Theater of Cruelty

Tortured and killed after being denied asylum in Norway

TORTURE / Despite warnings, Chechen Apti and Umar were denied asylum and had to leave Norway. The Helsinki Committee and Memorial say the two were tortured and killed by the Chechen authorities. Are the Norwegian authorities responsible for their subsequent death after refusing them political asylum?


Ny Tid is the first Norwegian newspaper to document that an asylum seeker has been tortured and killed in the dictatorship of Chechnya, after the Norwegian authorities thought he was lying about the danger to his life. Another asylum seeker reported that he was tortured with electric cables in Chechnya, before he was later found dead – after he was sent out of Norway.

Boats The Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Russian human rights organization Memorial gave strong warnings to the immigration authorities and Norwegian law against sending the two men to Russia or Chechnya. The organizations believed that the authorities in Chechnya and Russia would pursue the two asylum seekers. The Norwegian authorities, on the other hand, felt that sending was safe.
«Both Norwegian law, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration and the Immigration Appeals Board are to blame for their deaths. It was directly irresponsible to send them back, "says Brynjulf ​​Risnes in the law firm Matrix Advokater. He worked as a lawyer for both Apti Nazjujev and Umar Bilemkhanov. Risnes is very critical of the fact that the Norwegian authorities did not heed the warnings from the Memorial and the Helsinki Committee. Ny Tid is sitting on an autopsy report documenting that Norwegian law has been wrong.

Crushed skull and pulled teeth

UNKNOWN FATE: Apti Nazjuyev lived with his wife and children in Norway. Up to now, very few people in Norway have known about the fate of Nazjuyev. The Norwegian authorities thought he would be safe in Chechnya and that he was not likely to be persecuted.
UNKNOWN FATE: Apti Nazjuyev lived with his wife and children in Norway. Up to now, very few people in Norway have known about the fate of Nazjuyev. The Norwegian authorities thought he would be safe in Chechnya and that he was not likely to be persecuted.

Apti Nazjuyev actively participated in the resistance struggle against Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov before coming to Norway and seeking asylum in 2008. The Immigration Board felt that it would not be dangerous for him in Chechnya. Due to final refusal, he left Norway in late 2011.

On May 18, 2013, he was reported missing by the family. On June 10 of that year, Apti Nazjuyev was found tortured, killed and dumped in a river in Kali municipality in Chechnya.
Ny Tid has had access to Nazjujev's autopsy report. It says, among other things, that he was found with pulled teeth and nails, a broken skull, broken kneecaps and deep stab wounds. He died as a result of the torture. The Immigration Appeals Board has also seen the report, and says that they "do not doubt its authenticity".

A Chechen police report states that Nazuyev was killed, but police in the dictator-controlled country never investigated the murder to find the person (s) behind. Both the Russian organization Memorial, the Chechen exile Minister Akhmed Zakayev and the Helsinki Committee believe this was a politically motivated killing carried out by the Chechen authorities. Left-wing politician and lawyer Abid Raja was the leader of the appeals committee, which decided that Nazuyev would not be granted asylum and assumed that he would be safe in Chechnya. Attorney Risnes says that Raja interrupted the committee meeting after it had been for about one hour. Such meetings usually take a working day. Risnes responds that Raja interrupted the meeting after such a short time, and believes that this did not give him nor Nazjuyev sufficient time and opportunity to present the case. Abid Raja does not want to interview about the decision he and the Board of Appeal made. Apti Nazjuyev leaves behind a widow and three children, and turns 49.

Tortured with electric cables

Umar Bilemkhanov was rejected by the UDI, the Immigration Judge, the Oslo District Court, the Borgarting Court of Appeal and finally the Supreme Court. All bodies thought it would be dangerous for him in Chechnya, but that internal escape in Russia was safe. In November 2011, Umar Bilemkhanov and his family were sent out of Norway.
The first to meet Bilemkhanov at the Moscow airport was Russian intelligence, FSB, who took him in for questioning. This is stated in a report from Memorial, which witnessed the arrest at the airport.
In a statement from Memorial It says that when Bilemkhanov returned to Chechnya, he found his father beaten to death by the police.
Furthermore, it is said that Umar Bilemkhanov himself was arrested and tortured with electrical cables. He was found dead on 26. December 2012. Chechen authorities say he died in a car accident. Memorial, Helsinki Committee and Exile Minister Zakayev believe it was a politically motivated killing, and indicates that there was no damage to the car Bilemkhanov must have been sitting in. The wife and family were also never handed over the body so they could examine the body. Umar Bilemkhanov leaves behind the widow and four children.

"Proved that they were sent for torture."

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is working to identify and document violations of human rights in Europe. They have closely followed Russia and Chechnya, and witnessed in some cases asylum cases. Senior adviser Lene Wetteland is upset that two asylum seekers who called out warnings are now dead.

Julie Wilhelmsen, NUPI.
Julie Wilhelmsen, NUPI.

"It has been proven that Norway has sent people back to torture. These came to Norway for protection, and they have been sent back to torture. This is not allowed by Norway, according to several conventions, "she says, and continues:" I get angry that the Norwegian authorities are not listening to us. You get upset and upset when you don't reach them. It's a big system that really needs a reassessment. ”
Julie Wilhelmsen works as a senior scientist at the Norwegian Foreign Policy Institute (NUPI), and wrote a doctorate on the wars in Chechnya. She is critical that both Norwegian law and immigration authorities have not believed in the information that came from the human rights organization Memorial:

"I am critical and must admit that I am shocked. Not least because the political environment is aware of the human rights situation in Russia and in Chechnya. We know that there are violations of the most basic human rights – such as the right to life and not to be tortured. I am shocked that Norway has a practice of sending people back to death. There is some kind of miss in the system, ”says Wilhelmsen.

