In the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic the investigation with regard to head of the department on fighting the organized crime of the Department of the Criminal Investigations of the Republican Ministry of the Interior Anzor Ashkhotov, who is suspected of having tortured a local citizen Rustam Kuchmenov, is suspended. While passing this ruling, investigator Azamat Makoyev, came to conclusion that the suspect, who is not even suspended from duty, for some reason cannot take part in the criminal case.
As we have previously reported, on 15 December 2017, Rustam Kuchmenov from Nalchik applied to the North Caucasus branch of the Committee Against Torture. According to Rustam, on 2 June 2017, armed police officers stormed into his apartment. Without explaining the reason, human rights defenders handcuffed him, put a black plastic bag on his head and took him to the Department of Criminal Investigations of the Ministry of the Interior for the Kabardino-Balkarskaya Republic. There the police officers demanded that he wrote a full confession of having committed a theft.
According to Mr Kuchmenov, after he refused to testify against himself, the police officers tied his hands and feet up with scotch tape, and attached a metal wire line on metal pins. One of the officers was pressing Kuchmenov’s head to the floor with his foot, and the other was holding the victim’s feet.
– I started to tell them that after the car crash I have a metal fixture holding my neck vertebrae. In response one of the police officers only pressed more strongly with all his body weight onto my neck, saying that he was going to squash my head and play football with it, – Kuchmenov remembers.
According to Rustam, then the police officers started to torture him, applying the electricity producing device: “Several times I passed out, after that they poured water on me, but I still refused to testify against myself”.
According to Rustam, after some time he was moved to another room, they gave him a cigarette and some water. However, sometime later the execution continued: “One of the police officers demanded that I confessed of having committed theft, and after I refused, he forced a bodkin into my thigh. Later, during the interrogation, the police officer hit me in the face in the presence of the investigator”.
Together with Kuchmenov, his cousin and his acquaintance were apprehended. According to them, the police officers tortured them and demanded that they confessed of thefts, as well. As a result, a criminal case was initiated regarding all three apprehended persons on suspicion of having committed several thefts, and in June of last year they were put into the investigative confinement cell.
After several months of custody, Rustam was released on condition not to leave town. The reason for that was the conclusion of the medical commission which established that due to the damage of the metal fixture in his neck Kuchmenov cannot stay at the confinement cell.
On 5 June 2017, Rustam applied to the Investigative Committee with a complaint concerning violence and electricity torture to have been applied against him. On 8 July, a criminal case was opened against head of the department on fighting the organized crime of the Department of the Criminal Investigations of the Republican Ministry of the Interior of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic Anzor Ashkhotov under item “a” part 3 Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“abuse of office using violence”).
The criminal case was quite promptly opened; however, it came to a halt – no investigative activities with the victim’s participation were conducted. Having concern about the investigation progress and in fear of pressure by the police officers, in December 2017 Rustam applied to the Committee Against Torture for help. At the same time, the human rights defenders got involved in the trial in a capacity of the victim’s representatives.
After that for some time the investigation went on with quite an intensive rate, several more identifications were conducted, during which Kuchmenov identified five police officers who participated in his tortures. According to the victim, totally there were nine of them.
“Pressure was exerted on the victim, with demands that he refused to participate in the case. The police officers threatened him with some “serious problems” in the gaps between the identifications if he did not yield, and claimed that the case would be covered up, anyway. However, Kuchmenov did not yield”, – lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Dmitry Piskunov comments.
However, starting from March 2018, the investigation came to a halt again. No investigative activities were carried out: the witnesses which Kuchmenov identified, were not questioned, and the status of the police officers, who were identified by the victim, did not change – they were not declared suspects, and the only suspect in the case, Anzor Ashkhotov, was not suspended from duty, despite repeated applications of human rights defenders to the regional superiors of the Ministry of the Interior.
And, in the end, on 17 January 2019, the investigation of the criminal case was suspended.
Lawyers with the Committee Against Torture learned about it in the course of the court hearing on 24 January 2019 – human rights defenders complained against the investigator who refused to question one of the witnesses of torture, whom Kuchmenov identified. During the court hearing, investigator Azamat Makoyev notified the representatives of the victim that he suspended the criminal case that is why he did not intend to question anyone anymore. In the ruling on suspending (read), investigator Makoyev indicated the following cause: “Due to establishment of the whereabouts of suspect A.Z.Ashkhotov, but real impossibility of his participation in the criminal case”.
“One and a half years have passed since the moment of the opening of the criminal case, however, all that the investigative authorities achieved was suspending its investigation, – Dmitry Piskunov emphasizes. – The grounds on which investigator Makoyev suspended the case looks rather strange. The investigator directly writes in the ruling that he knows where suspect Ashkhotov is, but for some reason he comes to conclusion that there is no “real possibility” to participate in the criminal case. This justification is legally applied in cases when, for example, the suspect is hiding abroad or is in remote expeditions without transport communication with the outside world. We don’t know whether Ashkhotov indeed cannot participate in the investigative activities due to objective reasons, since the investigator did not unveil the motivation of his ruling. That is why he would have to explain to us at court this time”.
Yesterday, on 28 January 2019, Rustam Kuchmenov’s representatives appealed against the suspending of the criminal case at the Nalchik City Court. In addition, human rights defenders intend to apply to the European Court of Human Rights in the nearest future.