An abducted Chechen is never found


26 March 2010

At the end of January 2010 the Interregional Committee against Torture filed an application to the European Court in connection with Islam Umarpashayev’s abduction on 11 December 2009. According to the family, some people armed with guns, wearing military uniform and driving VAZ-type vehicles took Islam away from the Umarpashayevs’ house in Grozny.  The abducted man’s relatives applied to the law enforcement bodies, but no one informed them about Islam’s whereabouts.

The ECtHR promptly reacted to the application. The following day after receiving it, the Court sent an urgent letter to the Russian Government containing a number of questions about Islam Umarpashayev’s abduction. In particular, Russia had to describe what measures it was taking to find Islam. The RF also had to provide the materials of the criminal case to the ECtHR.

Now the Russian Government has sent the materials to the Court, and the ICAT has obtained copies of these materials.  

It has turned out that already in 2008 and 2009 the Chechen Ministry of the Interior, the Chechen Prosecutor’s Office and Investigation Administration of the Investigation Committee for Chechnya adopted joint decrees “On dealing with applications claiming abduction” and “On supervision and departmental control over the process of searching for missing people, on consolidating the rule of law when registering and dealing with applications claiming abduction.” 

Indeed, these documents aim at prevention and efficient investigation of abductions in the Chechen Republic. They regulate joint activities of all Chechen law enforcement bodies in charge of improving the efficiency of investigations under such cases. Inter alia, these decrees presuppose usage of innovative technologies during the investigation, prompt visit to the scene of action, speedy notification of the prosecutor about abductions, creation of operative and interdepartmental investigation groups, etc.

However, the materials of the criminal case instigated upon Umarpashayev’s abduction witness that the authorities concentrate only on performing some formal activities that do not bring the desired results (e.g., sending inquiries to the law enforcement bodies of neighbouring regions, hospitals, etc.). Those steps that could really contribute to the progress of the investigation are taken either too late or negligently, or not taken at all.  

One of the violations under this case is that the prosecutor’s office failed to notify the investigation department about the abduction promptly. Islam Umarpashayev was abducted on 11 December 2009. The same day his father applied to the Oktyabrsky district prosecutor’s office where his application was registered. However, the Zavodskoy Interdistrict Investigation Department received the application only on 16 December, i.e. in 5 days. This prevented searching for Islam Umarpashayev while the trail was still hot.

Even when the application claiming abduction reached the investigator, he first interrogated all family members and performed formal investigative actions to make sure that Islam had been really abducted.  On 19 December 2009 the investigator issued a decision to prolong the check from 3 to 10 days instead of opening a case. The criminal case was started only on December 31.

Special attention should be paid to the interaction of the investigative authorities under the prosecutor’s office in charge of the criminal investigation and staff of the regional offices of internal affairs bodies.

Investigators refrain from giving instruction to policemen. And in cases when they do ask the local police to do something, there is usually no reply. Most of the requests filed by the investigator in connection with Islam Umarpahsayev’s abduction to law enforcement bodies remained unanswered at the end of February 2010. Due to the inaction of the law enforcement staff who systematically fail to perform the requests of the investigation bodies, the latter are deprived of a possibility to investigate the case.  

Several days ago the European Court granted the case a priority status. We can only hope that the Chechen investigation authorities are going to do their utmost to conduct an effective investigation and find Islam, otherwise Russia will suffer another inglorious defeat in Starsbourg.  

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