The European Court of Human Rights has found Russia responsible for the torture and unfair trial based on confessions obtained under torture of a Chechen resident sentenced to 24 years of imprisonment for murder and participation in an armed criminal gang, Russian Justice Initiative reported today.
The applicant in the case of Tangiev v Russia, Timur Tangiyev, was arrested at his home in Grozny on 11 April 2003 and taken to the Staropromyslovsky district police station and thereafter to the notorious Operational Search Bureau No. 2 (ORB-2) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where over the course of two months he was subjected to torture on a regular basis, including severe beatings, electrocution, and burns from extinguishing cigarettes on his body, and was forced to sign confessions. In October 2003 the applicant retracted his statements, claiming that he had signed them only to escape further torture, and pled not guilty to the charges against him. Several days afterwards, the applicant was again tortured by electrocution, leading him to attempt suicide.
During his trial the applicant alleged that he had been tortured in detention in order to sign a confession by several police officers whose identities were known to him. In May 2004, after an inquiry conducted by the Prosecutor’s Office, the applicants’ allegations of torture and forced confession were dismissed for lack of evidence and were labeled as an attempt to mislead the court and evade criminal responsibility.
On 5 October 2004 the Supreme Court of the Republic of Chechnya convicted the applicant to 24 years of imprisonment based in the large part on the applicant’s statements obtained under torture. On appeal the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation upheld the decision, reducing the applicant’s sentence by several months, and concluding that there was no convincing evidence of the applicant’s torture or ill-treatment.
The European Court found that the applicant had been subjected to treatment amounting to torture, which had been carried out in the goal of “debasing the applicant, driving him into submission and making him confess to criminal offences.” The Court also found that the authorities had not carried out an effective investigation of the applicant’s allegations of torture, citing unexplainable delays and the failure to question witnesses and medical personnel. Finally, the Court found a violation of the applicant’s right to a fair trial, given that his conviction had been based at least in part on confessions produced under duress. The applicant was awarded 45 000 euro in moral damages.
Since 2006, the European Court has handed down over 200 judgments concerning serious violations of human rights committed in Chechnya, including in 12 cases of torture. Tangiev is the first case examined by the European Court concerning a Chechen resident currently serving out a conviction based on statements made under torture, but many more have been lodged at the Court. The problem of torture and fabricated trials in Chechnya has been well documented by human rights organizations and the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture.
The applicant, who is currently serving his sentence at the high-security prison colony FBU IK-6 in Vladimir region, first applied to the European Court in 2005 and thereafter was represented by the Russian Justice Initiative. The applicant plans to rely on the judgment of the European Court to re-open the proceedings that led to his conviction.
Human Rights Watch: “Widespread Torture in Chechnya,” July 2006.