Citizen from Nizhny Novgorod will appeal to the European Court against meagre compensation for the spine broken when in the police custody


27 November 2019
Aleksandr Dmitriyev, photo: Mikhail Solunin

Today, on 27 November 2018, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture applied to the European Court of Human Rights with a complaint on behalf of Aleksandr Dmitriyev from Nizhny Novgorod, to whom the Russian courts awarded a compensation in the amount of seventy thousand roubles for the spine broken when he was in the police custody.

As we have previously reported, on 2 March 2017, two former special investigative officers of Police Department No.7 of the Department of the Interior for Nizhny Novgorod Aleksey Sokolov and Vadim Volkov were declared guilty of breaking the spine of detained Aleksandr Dmitriyev and sentenced to five years’ prison term each.

Bringing in the verdict of guilty, the court established that on 6 March 2011, Aleksandr Dmitriyev was unlawfully apprehended by the police officers in his own apartment and taken to Police Department no. 7 on suspicion of theft. The next day Mr. Dmitriyev was charged with resisting police officers, and appeared before court, but Justice of the Peace in Sovetskiy District acquitted him, having found that no offense had been committed.

After the court, the policemen took Aleksandr to their department again, and forced him to give false statements against himself and his acquaintance, which read that they had stolen some building implements. The officers Aleksey Sokolov and Vadim Volkov were beating him and used the method of torture known as «envelope» (victim’s hands are twisted behind the back and handcuffed, legs are tied together and with the hands so that the victim is «folded» like an envelope). During this «interrogation» officer Sokolov set on his victim’s back – and the latter felt sharp pain in the lumbar area.

However, Mr Dmitriyev’s sufferings were not over even after signing the confession statement. It appeared that the man who he had been forced to bear false witness against had alibi. The officers resumed the severe beating to make Aleksandr give new statements that he had committed the theft alone.

Next day, on March 8, Aleksandr was free to go home. This was two days after his apprehension. He called an ambulance, and was immediately admitted to hospital.

Later Aleksandr Dmitriyev was examined by forensic medical experts. According to their report, on admission to hospital no. 39 the man had the following injuries: simple compression fracture of the first lumbar vertebrae, lumbar contusion (tenderness of the spinous processes, muscle tension, restriction of movement), brain concussion, wrist abrasions. Aleksandr is a disabled person of group II now.

On 13 April 2011, criminal proceedings were initiated following Aleksandr’s ill-treatment complaint, but on 6 October 2011 the case was closed on the grounds that no crime had been committed. However, due to the efforts of the Committee Against Torture which called the media attention to this case, on 10 May 2012 the case was reopened and transferred to the first department of the Nizhny Novgorod region Investigative Committee Investigative Department.

As a result, on 23 January 2014, the Sovetskiy District Court of Nizhny Novgorod pronounced the guilty verdict for two former police officers with Police Department no. 7 Aleksey Sokolov and Vadim Volkov and convicted them to five years’ prison term with serving the sentence in a standard security penal colony.

Their defense team was not satisfied with the court decision, having filed an appellate complaint against it, and on 4 March 2015 the judicial board quashed the ruling of the court of the first instance due to technical errors. The convicts, who spent over a year in the detention center, were released in the court room, and their measure of restraint was changed to the house imprisonment, and the case was sent back for re-examination to the district court.

However, the re-examination of this criminal case also ended with a judgment of conviction for the police officers. On 2 March 2017 judge of the Sovetskiy District Court Olga Kolyagina declared Aleksey Sokolov and Vadim Volkov guilty of committing a crime under item “a, b” part 3 Article 286 of the Criminal Code of Russia (“exceeding official authority using violence and special equipment”). The defendants were convicted to 5 years of prison term in a standard regime penal colony. Both of them were taken into custody in the court room.

The convicts were not satisfied with the judgment of conviction and appealed against it at the Nizhny Novgorod Regional Court, however, the court upheld the ruling of the court of the first instance and did not satisfy the complaints of the convicts. After the verdict entered into legal force, Aleksandr Dmitriyev with the help of the lawyers with the Committee Against Torture applied to the Nizhny Novgorod District Court with a lawsuit against the Ministry of the Interior of the Russian Federation on compensation of moral damage inflicted to him by the convicts’ crime.

On 6 June 2018, judge of the Nizhny Novgorod District Court Aleksey Chaiko, at last managed to commence examination of the case on its merits. The judge partially satisfied Aleksandr Dmitriyev’s claims under the lawsuit to the Ministry of the Interior of Russia, having awarded the victim a compensation in the amount of seventy thousand rubles out of claimed sum of two million rubles.

This court ruling was appealed against by lawyers with the Committee Against Torture in the part of the amount of the awarded compensation, however, on 13 November 2018 the Nizhny Novgorod Regional Court upheld the verdict. The attempt to increase the amount of the awarded compensation in two courts of cassation failed, as well.

Due to the fact that fair compensation for Aleksandr Dmitrieyev could not be achieved at the national level, today, the lawyers with the Committee Against Torture were forced to submit an application on his behalf to the European Court of Human Rights.

“We submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights with regard to the fact that the state failed to restore the violated rights of Aleksandr Dmitriyev,although it could and should have done so, — lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Ekaterina Vanslova comments. — Meagre amount of compensation awarded to Dmitriyev, preserves his status of the torture victim, and this means that now it is for the European Court to identify the sum sufficient for compensating the sufferings that the applicant lived through”.

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