Complaint filed in Moscow against Wagner paramilitary fighters, on behalf of Syrian victim

Lawsuit filed against mercenaries of the Wagner Group. Impunity has to stop.

FIDH – March 22, 2021

Original Report

After a Syrian citizen was tortured, mutilated and killed by mercenaries allegedly working for the private military company (PMC) Wagner, his family filed a lawsuit against the individuals who committed these crimes. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIFDH) found evidence that proves the identity of one of the culprits and shows his links to Wagner.

The litigation paves the way for Russia to punish human rights abuses committed by its nationals in foreign countries. Indeed, under Russian law, when a Russian citizen commits a crime abroad, it is the public authorities’ duties to investigate matters.

However, Russia suffers from a culture of impunity and the state is trying to protect the Wagner Group from lawsuits. Similarly, during the conflict in the Northern Caucasus 20 years ago, abuses were reported but no investigation conducted by the authorities.

Not only does the Russian government not abide to its legal obligations as a result of these criminal complaints, but it also avoids assuming its responsibilities as a member of the United Nations’ Security Council (UNSC). War crimes should be a reason of particular concern for a country in this position and it can be regarded as a moral duty for Russia to set an example by investigating the matter when presented with a lawsuit.

This is all the more serious for Russian authorities and international law as several hints point to effective control of the Wagner Group by the Russian state. In fact, Russia is trying to prevent criminal complaints being lodged against its army. As facts submitted to the investigative committee point to Wagner conducting military operations under the Russian army’s command, such a lawsuit comes together with legal and political risks.

The filing of this criminal complaint opens the way for more cases against Wagner, so that its complex legal and financial structure will no longer prevent action against the group.

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