, the servicemen required the owner of the dwelling to enter each room first. The owner was followed by the servicemen protected by a shield. Other servicemen entered the room afterward. 

There was no damage to property inflicted during the searches in the first days of operation. However, in subsequent searches, the servicemen became impolite and rude, threatened to use firearms. The servicemen also joked that all the property damaged during the search would be compensated by religious extremists. 

From 2 October until 6 October all villagers were evicted. On 26 November 2014, they were allowed to enter the village. When they entered the village, they saw the houses in particularly bad condition. The floors were removed almost entirely. Lamps were taken down and broken. Entrance doors were crippled.  Yards that surrounded the houses were damaged severely – deep trenches were excavated and filled with garbage. They also identified that a number of household appliances such as TVs, home theaters, stoves, mincing machines, irons, electric kettles, even clothes disappeared. The belongings of approximately 1000 villagers were lost.

This damage was assessed by a special commission. The authorities promised that damage would be compensated. “Memorial” started helping people from the very beginning, although only five women decided to use formal avenues to protect their rights. Together with the women, “Memorial” applied to investigation authorities to start a criminal investigation against military officers who inflicted the damage. Despite numerous efforts, the authorities refused to start a criminal investigation.

 

“Memorial” lodged civil suits to claim the damage in civil proceedings. Russian courts did not grant the claims. In January 2017 “Memorial” applied to the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of the women since their rights to property and to the protection of personal and family life had been violated by the actions of the military. On 13 July 2021, the Court communicated the case.

 

The other villagers who saw the courage of five women decided to join their fight for justice. As a result, in February 2018 “Memorial” together with 128 villagers applied to a Russian court to declare the authorities’ inaction to pay compensation for the damage unlawful. We lost in the first instance but on the appeal, a higher court overturned the refusal. In the second round of the proceedings, the court granted our claim.

 

Meanwhile, the collective suit pushed the authorities to do the necessary paperwork to pay the compensation. In November 2019, the Russian government allocated 58 million rubles (circa 700 K euros) to pay the compensation for lost belongings to 630 villagers. Unfortunately, the other villagers had problems with supporting documentation. Therefore, they did not get compensation. Currently, “Memorial” is helping these people through Russian courts to collect all necessary files to finally get the money they deserve. 

Case No 2. Mejlis of Crimean Tatars

The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People is the single highest executive-representative body of the Crimean Tatars in period between sessions of the Kurultai. In February 2016 the Prosecutor of Crimea lodged an application with the Supreme Court of Republic of Crimea to label the Mejlis as "extremist organisation". It was amusing to participate in the hearings because the prosecution decided to put whatever they can possibly find on Mejlis in the hope that the court would possibly find something. Even the Declaration of Independence of Crimean Tatars drafted 25 years ago was used by the prosecution to demonstrate that the Tatars propagate their superiority because in this Declaration it is stated that resources of the Crimea could be used only with the consent of the Tatars.

 

The Supreme Court of Crimea banned the Mejlis as extremist organization on 26 April, 2016. Brief statement of the Court arguments and their analysis can be found here. The Russian Supreme Court of Russian Federation upheld the decision.  The reasons why I think it is a bad decision can be found here (in Russian). I was the Mejlis co-counsel in drafting and submitting an application to the European Court of Human Rights. 

Case No 3. Disappearance of Omar Valibagandov

What I find strange about this case is not the disappearance itself (although what can be possibly scarier than a person being disappeared forever in the middle of the day) – at the end the European Court of Human Rights saw a good number of such cases. I find strange the behavior of investigation authorities who forged statements on behalf of the disappeared without even caring to make it look like he did it.

On 22 August 2013 Omar Valibagandov left his house for work at 11 am. He was never seen again. His brother was informed by neighbors that Omar was taken by police and was seen wounded in the nearby hospital. It turned out that his brother was indeed treated in the hospital on 23 August with the gunshot injury in a lower thigh. Omar was escorted to the hospital by Federal Security Officers (FSB) and accompanied by them afterwards being handcuffed by the FSB agents. During the treatment he complained that he was beaten and scolded by them. Who fired a gun at him? – was the first question which the brother asked while lodging an application to police about his brother disappearance.

The police produced a statement allegedly written by Omar stating that the gunshot injury was a result of his careless handling of the gun which he had found on the beach and decided to take a look. The gun fired accidently. The statement was handwritten. The results of the expertise demonstrated that the statement was not written by Omar. The investigation was not able to determine who wrote it. After almost three years since Omar disappearance the investigation was suspended for the third time. For the fourth time the court declared this suspension unlawful.  

I drafted an application on behalf of Omar's  brother and submitted it to the European Court.