"I am shocked that Norway has a practice of sending people back to death."
- Julie Wilhelmsen, NUPI

At the same time that Memorial's warnings did not go down with Norwegian immigration authorities in 2012, Erna Solberg nominated the organization for the Nobel Peace Prize.

"Right to reject"

Torgeir Tofte Jørgensen, UNE.
Torgeir Tofte Jørgensen, UNE.

Section leader Torgeir Tofte Jørgensen in the Immigration Board (UNE) responds on behalf of Norwegian immigration authorities. UNE believes it was right not to grant Bilemkhanov and Nazjuyev asylum:
“We believe that the decisions that were made are correct. One was tried in court in three instances, all of which agreed with UNE. One of them was sent to Moscow, and we thought it was dangerous for him to travel to Chechnya. He traveled to Chechnya on his own. The other person has lived in Chechnya for a year and a half, before it is alleged that something must have happened, after he himself left Norway with the help of IOM, voluntarily assisted return, ”says Jørgensen.
Advocate Risnes and the Helsinki Committee believe that internal flight is not a good argument because Russian and Chechen authorities cooperate closely?
“We believe that our internal flight assessments are both good and correct. These assessments have also been tried in court several times, and we have been successful. ”
Is there anything you should have done differently in these cases?
"I think the reviews we made were good."
Julie Wilhelmsen in NUPI critical that Memorial should not have been heard?
"It is not true. In one case, we agreed with both the Helsinki Committee and Memorial that it was not safe for Bilemkhanov to return to Chechnya. In general, I can see these reports being evaluated and weighted with other information. ”
Was the information from Memorial and the Helsinki Committee emphasized in the case of Apti Nazjuyev?
"It is always emphasized, but after a holistic assessment, Nazuyev was not found credible."

He was found with pulled teeth and nails, broken skulls, broken kneecaps and deep stab wounds.

Got threat phone

Apti Nazjuyev, who was found tortured and killed, has a sister who lives in Sweden. The sister thinks it is wrong of UNE to say that he voluntarily went back to Chechnya.

"After coming to Moscow, he received a phone call from FSB, Russian intelligence. They said that if he did not return to Chechnya, they would kill and torture his family in Chechnya, ”says Aset Nazjuyev. "He was not allowed to stay in Russia or Moscow by Russian authorities, and was allowed to choose to travel himself or be forced to go. He could not afford to pay lawyers who could try his case in court in Norway. The authorities had decided that he was going out anyway, and he could not take the case to court. Then he chose voluntary return, because he would then receive some money from the Norwegian authorities on departure. He would not receive any money if he were forced out, ”she says.

Ahmed Zakayev, the Chechen exile minister who has been abroad since 2000 and was granted political asylum in the UK in 2003, has no doubt that the killings of Nazuyev and Bilemkhanov were politically motivated. PHOTO: AFP.
Ahmed Zakayev, the Chechen exile minister who has been abroad since 2000 and was granted political asylum in the UK in 2003, has no doubt that the killings of Nazuyev and Bilemkhanov were politically motivated. PHOTO: AFP.

Omar Bilemkhanov was not allowed to stay anywhere else in Chechnya for Russian intelligence, Olga Gannushkina told the Memorial:
"Bilemkhanov was banned from staying in Russia by Russian police and the FSB, and was sent by them to Chechnya in a police column."

Want review

The police and police in Chechnya work very closely with the police and intelligence services in Moscow. Both Apti Nazjuyev and Umar Bilemkhanov have statements from Memorial that they were tortured before coming to Norway. Lene Wetteland of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee rejects the Norwegian authorities' claim that people who are wanted or persecuted in Chechnya can be safe in Russia. "It doesn't matter if they are sent to Moscow or Chechnya. This is Russia, and Russia is not a rule of law today. One cannot expect the persecuted to get protection anywhere, ”says the senior adviser.
She gets support in this from senior researcher at NUPI, Julie Wilhelmsen. Both also believe that Norwegian immigration authorities must investigate what happened in the asylum cases of Umar Bilemkhanov and Apti Nazjuyev.

Swedish authorities reported themselves to the police

Sweden's response to the UDI, the Migration Agency, rejected the asylum application for a Chechen man who was later killed when he returned to Chechnya this year. While the UDI and UNE have so far not said anything to suggest that they may have done something wrong, the tone is quite different with the Swedish authorities. The Director of the Swedish Migration Board, Anders Danielsson, reported its own organization to the police in June 2015, and asked them to investigate the Migration Agency for service errors during the asylum process. The purpose of the notification is to get some independents to examine whether the Migration Agency may have broken its own guidelines after the Chechen toddler father was killed by the Chechen authorities.

"I think the assessments we made were good." – Torgeir Tofte Jørgensen, UNE

The state can be held liable for damages

Aage Borchgrevink is an award-winning author and has worked for several years as a special advisor to the Helsinki Committee. He has worked on many issues from Chechnya and wrote in the 2007 fact book The Invisible War on the Chechnya and Caucasus Conflicts. Borchgrevink and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee believe the family of the two deceased may be entitled to compensation. "Bilemkhanov and Nazuyev were sent back despite warnings that they needed protection. Now both are dead, and it may seem that Norway has violated the Refugee Convention in these cases. In our view, the state can thus also have a liability towards the relatives, ”says Borchgrevink.

See survey.
See legal action from UNE processed by PFU.

Øystein Windstad
Øystein Windstad
Former journalist at Ny Tid.

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