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ECHR rules Russia is guilty of abducting a Chechen government critic

21 October 2021
Salman Tepsurkayev. Photo via Amnesty International.

On 19 October, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Russia was responsible for the abduction and torture of Salman Tepsurkayev, the 19-year-old moderator of the Telegram channel 1ADAT. Tepsurkayev’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Salman Tepsurkayev was abducted from a hotel in the Russian city of Gelenjik on 6 September, 2020.  He was the moderator of 1ADAT, a Telegram channel that reported on forced disappearances and corruption in Chechnya.

Lawyers from the Committee against Torture, a Russian-based human rights organisation Tepsurkayev’s wife, later established that members of the Russian police participated in the abduction of the young man. 

One day after he was taken, a video that appeared to show Tepsurkayev being sexually violated appeared online. 

Tepsurkayev’s wife, Elizaveta, has said that during his disappearance she geolocated his phone to a military base in Grozny, Chechnya that hosted the Akhmat Kadyrov patrol and guard regiment.

After four refusals by the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Chechen Republic to open a criminal case into the abduction Tepsurkayev, human rights defenders initiated a case in Krasnodar Krai — the region the he was abducted from. 

Human rights defenders reportedly provided investigators with videos that showed the faces and license plate numbers of the police officers who had abducted Tepsurkayev. 

The case was later transferred to Chechnya on the grounds that the ‘possible kidnappers' could be on the territory of the republic. As the Committee Against Torture reports, for now the case into his abduction remains ongoing. 

In its decision, the ECHR found that the Russian authorities violated articles 3 and 5 — Prohibition of Torture and Right to Freedom and Personal Integrity, respectively —  of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The Court awarded Tepsurkayev €26,000 as compensation.

Despite the victory in court,  the members of the Committee Against Torture have doubts as to the good it could do now, as it is likely Tepsurkayev is no longer alive.

In a press release, the Committee Against Torture, said that when they submitted the case ‘there was still hope that he was alive and that our efforts could save him’, but now, over a year after his disappearance ‘there is no hope left’. 

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