The ECHR communicated a complaint about illegal apprehension of lawyers with the Committee Against Torture in Chechnya


20 January 2020

The European Court of Human Rights communicated a complaint made by lawyers with the Committee Against Torture concerning the illegal apprehension of three members of their organization in the Chechen Republic in 2010 – at that time, the police officers headed by Magomed Daudov apprehended human rights defenders and kept them overnight at the Shaly District Department of the Interior. Trying to initiate criminal proceedings at the national level was no success. Now the Russian authorities will have to answer the questions on whether there were any violations of the apprehended persons’ rights to freedom and personal integrity, as well as of the right to effective legal remedy.

On 7 February 2010, lawyers of the Joint Mobile Group of human rights defenders, under the authority of the Committee Against Torture in the Chechen Republic, (JMG) Dmitry Yegoshin, Roman Veretennikov, and Vladislav Sadykov were apprehended and taken to the District Police Department for the Shaly District. Magomed Daudov, who was the head of the Shaly District Department of Internal Affairs at the time, was involved in detention.

The human rights defenders were detained while meeting with an unknown Chechnya citizen who had promised to give valuable information about one of the abducted citizens of the Shaly district. However, during the meeting Roman Veretennikov and Vladislav Sadykov were detained and taken to the office of the Shaly District Department of Internal Affairs head. An hour and a half later the third JMG member, Dmitry Yegoshin, was detained by the traffic police. The police officers also examined the service vehicle of the Joint Mobile Group, from which they seized the dash camera. Throughout the night the detained were kept in various premises of the District Police Department. In the morning the police officers requested that the human rights defenders wrote acknowledgements that none of them had any claims against the police officers. In addition, human rights defenders had a meeting with a Prosecutor of the Shaly District who explained to them that they were invited to the police department in the framework of the check of an application from a local resident. Having asked them if they had any complaints against the actions of the police officers, the prosecutor requested that they put them in writing, after that they would be examined. In the morning of 8 February, the lawyers managed to leave the territory of the Shaly District Police Department and return to Grozny.

During all the time while Veretennikov, Yegoshin, and Sadykov were kept at the Shaly District Police Department no procedural documents were drawn up with regard to them (delivery reports, apprehension reports, reports on involving in the capacity of defendants, reports on administrative violations), they were not interrogated in the capacity of suspects, no charges were brought against them. At the same time, to all their questions regarding their legal status the police officers responded that human rights defenders were not apprehended, but at the same time they could not leave the District Police Department.

With regard to this fact, a crime report was submitted on 10 February. Based on the results of the check, as early as on 24 February the investigator of the Shaly Interdistrict Investigative Department issued a refusal to initiate criminal proceedings. In the investigator’s opinion, human rights defenders’ claims that they were illegally brought and detained at the territory of the District Police Department, as well as the claims about illegal seizure of equipment and communication tools were not backed by any objective assurance. Subsequently, the Investigative Committee issued three more refusals to open a criminal case. The last refusal dated 21 February 2011 was appealed against in court.

On 30 May 2011, judge Zaynetdinova dismissed this complaint as “submitted by an inappropriate person”, due to the fact that the applicants’ representative by attorney is not a defense lawyer.

The above-mentioned ruling was appealed against at the Supreme Court of Chechnya. Among other things, the complaint mentioned that the national legislation, including the practice of the Constitutional Court of the RF, guarantees to the applicants or victims the right to any representative, not only a defense lawyer, unlike with suspects or defendants.

However, on 20 July 2011, the Supreme Court of Chechnya upheld the ruling of the City Court.

Complaints in a court of supervision were also dismissed.

On 12 May 2011, the applicants submitted lawsuits to the Leninsky District Court of Grozny regarding a compensation of moral damage inflicted by their illegal apprehension. The amount of the claimed compensation was 5 roubles to each.

On 25 May 2011, the similar lawsuits were submitted with regard to the damage inflicted by ineffective investigation of the applicants’ complaints by the investigative authorities. The amount of the compensation was set at 100 roubles to each.

On 29 June 2011, judge of the District Court Nuridova dismissed both lawsuits, having stated that “the plaintiffs did not provide any evidence supporting their arguments”.

However, on 21 June 2012, the judicial board on civil cases of the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic chaired by judge Iskenderova acknowledged the apprehension of human rights defenders to be illegal and awarded a compensation to each of them in the amount of five roubles.

Despite this fact, the criminal case was never opened. Due to this, in December 2011, the lawyers with the Committee Against Torture submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights.
Today, human rights defenders received a notification from Strasbourg that on 7 January the application was communicated to the Russian government. Now the Russian authorities will have to answer the questions on whether there were any violations of the apprehended persons’ right to freedom and personal integrity as well as of their right to effective legal remedy.

“The incident of the apprehension of Joint Mobile Group lawyers in 2010 became the first episode in the chain of pressure and attacks against our officers in Chechnya, – head of the North Caucasus branch of the Committee Against Torture Dmitry Piskounov comments. – Subsequently this pressure only increased, and we had to move our office beyond the boundaries of the Republic due to fear for life of our officers. In all such cases the guilty persons remained unpunished”.

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