A complaint of activist Ekaterina Zaitseva from Nizhny Novgorod is filed at the European Court of Human Rights


26 January 2015

Today, on 26 January 2015, lawyers of Interregional Non-governmental organization «The Committee Against Torture» filed a complaint at the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Ekaterina Zaitseva from Nizhny Novgorod.

As we have previously reported, on September 2012 during a rally in Nizhny Novgorod there happened an incident when a Special Police Force officer hit Ekaterina with a rubber truncheon on the head. Since the event was rather large-scale for Nizhny Novgorod, and a lot of mass media representatives were present, the incident was recorded with many photo and video cameras.

(Video recording screenshots: A police officer hits Ekaterina Zaitseva with a truncheon on the head)

Ekaterina Zaitseva underwent a treatment at hospital where she was diagnosed a closed craniocerebral injury, brain concussion, soft tissue bruise of the hairy part of the head.

After the incident the woman turned for legal assistance to the local representative office of the Committee Against Torture. Upon the request of human rights defenders the video recording was subjected to expert examination. The expert came to the following conclusion: «analyzing the obtained results of the provided video recording examination it can be established that the man (Special Police Force officer Lebedev – hereinafter – note by the Committee Against Torture) hits the girl (Ekaterina Zaitseva)with a truncheon on the head. Since the above-mentioned blow was on the head the experts rule out the possibility that the blow was made against the helmet which the girl held in her right arm».

(Scanned page of the expert examination)

However the police officer was not brought to trial. Only in a few weeks investigators of the Investigative Committee, which the victim applied to, managed to turn her into a suspect (later on she was nevertheless qualified as a witness). Special Police Force officer Lebedev submitted a counter statement, stating that the woman, allegedly, constituted a hazard to his life and health. In his explanations Lebedev specified that he used the truncheon lawfully since he hit the shoulder not the head. This wording was taken up by the officers of the investigative department of the Investigative Committee of Nizhny Novgorod, who earnestly repeated it in their refusals to initiate criminal proceedings.

Lawyers of the Committee Against Torture, having conducted a public inquiry, came to the conclusion that violence was used against Zaitseva unlawfully, which is verified by the expert examination report of the video recording of the incident, as well as, indirectly, by eye-witnesses’ evidence. The Investigative Committee investigator’s referring to the federal law «On police» for justifying Lebedev’s actions is, in fact, groundless, since the above-mentioned law does not allow using impact munition in order to retain the entrusted property.

«Neither the abundance of photographs and video records, nor a pack of medical documents, nor, at long last, a videographic expert examination, where it is clearly verified that the impact was against the head, and that the truncheon deforms along its surface due to the strength of blow, failed to over-persuade the investigators about the fact that the police officers can also make mistakes. Nothing has changed. At the present time six unlawful refusals to initiate criminal proceedings were issued, they were subsequently quashed upon our complaints», – Albert Kuznetsov, a lawyer of Nizhny Novgorod representative office of INGO «The Committee Against Torture», representing the interests of Ekaterina Zaitseva, comments.

In the end of December of last year human rights defenders filed a suit at the Nizhny Novgorod District Court on behalf of the complainant requesting a compensation of moral damage incurred by inefficient investigation of a complaint about unlawful violence by the police officer.

Today a complaint was also submitted to the European Court of Human Rights.

Ekaterina Vanslova, consultant of the Committee Against Torture on international law, emphasizes: «There is no evidence whatsoever that the rally which Zaitseva took part in, or her own conduct in the course of this event, was not peaceful. The only action that she performed which became the reason for applying disproportionate violence was her taking off the helmet from the head of the police officer for his subsequent identification, since the latter used force against one of the participants of the rally. The complainant did not use violence against the police officer, she did not represent any real threat to him, that is why using impact munition (a truncheon) against her only for the sake of «retaining the state property» (helmet), basing on the ECHR practice, is an excessive and unacceptable use of force violating Article 3 («Prohibiting torture») of the European Convention. It is also worth noting that based on Zaitseva’s complaint only a pre-trial investigation was conducted at the national level, which, according to the European Court standards, cannot be considered an efficient investigation».

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