Week-ending 11 September 2020
On Thursday, 10 September, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, issued a statement on the case of Salman Tepsurkaev: “The abduction of Salman Tepsurkaev in Krasnodar Krai in the Russian Federation on September 5 is a serious human rights violation that cannot go unpunished. I call on the Russian authorities to take immediate action to ensure his safety. Mr Tepsurkaev (19) is a chat moderator on 1ADAT, a news channel on Telegram that has been highlighting human rights violations and criticising the Chechen authorities. His abduction and continued unacknowledged detention in law enforcement premises in Grozny, where he has been subjected to sexual violence and torture, are a further illustration of the tendency to crack down on critical voices that has been prevalent in Chechnya for decades now. Such serious human rights violations are unacceptable. I call on the authorities of the Russian Federation to uphold their human rights obligation by conducting a prompt and effective investigation into this abhorrent crime and ensuring that those responsible are adequately punished.”
On Wednesday, 9 September 2020, Caucasian Knot reported that Salman Tepsurkaev has stated that he had recorded a video where he sits on a bottle, because he was threatened with death for insulting Chechen law enforcers on the 1ADAT Telegram channel. The authors of the channel have objected that they had not posted any offensive publications, and linked Tepsurkaev’s statements with Chechen authorities’ propaganda. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that the video in which a naked man, who introduced himself as Salman Tepsurkaev, sits on a bottle as punishment for cooperating with the Telegram channel, which criticizes Chechen authorities, triggered resonance in Chechnya. In their turn, the authors of the 1ADAT channel stated that the moderator of their chat was kidnapped and publicly humiliated by law enforcers. The Human Rights Centre (HRC) “Memorial” has sent a statement to the police demanding to establish whether Tepsurkaev had been kidnapped. In the new video, Tepsurkaev explained that he had filmed the video with a scene of self-humiliation, because “he had been spreading video clips discrediting the honour of other people’s mothers and sisters.”
On Friday, 11 September 2020, RFE/RL reported that a former top official in Chechnya’s separatist government, Akhmed Zakayev, who resides in London, says his relatives have been detained in Chechnya after a video statement he posted online condemning the humiliation of a teenage activist. Zakayev told RFE/RL on September 10 that his two brothers and two sisters, as well as their children residing in Chechnya, had been detained and taken away by men belonging to unknown organizations. Zakayev linked the detainments with his September 8 online video statement condemning the torture and humiliation of a 19-year-old Chechen activist, who criticized Chechen police and the region’s authoritarian leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, on the opposition 1ADAT Telegram channel.
On Thursday, 10 September 2020, Human Rights Watch reported that a video circulating on Russian social media shows a young man apparently being forced to penetrate himself with a glass bottle: a forced punishment for allegedly helping to “spread lies” about Chechen authorities. It once again highlights the Chechen leadership’s unrelenting brutality and Moscow’s active tolerance of their lawlessness and violence. Today, Novaya Gazeta reported that according to their sources, the man in the video, 19-year-old Salman Tepsurkayev, was kidnapped by Chechen security officials on September 5 and taken to the Terek Special Rapid Response Police Compound in Grozny. Tepsurkayev is a moderator for the Telegram channel 1ADAT, which routinely features dissident voices, including those critical of Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, and the Kremlin’s complicity in human rights abuses in Chechnya. In June, 1ADAT extensively covered the suspicious death of Madina Umaeva, a young Chechen woman who had suffered domestic violence for years. 1ADAT published a video of Kadyrov personally pressuring Umaeva’s mother to stop seeking justice for what she believes is her daughter’s murder. At the time, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Russia’s chief investigative agency calling on them to take the case under their control. This week we received an official response saying the authorities saw no grounds for a criminal investigation.
On Friday, 11 September 2020, Caucasian Knot reported that Dunja Mijatović, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe (CoE), has stated the Russian authorities must ensure the safety of Salman Tepsurkaev, the kidnapped moderator of the Telegram channel 1ADAT, and investigate the fact of his torture and rape. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that the video, in which a naked man sits on a bottle, explaining that he is doing this as punishment for cooperating with the oppositional Telegram channel 1ADAT, caused a broad resonance in Chechnya. In his other videos, he stated that he was “handed over” to special services, and explained his self-humiliation by the received threat of death. If a resident of Chechnya is forced to record a video where he sits on a bottle, a criminal case on rape should be initiated, Evgeny Chernousov, an advocate, believes. The lawyers of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) “Memorial” treat it as humiliation and torture. According to Dunja Mijatović, Tepsurkaev was kidnapped on September 5 in the Krasnodar Territory. This is “a grave human rights violation,” the website of the CoE reports.