Russian Federation: Russian police officer found guilty of crimes against the civilian population in the Chechen Republic
Amnesty International has closely followed the case and campaigned for those who were found responsible for the "disappearance" of Zelimkhan Murdalov to be brought to justice. Amnesty International's section in Norway provided finances for the legal support in this landmark case.
Sergei Lapin was initially detained and taken into pre-trial detention in January 2002. He was released in May of the same year pending trial. The trial started in October 2003 after intensive efforts of the family of Zelimkhan Murdalov to see justice done. The investigation found that on 3 January 2001 Zelimkhan Murdalov was taken into a cell in the district police of Oktiabrskii district by Sergei Lapin and another unidentified official. There Sergei Lapin had beaten Zelimkhan Murdalov with a truncheon. Zelimkhan Murdalov was also subjected to electric shock treatment while in detention. Witnesses told the court that while in the cell, Zelimkhan Murdalov could hardly stand and lost consciousness several times. His arm was broken, his ear torn and he had received a concussion to his head. The next day Sergei Lapin and some as yet unidentified colleagues took Zelimkhan Murdalov out of the cell and since then his fate and whereabouts remain unknown.
Zelimkhan Murdalov's family faced harassment and intimidation for seeking justice and his mother and sister had to leave the country in search of security. Zelimkhan Murdalov's father Astemir Murdalov told Amnesty International that he is still searching for information about his son's fate.
Throughout the armed conflict in the Chechen Republic, Amnesty International has been concerned about the climate of impunity prevailing there and has called on the Russian authorities to bring to justice perpetrators of human rights violations. However, very few effective measures have been taken. Only very few cases of "disappearance", torture and ill-treatment or extrajudicial execution have reached the Courts. Many Chechen civilians have decided to turn to the European Court of Human Rights as the Russian judicial system has failed to show real commitment to punish those who commit human rights violations in the North Caucasus. While this ruling is of great importance not only for the family of Zelimkhan Murdalov, but for many other people in the Chechen Republic, who have been subjected to human rights violations and war crimes, much more needs to be done. Russian and Chechen officials give about 2000 as the official figure for "disappearances" since late 1999 and unofficial estimates are as high as 5000 "disappeared". Amnesty International and other human rights organizations working in the region have found evidence of the involvement of federal and Chechen forces in a large number of such cases of "disappearances".