Russia Admits Crimes Against its Citizens

Source: (info), 13/07/12

· Strasbourg court  · The Courts  · Ministry of Internal Affairs  · Nizhny Novgorod region

On 11 July Committee Against Torture received an offer from Russia's official representative at the European Court of Human Rights for an amicable settlement in three cases currently under consideration in Strasbourg. The cases concern three men from Nizhny Novgorod who were subjected to torture by the police and were unable to obtain justice at the national level. An offer of this kind from the government is essentially an acknowledgement of the crimes committed against these citizens, as well as of the highly ineffective investigations that were carried out.

“This isn’t a very common situation either for us at the Committee – although we already have practical experience in concluding amicable settlements in a range of cases – or for Russia as a whole. It should be noted that since 2004 the ECtHR has used the pilot judgment procedure to respond to the majority of cases which reflect systemic or structural human rights problems in certain countries. As a result of this procedure, systemic problems which violate the European Convention are exposed through individual cases, and a list of compulsory measures to resolve the situation are set out in court judgments. Russia has already received several pilot judgments under which the government is required to resolve systemic problems in a concrete form and within a specific period, which means making changes to the legislative base, law enforcement practices, etc.”

“However, as you can see, little progress has been made so far," comments Olga Sadovskaya, head of the Department of International Protection at Committee Against Torture. "In order to avoid another pilot judgment, Russia has taken an unprecedented decision: it has offered an amicable settlement for the entire group of cases, typical incidents that clearly illustrate the system which has been established here in Russia, where torture is employed and complaints are followed up with ineffective investigation.”

Nizhny Novgorod resident Sergei Gorshchuk turned to Committee Against Torture in 2008 with his complaints of torture at the hands of the city's Kanavinsky district police. Sergei told the Committee how police officers in civilian clothes had entered his aunt's house in Druzhkovo village (Nizhny Novgorod region) on the evening of 14 September 2007. Without being allowed to get dressed, Gorshchuk was shoved into a car and brought to the Kanavinsky district police building. There, police officers intimidated and beat him for several hours in an attempt to force him to incriminate himself. Gorshchuk was only brought to the investigator in a neighbouring office the following morning. Gorshchuk's "interaction" with law enforcement officers left him with bruises and abrasions. He lodged an application with the Investigative Committee but it was refused four times and investigators did not open a criminal case.

Sarov resident (Nizhny Novgorod region) Sergei Fartushin also turned to the human rights defenders for help in 2008. On 5 May 2008, Fartushin received a call on his mobile phone from a police detective who ordered him to come to the criminal investigation office at Sarov police station. Once there, the detective and his colleagues demanded that Fartushin accept the blame for stealing property from garages, but Fartushin refused. After this he was taken to a room next door, where the officers put him in handcuffs and began to beat him. Various threats were made during the beating, which was savage and included one of the operatives jumping on the handcuffed Fartushin's head. During that time, the victim was being held illegally as the detention protocol was only written up on 6 May. Until then Fartushin was kept in the criminal investigation offices without being allowed to eat or drink. His condition severely deteriorated, and he was vomiting blood, but the police officers did not give him any medical treatment. A criminal case based on Fartushin's complaint was never opened.

A third appalling incident also clearly demonstrates the methods used by the "protectors" of law and order to detect and solve crimes. Sergei Lyapin was detained by police officers from Volodarsky district in Nizhny Novgorod region on suspicion of committing a series of thefts in spring 2008. According to Lyapin, on the night of the 24-25 April 2008 he was gathering scrap metal near one of the garage areas in the town of Ilinogorskoe (Nizhny Novgorod region). He was suddenly detained by Volodarsky district extra-departmental security officers "on suspicion of theft", as he was informed. He was beaten at the police station. After this, police officers brought out a small box with a handle and two bared wires coming from it. The "law enforcement” officers attached the wires to Lyapin's little fingers and switched on the current. The officers made a gag from a cloth and stuffed it in the victim's mouth. One officer held the gag in Lyapin's mouth while a second officer turned the handle and re-attached the wires when they fell off the victim's fingers. After this, a range of investigative actions were performed in relation to the detainee, as a result of which a magistrate sentenced Lyapin to five days administrative arrest "for resisting police officers". Lyapin was then sent to serve his sentence in a special detention centre. By the following day his condition had dramatically deteriorated and he was immediately taken by ambulance first to Dzerzhinsk trauma centre and then to Avtozavodsky district trauma centre, from where he was hospitalised in hospital No. 40. In hospital he was diagnosed with "concussion, injury to his neck and ribcage and thermal burns on both hands". Meanwhile, investigators eight times officially refused to open a criminal case into Lyapin's torture, all of which have been recognised as illegal.

Now the Russian authorities have made an offer to the Committee Against Torture, as representative of all the applicants, to identify an amount of compensation that would be acceptable to them for the suffering caused. However we imagine that money alone cannot resolve the issue. Our terms  for an amicable settlement would require demand public apologies from the heads of the agencies which permitted these gross human rights violations and guarantees to renew and carry out effective investigations into the use of torture against the applicants and to bring those responsible to justice.