Russia: Shameful Pride in Torture of Terrorism Suspects
Authorities Should Condemn, Punish Not Condone Ill-Treatment


From: Human Rights Watch

Russian authorities tortured, recorded, and shared recordings of the torture, of at least two men held as suspects for the monstrous March 22, 2024 attack on a concert hall, Human Rights Watch said today.

Photographs and videos of the arrests and torture of suspects, presumably taken by law enforcement officials, started surfacing on March 23 on Telegram channels that cover Russian military and security services. On March 24, a judge in Moscow in closed hearings imposed pretrial detention on the four suspects, who were taken to the court with visible, extensive injuries.

“Nothing, not even a massacre this heinous justifies torture, far less makes it legal,” said Tanya Lokshina, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The rapid and widespread sharing of these videos appears to be no accident but rather some kind of appalling boast by the Putin government of its brazen disregard for basic rights, fundamental humanity, and the rule of law.”



On March 22, gunmen opened fire at concertgoers at the Crocus City Hall concert hall in Krasnogorsk, a city on the outskirts of Moscow, and set the building on fire before fleeing the scene. The attack claimed the lives of at least 143 people. On March 23, officials said they had arrested four alleged attackers and seven accomplices.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said that special services and law enforcement arrested the suspects. Aleksandr Bogomaz, governor of Bryansk region, where the suspects were apprehended, stated publicly that Russia’s National Guard special forces, police who work on criminal cases, traffic police, and police special forces were in charge of apprehending the suspects, assisted by the military and the Federal Security Service.

In one video, men in camouflage uniforms without insignias are seen beating Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, who is pinned to the ground, trying to extract information from him. The video shows the officers threatening to shoot him in the legs, unleash a dog on him, and cut off his head. Another video shows a man in camouflage cutting off a part of Rachabalizoda’s ear and forcing it into his mouth, ordering him to eat it, while also threatening to cut off and feed him his genitalia. Other videos show security forces leading Rachabalizoda, his ear bleeding profusely, from the forest to a car, and an interrogation that starts with one of the interrogators reminding the detainee, bandaged, and soaked in blood, that he has “only one ear left.”

An officer wearing camouflage with the Federal Security Service insignia is present during the interrogation. In court, Rachabalizoda wore a bandage on his ear, and had dried blood, bruises, and swelling on his face. Due to the lack of contextual information in the videos, Human Rights Watch was unable to determine the exact location and date the videos were recorded.

A photograph shows Shamsidin Fariduni, another suspected gunman, lying on the floor with his hands behind his back and his pants pulled down to around his knees. He is apparently connected by a wire to a field telephone, of the same model that that Russian law enforcement are known to use to administer electric shocks during torture, including in Ukraine. Fariduni appeared in court with half of his face swollen and a black eye.

Photographs from the court hearing show Dalerjon Mirzoev with a torn plastic bag still taped around his neck and injuries to his face. While the judge was reading the decision to send him to pretrial detention, Mirzoev could not stand up and leaned on the wall. Although it is not clear why the bag is on his neck, Russian law enforcement are known to use plastic bags for torture by asphyxiation.

Unable to walk on his own, Mukhammadsobir Faizov was wheeled in for his pretrial custody hearing in a wheelchair, visibly in a barely semiconscious state. Photographs from the courtroom show him in a hospital gown and with a urine drainage bag. During his arrest, law enforcement officers reportedly dislodged his eye, necessitating surgery. During the hearing, the judge ordered Faizov’s doctors out of the courtroom.

Based on an analysis of the published material from the courtroom, Human Rights Watch determined that the individuals seen in the photographs and videos of arrests and detentions are the same people the court has placed in pretrial detention.

Rachabalizoda, Fariduni, Mirzoev, and Faizov are all citizens of Tajikistan, where the authorities detained their relatives after the attack, including their elderly parents. According to media reports, Tajik migrants in Russia are facing an increase in xenophobic acts and violence, ranging from Russian citizens’ refusal to ride with Tajik taxi drivers to at least one instance of a group beating. Human rights defenders say they are facing a flood of reports and requests for assistance from migrants from Central Asia, particularly in reference to arbitrary arrests and prolonged detention.

Despite strong indications that law enforcement and security services have been committing and publicizing torture, public officials have made no calls to hold them accountable. Meanwhile, officers in the units that arrested the men received medals of distinction, although Human Rights Watch does not have information to confirm whether these were the same officers involved the torture. Top Russian officials have publicly called for violence against the suspects.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, said that those responsible for the attack “must be annihilated.” Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said the arrested suspects should be killed, along with all their accomplices and sympathizers. Dmitry Peskov, President Putin’s spokesperson, refused to address the torture allegations.

Russian law enforcement and security forces have long been accused of torturing and otherwise ill-treating suspects in custody, including those held on terrorism charges. In 2017, people suspected of staging a bombing in the St. Petersburg metro made credible allegations that Russian security agents forcibly disappeared and tortured them, then staged their arrests.

Torture is absolutely prohibited under customary international law, a prohibition which is also reflected in Russia’s binding treaty obligations such as in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. There are no exceptions to the prohibition of torture.

“Torture is not only illegal and immoral, it also jeopardizes the rule of law and justice for victims,” Lokshina said. “Russian authorities at the highest level should declare a zero tolerance policy for torture; all incidents should be promptly and thoroughly investigated, and those responsible brought to account.”



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *