ECHR communicated complaints of a Chechen man maimed for life during a special operation

Событие | Пресс центр

05 February 2014

On 3 February 2014 the European Court of Human Rights  published on its official website the Statement of Facts and Questions to the Parties in the case of Rizvan Abdulkhanov who complains under Articles 2, 3 and 13 of the European Convention (right to life, prohibition of torture, and right to an effective remedy). This means that the ECHR has communicated the application to the Government, and Russian authorities now have to give answers to the following questions: Was it absolutely necessary to resort to the use of force which threatened the applicant’s life? Was the applicant subjected to torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment at the hands of the police? Have the competent authorities carried out an effective investigation into the applicant’s complaints?

The regional branch of the INGO «Committee Against Torture» received an application from Rizvan Abdulkhanov  on 19 January 2009. As the applicant maintains, during the night of 4 to 5 December 2006 he was at home when he heard a noise. The applicant went outside and, having heard that the noise was coming from his father’s courtyard, headed there. As soon as the applicant went outside the gates of his house he heard someone saying: «That’s him» followed by a burst of sub-machine gunfire. He felt pain and fell down, and was approached by several armed men. He heard someone saying: «Who was firing? Why firing? Go pick him up, we’ll take him to hospital». Then the applicant lost consciousness. When the applicant came to his senses he found himself in the intensive care unit of the 9 clinical hospital of Grozny with six gunshot wounds. Twelve days later he was transferred to a regular unit, where he learned from his relatives to have been shot by policemen.

Subsequent treatment was recommended in a specialized neuro-surgical hospital, unavailable in the Chechen Republic. The doctors recommended this to be done urgently, but it was not until two months later that the authorities allowed him to leave the Chechen Republic to seek the required specialized treatment. He was three times operated in Stavropol, then transferred to Moscow where doctors performed another operation, but eventually had to state that precious time had been irretrievably lost: the spine had begun to suppurate. They confirmed that his spine had needed to be operated on within three days from being wounded.

Mr Abdulkhanov has receive the second-degree disability status, for after multiple gunshot wounds he can not walk without crutches, and needs constant assistance of his relatives. In 2010 Rizvan underwent rehabilitation program in Anapa, arranged for him by the Committee Against Torture.

According to Mr Abdulkhanov’s wife, Khalimat, in the morning of December 5 an investigative team arrived to examine the crime scene. As she states, one of the officers at once headed to the barn and took a pistol from it. The other one wondered where Rizvan had fallen down. The investigator measured something, then took several steps away, dropped something on the ground, and said he had found the shells from the pistol her husband had shot. The investigators made photos of the shells on the ground, and took the shells with them. However, Khalimat is sure that no shells could have been there, for she had collected all the shells from the yard and given them away to a police officer in the morning. Later, a sapper group with a dog arrived. They took out from one of the household buildings’ loft a package, which, as they asserted, contained armory and military equipment.

On 18 November 2009 Groznenskiy District Court of the Chechen Republic convicted the applicant under Articles 208 § 2, 318 § 2 and 222 § 1 of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to five years and six months in general regime (minimum security) penal colony. On 25 March 2010 a higher instance court considered the punishment too severe and, having regard to Mr Abdulkhanov’s health condition, suspended the sentence.

In spite of all the efforts made by lawyers with the Committee Against Torture, investigative authorities have initiated criminal proceedings neither concerning the gunshot wounds, nor preventing Mr Abdulkhanov from receiving medical treatment. Having failed to restore the applicant’s rights on the national level, on 9 June 2010 the human rights defenders lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights on his behalf.

The Head of the International Protection Department of the INGO «Committee Against Torture», Olga Sadovskaya: «This situation is not only about another special operation which resulted in a tragedy. The outrageous fact is that the applicant was for a long time forcibly kept neither in a police department, nor in any other special facility, but in a hospital. The authorities were merely ignoring doctors who were insisting that their patient needed urgent medical care in a different region due to the absence of the required equipment in the Chechen Republic. For about two months the police were not allowing to transfer Mr Abdulkhanov. We have come across a similar situation in the case of Aleksey Mikheev: police officers wouldn’t let doctors help the man until it was too late, and Aleksey became disabled».