A resident of Chechnya applied to the European Court with an application concerning police torture

News

16 December 2020

Today, on 16 December 2020, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture submitted an application to the European Court on behalf of Abdul-Khalim Abdulmezhidov from the Chechen Republic, who complained of police torture in 2017. Insisting on opening a criminal case at the national level was not a success – investigators issued five dismissals, and Abdulmezhidov himself was convicted for participating in an illegal armed group to eight years and four months with serving the sentence in maximum security penal colony.

In October 2018, Abdul-Khalim Abdulmezhidov from Shali town of the Chechen Republic applied for legal assistance to the Committee Against Torture. He told that on 13 January 2017 he was detained at his workplace at the Shalinsky neuropsychiatric care house by unknown people in civilian clothes, after that he was taken to the local police department.

“I stayed at the police department for about four hours. During all this time about ten police officers were beating me up with a plastic sanitaryware pipe and tortured with electricity. They demanded that I gave them documents for my car, that I swear an allegiance to the Syrian emir for the video record, and they also wanted me to tell them about my acquaintances”, – Abdulmezhidov recalls.

Later on, according to Abdul-Khalim, he was taken to the regiment of the Patrol-Guard Service of the Police named after Akhmat Kadyrov located in Grozny (hereinafter – The Regiment), where he was kept in the cellar till March 9 and again was tortured and demanded to confess of crimes under part 2 of Article 208 of the Criminal Code of the RF (“involvement in illegal armed group”). According to Abdulmezhidov, having yielded to torture, he confessed of having committed this crime.

“For two months, I was beaten up and tortured with electricity, just like the other ones. The officers also forced 16-18-year-old teenagers who were kept in this cellar, to torture other convicts with electricity. The first time they gave me food on the third day – it amounted to two pieced of bread. Usually, it was 2-4 pieces of bread and water, or some drink, resembling tea”, – Abdul Khalim described.

According to Abdulmezhidov, about seventy people were kept in that cellar, and he heard that there were four buildings with similar cellars on the territory of The Regiment. Abdulmezhidov said that in the cellar he saw several people who were subjected to violence and later on were convicted for illegal storage of fire arms and involvement in an illegal armed group by the Shalinsky District Court in the framework of one criminal case. In total, there were fourteen defendants. In addition, according to Abdul-Khalim, the officers stole seventeen thousand rubles from his bank card on the territory of The Regiment.

According to Abdul-Khalim, from 10 March to 27 March, he once again was kept in custody on the territory of the Shalinsky Police Department, where under threat and in the presence of a local notary officer he was forced to sign a letter of authority for selling his car, which subsequently was sold by the police officer of this department. Half a year later, in October 2017, according to Abdul-Khalim, he was again tortured with electricity when being forced to sign the statement that he received all the money from the officer of the department for selling the car under the letter of authority.

On 25 March 2017, the police officers officially formalized Abdulmezhidov’s apprehension and the court selected his measure of restraint in the form of keeping in custody at pre-trial detention facility.

Later on, Abdulmezhidov’s lawyer managed to make photos of scars on Abdul-Khalim’s feet during court hearing and to provide these photos for expert examination. On 30 September 2018, a forensic medicine specialist pointed out in his conclusion that Abdulmezhidov had “linear scars of proximal phalanx of the 1st and the 5th fingers of the right foot, which may have developed due to electrical impact”. It did not appear possible to register other bodily injuries, due to the fact that during admission to the pre-investigative detention facility no other visible injuries remained on Abdul-Khalim’s body.

On 20 November 2018, judge of the Leninsky District Court of Grozny Saytali Dadashev declared Abdul-Khalim Abdulmezhidov to be guilty of crime under part 2 of Article 208 of the Criminal Code of the RF (“involvement in an illegal armed group”) and sentenced him to eight years and four months of prison term. On 11 July 2019, the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic upheld the verdict. At the present moment Abdulmezhidov is serving the sentence in a maximum security penal colony.

Previously, during forensic medical examination in the framework of Abdumezhidov’s criminal case, in June 2017 Abdul-Khalim told the medical expert that he was subjected to torture by law-enforcement officers. Based on this statement, a pre-investigative check was initiated by the Investigative Committee. During two years, the check was being performed fist at the investigative department for the Shalinsky District, and then – in the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Chechen Republic. During this time, the investigative officers issued five dismissals of claims to open a criminal case, the last one – on 2 April 2019. Human rights defenders failed to have this ruling quashed.

“We think that the Investigative Committee’s investigators failed to perform a full-fledged and objective investigative of the events described by Abdulmezhidov, – head of the North Caucasus branch of the Committee Against Torture Dmitry Piskounov claims. – The investigators did not perform a check of Abdulmezhidov’s testimony on the territory of the Patrol-Guard Police Regiment. At the same time, they did not provide evaluation of his actual apprehension in January 2017; of the complaints that money was taken from his bank card on the territory of the regiment; that he was forced to sign a letter of authority to sell a car. And, what is even more perplexing, the Chechen courts came to a conclusion that the investigators performed a sufficient amount of checking activities and did not declare the last dismissal of a claim to open a criminal case to be illegal”.

Due to the fact that it did not appear possible to ensure effective investigation of Abdul-Khalim Abdulmezhidov’s complaint of torture, today, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture applied on his behalf to the European Court of Human Rights. In the opinion of human rights defenders, with regard to Abdulmezhidov, the state violated articles of the European Convention of Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, guaranteeing freedom from tortures and effective legal remedy, as well as the right to freely use one’s property.