The ECHR gets involved in the case of missing Chechen resident Movsar Umarov


16 September 2020

Yesterday, on 15 September 2020, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture received a notification from the European Court of Human Rights about the fact that the Court is considering of applying “Rule 39” in order to provide for the safety of Movsar Umarov from Chechnya. Among other things, the ECHR requested from the Russian Government information on the reasons for which Umarov got into custody of the Chechen law-enforcement authorities.

4 September 2020, the relatives of Movsar Umarov from the Chechen Republic applied to the Committee Against Torture asking to help establishing his whereabouts. According to them, Movsar was apprehended on 18 July by law-enforcement authorities and taken to the Leninsky District of the Grozny City Police (previously, another applicant of the Committee Against Torture, Timur Debishev, told about tortures in this police department – comment by the author). On the next day after the apprehension, the Leninsky District police officers informed Umarov’s relatives that he was transferred to the Federal National Guard Troops of the Russian Federation Extradepartmental Protection Directorate State-owned Federal State Institution for the Chechen Republic (habitually it is nicknamed “Oil Regiment”). To the question about the reasons of apprehension they received a response that Movsar did not do anything wrong and in an about a week they will call for the relatives on the father’s side together with a mullah, will have an educational talk and will let him go. During the whole period of Movsar’s stay in the “Oil Regiment” territory his wife and mother were bringing him food, but they were not allowed to see him until 7 August.

In the evening of 7 August, Umarov’s relatives were asked to urgently come to the “Oil Regiment”. When they arrived, they were brought inside and taken to the room without a sign. Movsar and about 7-10 officers were inside that room. One of them introduced himself as “Jabrail”. Later on, Movsar Umarov’s brother, who attended that meeting, recognized that man by photographs in the Internet, as Magomed Baytuyev, an assistant to head of Checnnya Ramzan Kadyrov. Umarov did not have any visible bodily injuries. According to Movsar’s mother, they demanded that he provided evidence required to catch two “devils” from Ingushetia and Dagestan, otherwise he was threatened with 15-20 years of imprisonment. After this meeting of Movsar with his relatives, he was allowed to use the phone to talk to them from time to time. Several times he called his wife and told her on 10 August that he was going to be released. Last message from him came in the evening of 11 August: “I’m at the meeting”. After that Movsar has not contact his wife or any of his relatives.

On 18 August, Umarov’s relatives were called to the “Oil Regiment”. There was a man there again, who introduced himself as “Jabrail”, who told them that Movsar allegedly escaped from the police officers during the apprehension of a suspect in the territory of Ingushetia. Movsar’s brother asked “Jabrail” why then they did not declare him wanted, if he escaped from the law-enforcement officers’ custody. To this “Jabrail” lifted his hands helplessly and said that he did not understand it either.

On 14 September, lawyers with Committee Against Torture submitted an application on Movsar Umarov’s rights provided by Articles 3 and 5 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: “prohibition of torture” and “right to personal integrity”. Human rights defenders asked the Court to apply “Rule 39” and demand that the Russian Federation took provisional measures to establish Umarov’s whereabouts, as well as guaranteed his release and safety.

Yesterday, the ECHR posed questions to the Russian authorities on whether Movsar was taken to the Leninsky police department and the “Oil Regiment”, and on what grounds; where he is now and what steps did the Russian law-enforcement bodies take to establish the circumstances of this incident, whether Movsar was subjected to torture, does he have an opportunity to see his relatives and the lawyer. In order to answer the posed questions, the Russian authorities have the time till 25 September.

“We hope that Movsar relatives and us still have a chance to see him alive, – head of the North Caucasus branch of the Committee Against Torture Dmitry Piskounov comments.

– Law-enforcement agencies are aware of this situation back since 26 August, when the relatives applied to the regional Prosecutor’s Office. However, until now, the investigative authorities have not taken any steps to establish his whereabouts which we know of. Involvement of the European Court, in our opinion, is one of the very few still available mechanisms to provide for Umarov’s safety, if he is still alive, of course”.

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