Deputy Prosecutor of the Republic of Ingushetia quashed the thirteenth suspension of investigating of the criminal case on tortures of local resident Albert Khamkhoev by the officers of the Anti-Extremism Center (the E Center). For the three years of investigation, the only suspect in this criminal case, an officer with the E Center, was transferred to a category witnesses, and a large number of investigative activities were not performed in the case. Despite this, the investigators suspended it for thirteen times.
As we have previously reported, in December 2017, Aza Khamkhoeva from Yandare settlement in Ingushetia applied to the Committee Against Torture. She reported that on 14 November 2017 at about 3 p.m. several masked people in black and camouflage uniform, armed with automatic rifles, stormed the apartment where she lived. Three persons in civilian clothes armed with pistols accompanied them. According to Aza, unidentified masked people captured her son Albert Khamkhoev, tied his hands up, made him stand against the wall and put a pistol in his hand, after that they put the pistol in this belt.
“After that they brought Albert to the yard and again made him stand against the wall, took out the magazine from the pistol (where two cartridges were left) and made him lay on the ground. The put these actions on record in the presence of two attesting witness, who came together with the armed masked men. Then the masked people together with the people in civilian clothes performed a search of our household. The search itself lasted for about two hours. Nothing illegal was found, and it made an impression that this was done in order to comply with formalities”, – Aza Khamkhoeva described.
Further developments were described by Albert Khamkhoev to defense lawyer Aleksandr Karavaev, provided by the Committee Against Torture: “I was put into Priora vehicle, there were five men inside together with me. Right away they put a black plastic bag on me, braided it with Scotch tape and were beating him up all the way non-stop without explaining the reasons, poked a barrel of a machine gun at him. After that I was taken to some building (as I was, in a plastic bag and handcuffed). They brought me to the second floor, put me on my knees and continued to beat me up. They were beating me up with a plastic bottle filled with water. Then they put some pins on my fingers and started to electrocute me so that I passed out a couple of times. They took the wires off my fingers, attached them in the area of the earlap, and electrocuted me again”.
According to Albert, after the tortures he was taken out of the building and one of the law-enforcement officers told him that they were in the Center for counteraction of extremist activity of the Republic of Ingushetia. Albert also explained to the defense lawyer that the firearm that was seized from him was received from illegal armed groups.
A criminal case was initiated with regard to Albert Khamkhoev under part 1 Article 222 of the Criminal Code of Russia (“illegal purchase, transfer, sales, weapons transportation or bearing, or its main parts, as well as ammunition”). On 16 November 2017, he was taken in custody for two months.
“On 17 November, at about eight in the evening I was taken from Temporary Detention Facility to the FSB building in Magas. In that building I was again tortured with electricity”, – Albert Khamkhoev comments.
On 21 November 2017, human-rights ombudsman of the Republic of Ingushetia Djambulat Ozdoev visited Albert at the Pre-Trial Detention Center of Karabulak. The ombudsman confirmed that he saw numerous signs of physical violence on Khamkhoev’s body.
Subsequently, on 10 September 2018, Albert Khamkhoev was sentenced by the Nazran District Court of the Republic of Ingushetia to one and a half years of conditional prison term. On 13 November 2018 the Supreme Court of the Republic of Ingushetia changed this verdict and imposed punishment in the form of imprisonment for the same period of time, having decided that the sentence shall be considered served taking into account the time spent at the Pre-Trial Detention Facility and under house arrest.
Due to Albert’s complaint about torture, on 22 January 2018, investigator of the Nazran Interdistrict Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Republic of Ingushetia Gandaloev passed a ruling on initiating criminal proceedings against unidentified police officers regarding the crime under item “a” Part 3 Article 286 of the Criminal Code of Russia (“abuse of office with the use of violence”).
On 6 June 2018, the first suspect appeared in the case – Andrey Ovada, officer of the regional counter-extremism center, who was the senior investigative officer at the time when the crime was committed.
After the investigative authorities suspended the investigation of this case for the eighth time due to impossibility of suspect Andrey Ovada’s involvement in it, and the investigator dismissed a motion on selecting a measure of restraint for him, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture submitted a complaint to the Magas District Court.
During one of the court hearings in July of last year, investigator Magomed-Amin Shadyzhev provided the court with documents from last year, which had been previously missing in the case materials, which establish that back on 26 October 2019 all suspicions were lifted from Andrey Ovada and he became a witness in the criminal case on tortures. In addition, the investigator informed that the case itself was suspended for the tenth time on 10 February 2020 – this time “due to impossibility to establish a person to be involved in the capacity of a defendant”.
In total, during the time of the investigation the criminal case was suspended thirteen times, last time on 11 January 2021. Lawyers with the Committee Against Torture appealed against another investigator’s ruling on suspending the case.
Today, human rights defenders were informed that on 8 April the investigator’s ruling they appealed against was quashed by Deputy Prosecutor of Ingushetia Girikhan Khazbiyev as illegal one.
In his ruling, Mr Khazbiyev pointed out that the investigator failed to perform a large number of investigative activities in the criminal case. For example, he did not question the officers of the Department of the FSB for Ingushetia who were conducting investigative activities with Khamkoev in the investigative cell, did not examine the information on telephone calls of the E Center officers, did not conduct face-to-face confrontations between the witness and the police officers, and a lot more.
“What effective investigation can we talk about, if three years after the opening of the criminal case the Deputy Prosecutor of Ingushetia points to the investigators at the necessity of conducting about a dozen interrogations, face-to-face confrontations and other investigative actions which should have been performed long time ago and after which the defendants should have been appeared in the case, – tells lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Magomed Alamov. – We, certainly, will insist that the investigators who permitted such red tape to happen are punished and the case is transferred to the republican level”.