Today, on 31 March 2021, the panel of judges of the Forth Court of Appeals of general jurisdiction upheld the ruling of the Orenburg Regional Court which awarded fifty thousand rubles to Yury Zontov from Orenburg as a compensation for violation of a reasonable timeline for criminal proceedings on his application concerning tortures by police officers in 2011. The investigation on this application lasted for over eight years, however, the investigators never established the persons involved in tortures.
As we have previously reported, in September 2011, Yury Zontov applied for legal assistance to the Orenburg office of INGO «The Committee Against Torture». He told the human rights defenders that on 27 August he was taken to the police department No.4 for Orenburg city. There police officers were beating him, hitting his feet with rubber truncheons, and strangling him with a plastic bag in order to make the man confess of thefts of a cell phone and a golden necklace. Having yielded to tortures, Yury signed the full confession.
At the first-aid station the man told the doctors that he was beaten up by the police. Later the bodily injuries were registered when he was transferred to the temporary detention facility (IVS) and to a pre-trial detention center (SIZO): bruises on the chest and both feet, numerous scratches on the lower back, in the area of left cheek-bone and in the area of both wrist joints.
On 30 September 2011, the crime report based on this case was submitted to the Investigative Department for Orenburg of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Orenburg region. During the pre-trial investigation 20 dismissals to initiate criminal case were issued, 19 of which were subsequently quashed at the initiative of the human rights defenders as illegal and ungrounded.
Having exhausted all domestic remedies aimed at restoring Yury’s rights at the national level, in April 2014 human rights defenders lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (the ECHR). In a year, in March 2015, it was communicated.
It is worth noting that after the complaint was sent to the European Court of Human Rights the Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case under the article “abuse of office”, however, right on the next day, Acting District Prosecutor Vladimir Lugovin dismissed it on the grounds that Zontov received bodily injuries as a result of wrestling techniques used by the police officers.
All the attempts of human rights defenders to insist on quashing this ruling of Mr Lugovin turned out to be in vain at the time.
On 2 May 2017, the European Court of Human rights passed a ruling concerning the complaint submitted on behalf of Yury Zontov. The Strasbourg judges have unanimously established violations of Article 3 of the Convention in negative and procedural aspects: the applicant was subjected to tortures and this fact was not efficiently investigated. With regard to this Zontov was awarded a compensation for moral damage in the amount of 45 000 euro.
After the ECHR ruling entered into legal force, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture applied to the Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation with a request to initiate the check based on Yury Zontov’s complaint of torture.
On 23 May 2018, the Supreme Court of Russia quashed the rulings of the Orenburg courts, which declared the refusal to initiate criminal proceedings to be legal and passed a ruling to resume the check based on Zontov’s complaint.
Having received a copy of this ruling, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture, once again applied an appellate appeal to the Promyshlenny District Court of Orenburg against the ruling of prosecutor Vladimir Lugovin, which he passed four years ago, and with which he quashed the initiation of the criminal case investigating torture.
In the course of examination of this complaint it turned out that on 2 August 2018 Deputy Prosecutor of the Orenburg region Andrey Vyazikov quashed Lugovin’s ruling at his own initiative, which allowed the Investigative Committee to resume the work on the criminal case.
Despite the fact that the case was handed over to the first department for major cases of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Orenburg region, its investigation was performed superficially and formally.
On 9 January 2020, investigator Azamar Zhamansariyev dismissed the criminal case for the fourth time. At the present time, this investigator’s ruling is appealed against by lawyers with the Committee Against Torture. At the present time, this investigator’s ruling os being appealed against by lawyers with the Committee Against Torture.
Due to the fact that years-long inefficient investigation established by the European Court, inevitably led to the violation of a reasonable timeline of criminal proceedings, on 10 July 2020, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture applied to court on behalf of Zontov with a lawsuit claiming a compensation.
On 15 July 2020, the Orenburg Regional Court dismissed the human rights’ defenders claim under the lawsuit, having indicated in its ruling that if the investigative authorities established that there was no element of crime in the police officers’ actions, then “Yu.A.Zontov does not have a right to lodge an administrative lawsuit on awarding a compensation for violating the right to judicial proceedings within a reasonable timeline”.
Having disagreed with the court’s conclusions, the lawyers with the Committee Against Torture applied to the Forth Court of Appeals of general jurisdiction based in Nizhny Novgorod, which on 29 September quashed the ruling of the Orenburg Regional Court and sent the case to the court of the first instance for examination on its merits.
On 24 December, judge of the Orenburg Regional Court Irina Selyutina partially satisfied the claims under the lawsuit, having awarded fifty thousand rubles to Yury Zontov out of the claimed three hundred and forty thousand for violating the reasonable timeline of criminal proceedings.
Having disagreed with the amount of the compensation awarded by the court, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture once again applied to the Forth Court of Appeals of general jurisdiction with a demand to award a full sum of the compensation to Yury Zontov in the amount of three hundred and forty thousand rubles.
However, today, the panel of judges of the Forth Court of Appeals of general jurisdiction upheld the ruling of the Orenburg Regional Court which awarded fifty thousand rubles. “We shall appeal against this court ruling, and we shall continue to insist that the amount of the awarded compensation does not correspond to the practice of the European Court of Human Rights”, – lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Timur Rakhmatulin comments.