Legal proceedings against police officers a step against impunity

On 22 November two police officers were sentenced to two years in prison for power abuse in Dagestan. “Although these cases have numerous shortcomings, the mere fact of court hearings against police officers is a positive step forward”, said Joanna Kurosz, Programme Director at Civil Rights Defenders.

The sentence regards the two remaining police officers in a pioneer case of underage detainee mistreatment in Dagestan. Earlier in November the third police police officer involved in the case was sentenced to three years.

Gamzat Nurudinov and Shamil Magomedaliev both received suspended sentences with a probation period of one year. This means they won´t have the right to serve in the Ministry of Interior for 12 months. Magomed Magomedov, the third officer, was sentenced to three years in prison. However, despite being pronounced guilty, Magomedov has not been imprisoned and still enjoys his freedom, local witnesses report.

“Although these cases have numerous shortcomings, the mere fact 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.

In spite of big flaws, this is a landmark case in a region where impunity for grave human rights violations is persistent. In a similar case in Ingushetia earlier this autumn a police officer was sentenced to eight years in prison for torture in the first trial of its kind in this south Russian republic.

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.

Nurudinov, Magomedaliev and 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.

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.

In Ingushetia Ilez Nalgiev, former deputy chief of Karabulak Police Department, 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. Nalgiev and Guliev were brought to court after claims of beatings and inhumane treatment by 14 people at different points in time.

Categories: Achievements.
Tags: Dagestan.
Regions: The North Caucasus.