Thirteen months of investigative impotence


25 October 2018
Photo: Egor Skovoroda / MediaZone

Today another deadline of preliminary investigation of the criminal case regarding the attack on the bus with journalists and human rights defenders in March 2016 on the border between Ingushetia and Chechnya expired. For thirteen months the investigators failed to find the culprits, and the victims – to familiarize themselves with the materials of the investigation.

We remind that on 9 March 2016, a group of unidentified persons 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 , 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.   

In August 2016, the victims turned to the investigators for the first time with a motion to let them familiarize with the materials of the criminal case in order to understand whether the work conducted in relation with it (if any) was effective. This motion was dismissed with indication that the investigation was still ongoing.   

In total the victims tried to familiarize with the materials of the criminal case eight times, and each time, expect once, these attempts were dismissed by the investigators. Only in one case the victims’ representative was allowed to familiarize himself with some copies of documents of small importance: rulings on the composition of the investigative group, rulings on assigning expert examinations and protocols of investigative actions with the victims’ involvement.   

In May 2017, the investigators provided the victims with reference information on the progress of investigation. It only featured the activities conducted since the start of investigation, without any details or results. The provided information was obviously not enough for evaluation of the conducted work efficiency.  
Today, on 25 October 2018, another deadline of preliminary investigation of the attack on the press-tour participants expired.

It amounted to thirteen months.   

“For over a year we have not been informed on the progress of investigation, and the last documents that we received from the investigation, were notifications that the investigation period is extended to thirteen months. It is unknown to us what the investigators have been doing all these thirteen months; if their work is to be evaluated based on the available results, they amount to zero: no suspects, no defendants, – lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Ekaterina Vanslova comments, who is one of the victims in the case.   – “We haven’t got anything for 2.5 years of work, and we won’t show you what we were able to dig, – that’s how it all looks like from the side of the investigation. Under such circumstances the only reason for permanent extending of this investigation is “handwaving”, imitation of heavy activity. With regard to this, the logical, and unfortunately, single way out for us is to apply to the European Court of Human Rights”.

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