Published: 14 Dec 2020

Rashid Ozdoyev & Tamerlan Tsechoyev

Article

Rashid Ozdoyev (PHOTO: Memorial HRC)

As a senior aide to Ingushetia’s prosecutor, Rashid Ozdoyev was tasked with overseeing the activities of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the southern Russian republic. He was an outspoken critic of FSB officials for their alleged participation in unlawful activities, including arbitrary detentions, torture, and extrajudicial executions.

Just days before he was abducted, Rashid travelled to Moscow to share evidence with the federal authorities of serious alleged human rights abuses by the security services in Ingushetia.

Rashid had been investigating dozens of cases of “enforced disappearances” of young Ingush men—until he himself disappeared without trace.

Tamerlan Tsechoyev (PHOTO: Mashr.org)

On the evening of 11 March 2004, Rashid was driving together with his friend Tamerlan Tsechoyev, who was the head of a local NGO and an opposition activist. When the pair reached the village of Verkhniye Achaluki, a white Niva car without registration plates collided with their vehicle, blocking the road.

Two more vehicles pulled over nearby. Armed men in camouflage uniforms got out of the cars and opened fire. Rashid and Tamerlan were apprehended. They were bundled into a minivan and driven off.

Officers stationed at a nearby traffic police checkpoint watched the incident as it unfolded. They tried to intervene, but were warned off by one of the abductors, who said he was an FSB officer.

At 11pm later that night, cars matching the description of Tamerlan’s dark green VAZ, and the vehicles that had abducted him and Rashid, were seen pulling into the FSB’s Ingushetia headquarters.

The next day Rashid’s father Boris learned that Rashid and Tamerlan had been transported from the FSB headquarters to the town of Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia. The same group of armed men had allegedly abducted two other young men that night – Rasukhan Yevloyev and Ibragim Izmaylov – who were apparently transferred along with Rashid and Tamerlan.

Boris Ozdoyev’s other son, a serving FSB officer, was able to confirm that Rashid had been abducted by law-enforcement agencies acting on the orders of the local FSB chief. But when investigators requested the FSB headquarters to provide them with information about his detention, a staff member denied all knowledge of the incident.

At an early stage of the investigation into Rashid’s abduction, a letter of confession was added to the evidence in his case file. The letter was apparently penned by an FSB staffer and addressed to the Ingushetia public prosecutions office. In lurid detail, the officer revealed the modus operandi of the secret death squad that he claimed to be part of. Officers would use camouflage uniforms, masks, and fake documents to apprehend people under the cover of darkness. They apparently worked to targets—five arrests a week. Detainees would then be taken to the premises of the FSB headquarters, where they would be tortured and killed.

Rashid Ozdoyev (PHOTO: Bakshar.org)

The letter’s anonymous author claimed to have personally killed thirty-five people and maimed many more. He also divulged details about a special operation in which an unnamed prosecutor was apprehended because he was in possession of compromising material against the local FSB chief. The officer had broken the legs and arms of that person. His colleagues had then killed him.

Investigators claimed that they were unable to determine the authenticity of the letter or the identity of its author. The local FSB chief, when questioned, denied having been involved in the abduction of any of the men. He later died in a plane crash in 2006.

Rashid’s father Boris, together with Tamerlan Tsechoyev’s brother Zurab, formally applied to the European Court of Human Rights in 2008.

Boris Ozdoyev passed away in 2018, without ever learning exactly what had happened to his son. His widow, Tamara, pursued the application in his stead.

EHRAC and Memorial HRC litigated the case on behalf of the Ozdoyev and Tsechoyev families.

In August 2019, the European Court of Human Rights passed judgment on the cases of Rashid Ozdoyev and Tamerlan Tsechoyev along with eleven other men who had disappeared after being detained by service personnel during special operations in Ingushetia or Chechnya, finding violations of the right to life (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights).

The Court also concluded that the Russian authorities had failed to carry out effective criminal investigations into the circumstances of the disappearances (in breach of Art. 2 in its procedural aspect), and found further violations of the right to freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment (Art. 3) with respect to some of the applicants, including the Ozdoyev and Tsechoyev families, on account of the distress and anguish they suffered, and continue to suffer, as a result of their inability to ascertain the fate of their loved ones, as well as violations of the right to liberty (Art. 5) and the right to an effective remedy (Art. 13 in conjunction with Art. 2).

EHRAC submitted the case of Rashid Ozdoyev to the UN’s Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances in July 2020, and is also preparing to submit the case of Tamerlan Tsechoyev.

Find out more

EHRAC turns to UN on behalf of families of missing people in Russia’s North Caucasus (News)