Almost 20 years on: Major victory for Chechen family in Norway

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee commends the Murdalov family for demanding justice.

On 31 March 2020, the family of Zelimkhan Murdalov, a young Chechen man who was detained, brutally beaten and subsequently disappeared from a checkpoint in Grozny in 2001, won a major victory against the Russian Federation in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg awarded Zelimkhan’s family 90,000 Euros in compensation, after finding Russia to have been in violation of Article 2 (the right to life),  Article 3 (mental suffering due to loss of one’s relatives and authorities’ indifference) and Article 13 (the right to an efficient remedy) of the European Convention of Human Rights.

For nearly twenty years, Zelimkhan’s family has grieved while tirelessly struggling for justice, after their 26 year-old son’s disappearance on 2 January 2001 at the hands of Russian military forces. The case became known around the world when legendary journalist Anna Politkovskaya wrote about it in the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

The main suspect in the case, Sergey Lapin, was suspected of writing threatening letters to Politkovskaya after the article appeared, forcing her for a while to leave Russia due to death threats.

While Lapin was found guilty of torture in a Russian court and sentenced to prison, he was later re-instated as a police officer and reportedly received a congratulatory letter from President Putin on “protecting public order”.

Zelimkhan Murdalov who disappearance on 2 January 2001 at the hands of Russian military forces. Here together with his sister Zalina Murdalova. Photo: Private

Due to threats against them in Chechnya, Zelimkhan Murdalov’s family were forced to seek asylum in Norway. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Human Rights House Foundation and Amnesty International Norway all became close friends of the Murdalovs after their arrival to the country.

The NHC commends the Murdalov family for having continued to demand justice for all these years.

They remained in close contact with Anna Politkovskaya until the devastating news of her murder in the entrance of her Moscow apartment in 7 October 2006.

The monetary compensation can never replace Zelimkhan. But it is a highly important moral and legal victory for us all.



Aage Borchgrevink

Senior AdviserEmail: [email protected]Phone: +47 90 75 11 50 Twitter: @aageB
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