Criminal proceedings are not instituted in Mari El despite the acknowledgment of torture made by the Russian Government before the European Court


27 August 2013

On 23 August 2013 the Yoshkar-Ola City Court found it lawful that Investigative Committee refused to institute criminal proceedings basing on the crime complaint from Suren Ovakimyan who accused police officers of torture with the purpose of obtaining a confession statement. Human rights defenders are taken aback by the court’s decision, for in 2012 Mr Georgiy Matyushkin, Representative of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights, in the name of the State acknowledged violation of three Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in respect of Mr Ovakimyan.


On 1 March 2008 Maria Ovakimyan applied to the Mari El regional branch of the Committee Against Torture for legal assistance. She informed the human rights defenders that her brother Suren had been beaten up by police officers who were trying to obtain a confession statement from him.

According to Mr Ovakimyan, on 7 September 2007 police officers forcibly brought him out of Yoshkar-Ola and started to torture. They occasionally made pauses to ask Suren if he was ready to agree to their “conditions” which they did not specify. Having failed to obtain the agreement, they attached electric wires to his fingers and turned on the current, and increased it every time they made contact. In the end, being unable to bear the torture any longer, Suren said he would agree to any conditions they had to offer. After that the man was taken to Yoshkar-Ola Prosecutor’s Office. There the man refused to give any statements – and was then brought to a temporary detention facility.

The applicant claims that the next day he was again taken to an investigator who informed the man that he was suspected of murder. Having refused to give a confession statement, the man again found himself outside the city. There he was over again beaten up and thrown into a pit. When the police officers began to strangle him with car towing ropes, Mr. Ovakimyan yielded and promised to sign the confession statement the officers wanted. During the interrogation in the Prosecutor’s Office Suren signed all the records he was offered – and was taken to custody.

All the injuries sustained by the applicant were recorded by a doctor. When Mr Ovakimyan first time arrived at the detention facility, medical personnel observed numerous swellings, haematomas and skin abrasions all over his body. On 9 September 2007 Suren underwent a medical inspection in the medical unit of investigative isolator № 12/1, where new injuries on his body were observed and recorded, including linear sarcothlasis of the red colour about 8 centimeters long on his neck in the laryngeal prominence area.

It must be noted that on 5 November 2008 court found Suren Ovakimyan guilty and sentenced him to 16 years of imprisonment.

In 2008 the Committee Against Torture Lawyers, having exhausted all domestic remedies available, lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights. The application was communicated to the Russian Government on 31 August 2011.

On 20 March 2012 Mr Georgiy Matyushkin, Representative of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights, signed the Memorandum acknowledging violations of Article 3 (Prohibition of torture), Article 5 (Right to liberty and security), and Article 13 (Right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms committed by Russian public authorities in respect of the applicant Suren Ovakimyan.

Despite this, criminal proceedings concerning unlawful use of violence against Mr Ovakimyan have not been initiated. The last decision of 25 April 2013 refusing to initiate criminal proceedings was appealed against by lawyers of the Committee Against Torture before court. Nevertheless, on 23 August 2013 the Yoshkar-Ola City Court dismissed the human rights defenders’ complaint.

«Of course we will appeal against this court decision», says Dmitriy Yalikov, a lawyer with the Committee Against Torture, «the Investigative Committee must have the obligation to open criminal proceedings basing on Mr Ovakimyan’s complaints and establish circumstances in which he sustained the mentioned injuries».

«My impression is that our authorities are playing a double game, and their statements before the Court are hypocritical», commented Anton Ryzhov, an expert in international law of the Committee Against Torture, «The Russian Federation claims to acknowledge the facts of torture and unlawful detention and to have the intention to put the matter right on the national level, asking the Court to terminate its considering of the application. But in fact domestic authorities seem to continue the bureaucratic delays that lead to nothing intentionally. Apparently, these statements by the Russian Government are as false as dicers’ oaths».

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