European Court finds Russia responsible for the torture of prison detainees
On 4 February 2020, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found Russia responsible for the torture of seven men in police custody, and the inhuman and degrading treatment of three other detainees. The Court also found that the authorities’ investigations into the complaints of the applicants were ineffective, and that the excessive length of the detention of one applicant had breached his right to liberty. Human rights abuses are endemic within the Russian penal system. In August 2018, the U.N. Committee against Torture called upon Russia to halt the torture of detainees and prosecute perpetrators after high-profile reports emerged of abuses within Russian prisons. EHRAC, together with Human Rights Center MEMORIAL, represented two of the applicants who the Court today ruled in favour of – Magomed Kodzoyev and Mussa Daurbekov.
What happened to them?
Magomed Kodzoyev was arrested by the organised crime unit of the North Ossetian police in Moscow on 30 May 2006. He was transferred to Vladikavkaz, where he was subjected to a horrific ordeal. Magomed was taken to a room, his legs were tied up and his feet were beaten with a truncheon. His tormentors then attached an electric current to him and gave him electric shocks until he fainted. Water was poured over him and needles were placed under his nails. The ordeal continued for many hours, until the morning. Magomed was subjected to routine beatings and electric shock treatments every day for a week thereafter, and then once every one or two weeks for a period of approximately six to seven months.
On 28 June 2006, Magomed’s lawyer complained to the prosecutor about his client’s ill-treatment. Forensic examinations were carried out. Bruises were observed on Magomed’s face, and he had abrasions on each elbow. The injuries were consistent with having been hit with a hard, blunt object.
Magomed first denied having been ill-treated to the investigator. As a result, the investigator refused to open a criminal case. Years later, in 2009, Magomed explained to the Leninsky District Court that he had been pressured to make the denial. The court found his complaint unfounded, and his appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court of North Ossetia on 12 August 2009.
Mussa Daurbekov was serving his sentence in correctional colony no. 5. in the Vladimir Region of Russia, but was transferred to a remand prison in Vladikavkaz on 22 December 2006, on suspicion of having committed a crime. On 6 March 2007, police officers tried to force him to confess by beating him over the head with a plastic bottle filled with water. A week later, Mussa was taken to an unknown location and strangled with a plastic bag, beaten with a bottle, subjected to electric shocks and threatened with rape. He requested an ambulance after the attack, and it was soon discovered that he had hematoma on the forehead, brain concussion, damage of the soft tissues on his head and face, and damage of his internal organs.
On 30 March 2007, Mussa complained to the prosecutor about his ill-treatment. A forensic examination was carried out, but almost a month later, and then it was found that he had an abrasion on his left elbow joint, but no apparent injuries from electric current.
Mussa was found guilty by the Supreme Court of North Ossetia on 29 December 2008. The courts examined and rejected his complaints of ill-treatment, due to an apparent lack of evidence.
What did the Court find?
The Court found that the ill-treatment of Magomed Kodzoyev and Mussa Daurbekov in police custody had amounted to torture (Art. 3). It also ruled that authorities’ investigations into their complaints were ineffective. Forensic examinations were conducted with a significant delay after the events. The Russian Government had also claimed that Mussa Daurbekov’s allegation of ill-treatment by electric shocks was unfounded, but the Court noted that he had had some injuries recorded by the ambulance, including damage to the soft tissues of his head and face. These injuries remained unexplained.
Magomed and Mussa were victims of torture, the Court found, as, in addition to being severe, ‘the pain and suffering was inflicted on them intentionally, namely with the view of extracting confessions to having committed crimes’.
A violation of Art. 5 (right to liberty and security) was also found in relation to excessive length of Magomed Kodzoyev’s detention on remand, which lasted for four years and eight months until he was convicted on 2 February 2011.
The Court ordered the Government to pay each of the applicants €39,700.