STRASBOURG, France : The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday ordered Russia to pay 1.2 million euros ($1.6 million) to the families of 18 people killed when it bombed a Chechen village in 2000.
The court ruled in favour of 13 residents of Aslanbek-Sheripovo, a village in the southern Russian republic which has fought two brutal separatist wars with Russia since 1994. The Strasbourg-based court said that shortly after the start of the second Chechen war in 1999, villagers had “received assurances from commanders of the Russian army that there would not be any military strikes on the village as long as no armed fighters would be present there”. “It therefore came as a surprise to the residents when an air and artillery strike by the Russian military hit the village in the afternoon of 17 February 2000,” the court said in a statement.
The attack left 18 of the applicants’ relatives dead and several others wounded.
Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into the Caucasus republic in October 1999 to put down what it called was a separatist insurgency, having fought an unsuccessful war against the rebels in 1994-96.
The court said the applicants’ complaint had “remained unanswered for a long period of time”.
In May 2002, the military prosecutor decided not to open a criminal investigation into the attack. This decision was later quashed but still no probe was opened.
A bid by the claimants to receive compensation from Russia was rejected in 2005.
The court said in a statement the case represented the first time in the Chechen conflict that Moscow admitted to a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“The Government therefore accepted that there had been a breach of the applicants’ and their relatives’ right to life, both as regards the use of lethal force and as regards the failure to investigate it properly.”
Russia was ordered to pay damages of between 40,000 euros and 210,000 euros to each claimant. The ruling can be submitted to the court’s Grand Chamber for appeal.