Russian activists threatened with criminal charges after raising torture allegations

Photo: Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images.

The Russian authorities’ threat to bring criminal charges against Eva Merkacheva and Andrei Babushkin, two human rights activists who published torture allegations from two men accused of the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, raises alarming questions over the fairness of the investigation, said Amnesty International.

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation suggested that raising allegations that Zaur Dadayev was tortured into confessing and that Shaghid Gubashev was also ill-treated may amount to “interference with the work of investigator with the purpose of preventing a comprehensive, full and objective investigation of the case”.

Threatening legal action against those who report a crime as serious as torture is ludicrous. To ignore serious allegations that torture was used to force confessions would make a complete mockery of Russia’s judicial system. They must be taken seriously, and fully, promptly, independently and effectively investigated.

John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.

“These allegations, coupled with reports that Zaur Dadaev was only allowed to see a state-appointed lawyer and not the lawyer contracted by his family, raises very serious questions about the fairness of these proceedings and fuels speculation about a possible state-sanctioned cover-up.”

Zaur Dadayev, one of at least six men suspected of killing Boris Nemtsov, told members of the Public Monitoring Commission (an independent group authorised to visit places of detention in Russia) that after his detention he was hand-cuffed and blind-folded with a bag placed over his head for two days. He said he confessed to the crime after the authorities promised they would release his friend. Another suspect in the case, Shaghid Gubashev, said he had been “beaten and tortured.”

The members of the Public Monitoring Commission reported that both Zaur Dadayev and Shaghid Gubashev showed numerous marks on their bodies, and complained of being denied food and given hardly anything to drink for more than two days prior to their transfer to Moscow.

“What this case needs is not a rapid, politically expedient resolution but an unambiguous demonstration that that the principles of fair trial are fully respected and that justice has been done. This includes investigating all credible allegations of torture and other ill-treatment,” said John Dalhuisen.