Lawyers of interregional nongovernmental organization «The Committee Against Torture» have lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in the interests of well-known activist Ruslan Kutaev. In the opinion of human rights defenders Russian authorities violated a number of articles of the European Convention in the Kutaev’s case, including – prohibition of torture, right to personal integrity and to fair trial.
(Photo: Ruslan Kutaev)
As we have previously reported, on 21 February Mr Kutaev’s relatives applied to the JMG for legal assistance. They stated that a day before Ruslan had been abducted by unknown armed men in camouflage uniforms.
According to Mr Kutaev, he was kidnapped from his brother’s house in Gekhi settlement and taken to an unknown place. There, for about half an hour, the high-ranking officials of the Chechen Republic were beating the detainee. Then the social activist was tortured in a basement, including with electric shocks, in order to force him to sign some papers. In the end, when he was brought to operational-search unit no.2 in Staropromyslovskiy district of Grozny, Mr Kutaev signed the documents for fear for his life.
At night Mr Kutaev was first transferred to the Urus-Martan District Department of the Interior, and then, at about 5 am – to a temporary isolation ward. Having refused to sign false confessions, Ruslan was beaten again and got two rib fractures. The battery continued until he agreed to all the conditions the torturers had set. Namely, he had to plead guilty to all the charges brought against him, and to promise to file no complaints concerning the torture he had been subjected to.
Nevertheless, during human rights defenders’ visit to the temporary isolation ward Mr Kutaev managed to tell Igor Kalyapin, a member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, that he had been subjected to unlawful treatment in revenge for the conference dedicated to the 70-th anniversary of Chechen – Ingush deportation of 1944. The «unauthorized» conference raised anger of Ramzan Kadyrov.
The public investigation carried out by human rights defenders established facts giving reasonable grounds to believe that between February 20 and February 22, 2014, public officials acting in an official capacity repeatedly inflicted severe physical and mental pain and suffering on Mr Ruslan Kutaev for the purpose of obtaining from him confession statements to a criminal offense.
The Chechen authorities rejected any political motives in the case (the man was arrested one day after he had participated in the conference dedicated to the 70-th anniversary of Chechen – Ingush deportation, the conference was not agreed with the authorities), and argued that the prosecution of the 56-year-old Chechen politician was a standard and commonplace criminal case.
Examination of Kutaev’s complaint of battery and torture ended quite predictably – the Investigative Committee refused to initiate criminal proceedings, and human rights defenders’ appealing against this decision was to no avail: the Supreme Court of Chechnya dismissed the proceedings on the complaint, having noted that the legal assessment of Ruslan’s arguments on tortures which he had allegedly been subjected to is presented in the verdict on the criminal case. On 7 July 2014 he was found guilty of criminal offenses under Article 228 (2) of Russian Criminal Code (illegal acquisition and possession of large quantity of drugs without intent to sell) and sentenced to a 4-year prison term to be served in general regime (minimum security) penal colony.
On 31 October the Penal commission of the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic decided to quash the verdict of the court of the first instance commuting Ruslan Kutaev’s sentence to three years and nine months. The judges also considered a year of supervised release with prohibition on social activism to be excessive.
After the verdict came into force Kutaev gained the right to apply to the ECHR.
Lawyer of the Committee Against Torture Anton Ryzhov emphasizes: «In the submitted complaint there is a description of the whole range of human rights violations, but the main thing is that it justifies the unfair trial of Kutaev, the facts of evidence forgery in his case. We shall be looking forward for this case communication by the ECHR, but we are going to continue our work on the national level, too – in the nearest future the cassation complaint against the verdict is going to be submitted to the Supreme Court of Russia».