Lawyers with the Committee Against Torture and Agora applied today to the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of the journalists and human rights defenders who were attacked on 9 March 2016 on the border between Ingushetia and Chechnya. In the opinion of the lawyers, the Russian Federation violated the articles of the European Convention which guarantee freedom from torture, freedom of expressing opinion, as well as the right to effective investigation with regard to the applicants.
As we have previously reported, on 9 March 2016, a group of unidentified persons wearing masks attacked the bus with journalists and human right defenders on the border between Ingushetia and Chechnya, as a result the bus was burnt, all passengers and the driver were severely beaten; besides, personal belongings and equipment were stolen. A criminal case based on this fact was initiated; and the investigation department of the Russian Federation Investigation Committee in the Republic of Ingushetia was investigating it.
Yunus-Bek Evkurov, the head of the Republic of Ingushetia, in his turn, emphasized at that time, that the prompt investigation of this crime is “the matter of honor for the law-enforcement authorities”, and promised that the law-enforcement authorities would take all measures for the search and arrest of the guilty parties. Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation, gave a personal order to study all the details of this attack.
During several weeks after the incident the investigators interrogated all the victims and established witnesses on this case. The Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Chechen Republic was requested to seize the records from photo and video cameras installed at the “Kavkaz” check-point at the entrance to the territory of Chechnya and on identification and questioning of all the owners of vehicles, who passed this check point during the attack. After that the victims stopped to receive any information on the conducted activities and results from the investigative authorities. In addition, in January 2017, the response came from the Chief Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the North Caucasian Federal District, which stated that the video cameras at the border of Ingushetia and Chechnya were not functioning since January 2016, and the investigators failed to seize the data from the video recorder of this check-point, as it was inoperable and was in repair.
For more than three years of investigation no suspects or defendants appeared in the case, and the victims did not have opportunity to be full-fledged participants of the investigation, since the investigators refused to let them familiarize with the criminal case materials in full scope.
Taking into account the investigation brought no result, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture and Agora submitted today an application to the European Court of Human Rights.
“We think that Russian authorities bear responsibility for this attack and we regard this incident, as well as previous cases of attacks against the office of our organization in Grozny as a chain of interrelated events, initiated by instigation by local authorities, among others, – lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Ekaterina Vanslova comments. – The persons who attacked the bus with the press-tour participants made it clear that it was the professional activity of human rights defenders and journalists, covering human rights violations in Chechnya and Ingushetia that served as the motive of their attack. Another thing that tells us about the motives of the attackers is the fact that they did not demand any money or other valuables from the victims; their objective were the electronic media containing the information collected for the previous days of the press-tour. We are also convinced that the Russian authorities bear responsibility also for inefficient investigation of this attack. Despite numerous promises of high-ranking civil servants and law-enforcement officers, the culprits were never found”.