Moscow The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that Russian forces were responsible for the summary executions of a pregnant Chechen woman, her year-old son and three other family members during a military operation in 2000 that human rights groups have called one of the worst single-day massacres in the separatist conflict in Chechnya.
At least 60 Chechen civilians were killed Feb. 5, 2000, during a mop-up operation by Russian federal forces in a suburb of Grozny, Chechnya's capital, just days after Russian troops had retaken the city. New York-based Human Rights Watch interviewed several witnesses who said Russian soldiers stormed into Novye Aldy, shot Chechen villagers point-blank, burned homes and raped at least six women.
Five of the villagers summarily executed were members of the Estamirov family, including Toita Estamirova, who was eight months pregnant, and her son, Khasan, 1. All were shot to death, and some of the bodies were partly burned.
The Russian government conducted cursory investigations into the killings but never charged anyone. In August 2000, surviving relatives brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights, which can order governments to pay restitution to victims of human rights abuses.