The Investigative Committee resumed the check of a report on abduction of 1Adat Telegram chat moderator

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16 November 2020

The Investigative Committee resumed a check of an application with regard the abduction of the 1Adat Telegram-channel chat moderator Salman Tepsurkayev. Lawyers with the Committee Against Torture learned about it from the response of the Staropromyslovsky District Court of Grozny, where they submitted an application regarding the inaction of the investigator.

As we previously reported, on 6 September 2020, Salman Tepsurkayev was abducted in Gelendzhik. He was a chat moderator of 1Adat Telegram channel which informs about violations of human rights in the Chechen Republic. Witnesses report that the abductors presented their IDs of the Ministry of the Interior officers. For twenty-four hours there was no information about the fate of Salman. But in the evening of 7 September, his phone was turned on again and the relatives managed to obtain his geolocation data, according to which Salman’s phone was on the territory of regiment of the Patrol-Guard Service of the Police named after Akhmat Kadyrov located in Grozny.

On the same day, 7 September, a person under nickname “Hunter” published a video in the chat of 1Adat Telegram-channel, in which Salman Tepsurkayev curses himself and his channel in the Chechen language, after that he attempts to sit on a glass bottle.

On 11 September, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture submitted an application to the ECHR with regard to the violation of Tepsurkayev’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 requested that the Court applied “Rule 39” and demanded from the Russian Federation to take provisional measures to establish the whereabouts of Tepsurkayev, as well as to ensure the guarantee of his release and safety.

According to the information, published on the website of the Ministry of Justice of Russia, on 22 October, the European Court of Human Rights dismissed the application submitted by human rights defenders. Lawyers with the Committee Against Torture haven’t yet received the text of the ECHR ruling, that is why its motivation is not known.

On 14 September, human rights defenders applied with crime reports on behalf of Salman Tepsurkayev’s wife to the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Chechen Republic and to the Investigative Department for Gelendzhik of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Krasnodar Territory.

In addition, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture conducted their own public investigation, during which they managed to obtain convincing evidence of the law-enforcement bodies’ involvement in Tepsurkayev’s disappearance. Human rights defenders provided the investigators with a video record which features Tepsurkayev’s abduction process, as well as the data on vehicles and the abductors who were filmed by the video camera at the place of the incident. In the course of public investigation, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture managed to find out that one of the cars belongs to the acting police officer from Chechnya.

On 15 October, investigators from the Krasnodar Territory made a decision to hand over the evidence that they collected to the Investigative Department for Chechnya due to the fact that the car of Tepsurkayev’s assumed abductors crossed the boundary of the Chechen Republic. On the same day, on 15 October, the investigator with the Chechen Investigative Department dismissed the claim to open a criminal case referring to absence of a criminal act. Human rights defenders received a notification about this ruling after almost two weeks.

“Due to the fact that the investigator did not submit the dismissal of the claim to open a criminal case, we sent a request to issue its copy, in order to understand the investigator’s arguments, – explains head of the North Caucasus branch of the Committee Against Torture Dmitry Piskounov. – We did not received an answer to this motion within the established time period, due to that we submitted an application to court against the inaction of the investigator”.

On 13 November, human rights defenders received a copy of a notification from the Staropromyslovsky District Court of Grozny, regarding the investigator’s examination of the motion, which was requested from the Investigative Department. It is indicated in it that the dismissal of the claim to open a criminal case was quashed on 21 October, and an additional check is ongoing, the results of which will be notified to the lawyers with the Comittee Against Torture.

“Since additional check is being performed with regard to the material, we cannot familiarize with it and understand what was done by the investigative authorities. However, the fact that the previous ruling was quashed several days after it was taken, indicates that no sufficient checking activities have been taken with regard to the material of the check, – Dmitry Piskounov emphasizes.