Unique Action of a Supreme Court Judge In a Region of Impunity

A judge from the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic has ordered the withdrawal of a case after being blackmailed. This is the first time ever that a judge in Chechnya has publicly spoke out regarding the pressure upon judicial bodies. Chechnya has gained an infamous reputation when it comes to impunity for grave human rights abuses and the lack of an independent and transparent judiciary.

Vakhid Abubakarov, judge of the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic was examining the criminal case against Suleiman Edigov. Suleiman Edigov had been charged with the murder of a law-enforcement body officer, when the judge ordered the withdrawal. The judge explained that he had to do it after receiving a phone call from a man who introduced himself as the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Chechen Republic, and warned him against pronouncing a non-guilty verdict on this case.

The judge expressed his opinion that the warning from the minister was based on the fact that the court possessed evidence which could lead to the prosecution of police officers and subordinates of the minister, for grave criminal offenses. During the investigation the court received evidence that supported Edigov’s arguments that the police officers had illegally kidnapped him on August 3 and kept him imprisoned until September 12. During this period Edigov was consistently tortured with aluminium wires wrapped around his fingers and subsequently exposed to electric shocks. As a of this brutal torture Edigov received horrific wounds to his hands leading to the wounds becoming infected.

”We demand the Russian authorities investigate this immediately and ensure security measures for judge Abubakarov,” said Joanna Kurosz, Programme Director for Eurasia, Civil Rights Defenders. ”This is the first time ever a judge in Chechnya has publicly spoken out regarding the pressure on judicial bodies of high-ranking officials, and the outcome will have big consequences for judges in similar cases in the future”.

This case could lead to the indictment on abduction and torture charges by law enforcement officers in Chechnya. Such cases are extremely sensitive and tabooed in the local and federal media in Russia. Impunity for grave human rights violations committed by law enforcement officers and the military is widespread in Chechnya and other republics in Russia’s volatile region of the North Caucasus. Under the guardianship of President Ramzan Kadyrov since 2007, the republic has become a local military dictatorship, characterised by fear, oppression and a complete absence of morals when it comes to the rule of law.