The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation has today upheld the verdict issued by the Supreme Court of Kabardino-Balkaria in the criminal case concerning the 2005 attack on Nalchik, known as the “Trial of the 58.” The term of imprisonment was reduced by 6 months for all of the accused except those five who had previously received life sentences—Aslan Kuchmenov, Anzor Mashukov, Murat Bapinayev, Eduard Mironov and Rasul Kudayev. Russian Justice Initiative represented the interests of 12 defendants in the case in their appeals to the Russian Supreme Court and in their applications before the European Court of Human Rights, in which they alleged torture and cruel treatment as well as the denial of the right to effective counsel. At present, most of the complaints have been communicated to the Russian authorities.
“The Russian authorities once again have failed to investigate persuasive facts pointing to the use of torture against at least 12 defendants in the case of the 2005 Nalchik attack. Confessions obtained under torture were used by the court as evidence,” said Rustam Matsev, a Justice Initiative lawyer.
On 13 October 2005, groups of armed men staged attacks on police, security and military facilities in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria. In the course of the attack, according to different reports, beteween 32 to 35 servicemen, 12 to 15 civilians and 92 to 97 gunmen were killed. 129 law enforcers suffered injuries of varying severity. In the aftermath of the attack, more than 70 people were arrested.
The investigation and the trial in the case took 10 years and the case materials comprise close to 1,500 volumes, with the indictment alone consisting of 500 volumes. A special building on the grounds of the detention center had to be built to accommodate all the participants of the mass criminal trial.
In the course of the pretrial investigation on “the case of the 58” there were gross violations of both the procedural rights of the suspects including their right to defense. The use of torture and coercion in order to obtain incriminating confessions has been documented. In a number of cases, the defendants’ claims of torture were only perfunctorily investigated by the prosecutor’s office despite the medico-legal evidence of serious traumas sustained by many of the accused during and after arrest, including concussions and multiple hematomas, sometimes covering the entire body.
From the beginning of the armed conflict in North Caucasus, there have been a great number of similar trials with analogous accusations and a comparable level of negligent investigation. However, this is the first trial on such a large scale and which has lasted for so many years and had such wide-reaching effects on judicial practice.
Russian Justice Initiative will continue to represent the interests of the claimaints at the European Court of Human Rights in their allegations of torture and the lack of a fair trial.