Apologies or defeat before the ECtHR?


04 August 2011

At the beginning of 2011 the European Court of Human Rights communicated the application filed by the ICAT in the interests of Elvira Kislitsina to the Russian Government. 

Elvira Kislitsina alleges that her underage son Artem Kislitsin committed suicide together with his friends after they were beaten by the police. The facts of the case are as follows. On March 3, 2005 underage Artem Kislitsin and his two friends were interrogated in connection with theft of rabbits committed the day before. No legal representatives were present during the interrogation. Later Artem told his elder brother that the police had hit him in the solar plexus to make him confess to stealing rabbits.

There was a search in Artem’s house during which the stolen rabbits were found. On March 5, 2005 criminal proceedings were instigated on the allegations of theft. The guys were summoned to the questioning scheduled for March 9, 2005, however at night on 8-9 March 2005 the teenagers committed suicide. They left suicide notes in which they apologized to their relatives.

Criminal proceedings were instigated upon the fact of death, but on September 30, 2005 they were terminated. The investigation arrived at a conclusion that Artem and his friends had decided to die voluntarily and there had been no pressure put on them.

Elvira Kislitsina also applied to the Prosecutor’s Office claiming that Artem had had intravital injuries inflicted by the police, but the Prosecutor’s Office refused to initiate a criminal case. Besides, the investigation into the death of children did not meet any effectiveness criteria, and the applicant failed to get any compensation of moral damage.

In response to questions asked by the ECtHR, the Russian Government confirmed that the facts described in the ICAT’s application were true, and did not challenge any point. Moreover, the state admitted all ECHR violations mentioned by the Committee. Such position of the authorities is always the first step towards a friendly settlement with the applicant. This is what the ECtHR proposed with regard to the described circumstances. However, it must be noted that, though this is already the second case when the state admits its guilt, Russia does not want to feel like a guilty party.  The Committee Against Torture is sure that mere payment of compensation does not significantly influence the country’s law enforcement practice under cases involving human rights violations and believes it extremely important that the responsible state agency publicly acknowledges its guilt. On June 16 the Committee Against Torture submitted an address to Russia’s representative to the ECtHR asking him to explain to the Mariy El Prosecutor and Internal Affairs Minister that it was right and necessary to apologize to the victim in public.  Unfortunately, the CAT has not received any feedback, and yesterday Kislitsina’s representative learnt in a telephone conversation with the Representative’s Office that they had not replied to the address.  

Nevertheless, the Committee Against Torture still maintains that the authorities should apologize, as mentioned in the friendly settlement conditions reported to the ECtHR.  It should be mentioned that the Committee is all for the friendly settlement practice and encourages acknowledgment of guilt by the state, as its objective is not to enlarge the collection of ECtHR judgment against Russia, but to eliminate tortures in the country.  However, to make this plan real, it is not enough to ensure payment of the “torture tax”. Therefore, we will continue insisting that Russian authorities should apologize, and will not go for a friendly settlement unless this requirement is met.  So far, Russia still has a chance to apologize to Elvira Kislitsina and the Committee Against Torture hopes that the woman who has lost her son, unlike Boris Rzhavin, will receive due apologies.

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