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Committee Against Torture criticises Nizhny Novgorod Ombudsman

18 February 2013 

Source: (info
The Committee Against Torture believes that the Human Rights Ombudsman for the Nizhny Novgorod Region has defended the interests of the deputy head of Police Department 1 in the Avtozavodksy District of Nizhny Novgorod, who, together with four of his subordinates. is accused of torturing people held in custody. 

On 14 February 2013 the Nizhny Novgorod Ombudsman asked the court to alter the accused's terms of pre-trial detention and put him under house arrest.

This is not the first time Mr Olnev has defended police officers accused of committing serious crimes, says the Committee Against Torture. For instance, he defended police captain Aleksei Zhuravlev, who in 2010 together with his colleague Andrei Ladin beat Nizhny Novgorod resident Stanislav Lebedev so severely that he had to have one of his kidneys removed. Despite his intervention, the court at the time took a measured and considered decision: Zhuravlev and Ladin were convicted of the crimes with which they were charged and received heavy prison sentences.

On 16 January 2013 Vladimir Samsonov was remanded in custody until 23 February 2013. However, on 14 February 2013 it emerged that the court had decided to alter his pre-trial restrictions and put him under house arrest.

"Samsonov's brothers and sisters came to me for help. I had a private meeting with his niece and daughter," Mr Olnev told a correspondent for Vremya N. "Afterwards I studied the case materials properly, delved into the details and was perplexed: how could he be locked up in a pre-trial detention centre? There were no grounds for remanding him in custody. The charge only outlined the number of punches thrown but provided no evidence. It looks like the judge was cowed by the presence of a representative of an authoritative investigative body who put forward his arguments."

It is not entirely clear precisely which case materials the Nizhny Novgorod ombudsman studied, since all the evidence gathered during the course of the preliminary investigation are legally protected secrets until the time the sentence is delivered. The Ombudsman has no right to request to see the documents, human rights activists stress.

Also surprising is the "secret underground" nature of the hearing to consider the appeal to change the accused's conditions of pre-trial detention. Neither the investigator who requested that Lieutenant-Colonel Samsonov be remanded in custody nor the victims were informed of the location and time of the court hearing. Appellate and cassation appeals are generally heard on Tuesdays and Fridays, if the term of custody has not already expired. Vladimir Samsonov's term of custody was due to expire on 23 February 2013. It is unclear why the regional court was in such a hurry to take this decision on Thursday.

Commenting on the situation, Deputy Chair of the interregional non-governmental organisation The Committee Against Torture, Olga Sadovskaya, said: "As the name and mandate implies, the Human Rights Ombudsman is supposed to defend human rights. I cannot see how Mr Samsonov's human rights have been violated. He did not complain about poor conditions or maltreatment in the pre-trial detention centre, something incidentally the ombudsman himself confirmed.

"What's more, I can see a clear violation of the rights of the victims to a fair trial, insofar as they were not even informed about the hearing to consider the appeal. Perhaps their position would have had an influence on the decision. The odd stance taken by the Human Rights Ombudsman for the Nizhny Novgorod Region deserves to be noted.

"During the entire existence of the Committee Against Torture, in spite of numerous requests, he has never once come out in defence of even one of the people who have come to us for help, but he has once again personally attended a court hearing in support of a police officer accused of torture. In our opinion, Mr Olnev is not only failing to defend citizens who have suffered torture, but on the contrary he has used his public authority to do everything in his power to help someone accused of human rights abuses. In other words he acted not in support of, but against the aims and challenges faced by human rights activists."