Russian authorities have failed to investigate strong evidence that at least 12 of the defendants convicted on December 23, 2014, on mass terrorism charges had been tortured and their coerced confessions used as evidence, according to Human Rights Watch.
A court in Nalchik sentenced most of the 12 to lengthy prison terms, including Rasul Kudaev, a former Guantanamo detainee, to life in prison, and Batyr Pshybiev to 18 years.
“Solid forensic evidence has shown these 12 men were tortured,” said Rachel Denber (pictured above), deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities need to finally conduct effective and impartial investigations into the torture, hold those responsible to account, and immediately withdraw as evidence any coerced statements by the defendants.”
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Fifty-seven men have been on trial since 2008 for leading an armed uprising on October 13, 2005, in Kabardino-Balkaria, in Russia’s unstable Northern Caucasus region.
The uprising resulted in more than 140 deaths, reportedly including 35 law enforcement officers, 15 civilians, and at least 92 of those involved in the uprising.
The prosecutor’s office had performed perfunctory inquiries into torture complaints filed by the defendants and found no wrongdoing, even though forensic medial evidence showed that many were severely injured during and after their arrest. Injuries included concussions and severe bruising, in some cases, covering their entire bodies.
Defendants told their lawyers they were beaten until they signed alleged confessions.
Russia is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
According to Human Rights Watch, under all three treaties Russia has obligations to prohibit all forms of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, to punish those who resort to such actions, and to ensure that no evidence obtained in violation of the prohibition can be used in courts.
Photo courtesy: Human Rights Watch