Police officers sentenced in landmark cases

A police officer in Ingushetia was sentenced to eight years in prison for torture this week, in the first trial of its kind in this south Russian republic. Earlier this autumn a police officer in Dagestan was sentenced to three years in a similar case. Despite big flaws these are landmark sentences in a region where impunity for grave human rights violations is persistent.

Infamous for lack of rule of law, Ingushetia and Dagestan almost never prosecute police officers in spite of widely spread corruption, torture and degrading treatment of detainees and excessive use of force.

“Although these cases have numerous shortcomings and justice has not been served to all who are involved in these grave human rights violation cases, the mere presence of court hearings against police officers is a positive step forward. We welcome that and hope these legal proceedings will set a positive precedent in North Caucasus,” said Joanna Kurosz, Programme Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Civil Rights Defenders.

The judgments have been preceded by lengthy and complicated court hearings against law enforcement officers for power abuse, inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees. After about two years of frequently delayed court appearances, pressure on victims and alleged prolonged illnesses of the latter, numerous appeals and ever-changing testimonies in two simultaneous cases in these two autonomous Russian republics, only some of the officers were sentenced to various lengths in prison on counts of power abuse. The two different instances in Dagestan and Ingushetia involve five police officers – widely acclaimed as “werewolves in uniforms” – accused of power abuse and torture of detainees.

Ilez Nalgiev, former deputy chief of police, in Karabulak in Ingushetia was sentenced on 7 November to eight years in prison for power abuse and torture of Zelimkhan Chitigov. Nazir Guliev, former Karabulak district chief of police, who was also tried in the same case, was pronounced not guilty. Ilez Nalgiev and Nazir Guliev were brought to court after claims of beatings and inhumane treatment by 14 people at different points in time.

In Dagestan, three police officers were brought to court earlier this year for inhumane treatment of an underage detainee in 2010. Gamzat Nurudinov, Shamil Magomedaliev and Magomed Magomedov were initially tried in one case, charged for beating a 14-year-old in police custody. But after appealing to the Dagestani Supreme Court the case was split in two.

Magomed Magomedov was tried in a separate case and sentenced to three years in prison earlier this autumn. However, despite being pronounced guilty, Magomed Magomedov has not been imprisoned and still enjoys his freedom, local witnesses report.

The final sentencing hearing in the second case against Gamzat Nurudinov and Shamil Magomedaliev is constantly postponed due to changing testimony. According to monitoring organizations and the plaintiff’s lawyer, the defendants’ relatives threaten and pressure witnesses and the victim’s family.

Categories: News.
Regions: The North Caucasus.