On 13 March 2014 the Basmanny District Court of Moscow held the first hearing in examining the complaint lodged by lawyers with the Interregional NGO «Committee Against Torture», who ask the court to declare unlawful steps taken by the Investigative Committee in connection with the ineffective investigation into complaints against Ufa police officer Sergey Kozhevnikov, also known under his nicknames SS and Gestapo.
Under these names he is well-known to several more individuals, who at various times applied to the Committee Against Torture complaining about his «means of interrogation». Despite their statements and all the evidence against him collected by human rights defenders, criminal proceedings against the torturer are repeatedly discontinued, and he has been successfully accepted back to the police to work as a district police officer.
At the beginning of November 2012 Garnik Mkrtchan applied to the Bashkortostan regional branch of the INGO «Committee Against Torture» asking to conduct a public investigation into his complaints, claiming to have been tortured in the organized crime control unit under the Bashkirian Ministry of the Interior. He identifies the torturer as Sergey Sergeevich Kozhevnikov. According to the young man, he was tortured with a tow rope, gas mask, and electricity. The incident attracted a lot of public attention. On 13 November 2012 «The Fifth Channel» broadcast a report on it. The journalists informed public that there had appeared a police department in Bashkortostan that could become as notorious as «Dalny» police department in Kazan.
Having compared the information from Mr Mkrtchan to the information gathered during the work on other applicants’ situations, the human rights defenders discovered an interesting fact. Complaints of at least six other applicants of the Committee contain evidence of one and the same public official being implicated in torture. Our examination of these materials provides grounds to believe that all the alleged torture instances have one and the same perpetrator. This conclusion is supported by the fact that all the victims describe the same methods of torture, means and tools, appearance, and mention one and the same name – Sergey Sergeevich.
(24-year-old Garnik Mkrtchan states that he spent several hours in the 6th District Department of the Interior of Ufa city in the position called «TV-set». Photo by Dmitry Korotaev, Kommersant Newspaper).
Nevertheless, investigative bodies of the Republic of Bashkortostan have never been eager to conduct an effective investigation into the above mentioned circumstances. And it is no surprise, for the pre-investigation inquiries basing on applications from two of the victims, Mr Sidorenko and Mr Khamatkhanov, were carried out by investigators of the same department which they had allegedly been tortured in. Moreover, according to the applicants, they were subjected to torture in order to make them give confession statements to these very investigators.
Seeing no prospects for an impartial investigation on this level, at the end of 2012 lawyers with the Committee Against Torture applied to the Chairman of the Investigative Committee of Russia Aleksandr Bastrykin asking him to join the proceedings concerning «Gestapo» into one case, to transfer it for further investigation to the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee for Volga Federal District or to the Central Office of the Investigative Committee of Russia, and to take the proceedings under his personal control.
However, they have never been in the habit of taking human rights defenders’ opinion into account in the Investigative Committee. In breach of relevant departmental rules and instructions they referred the request to the department which the complaint was filed against – Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee for the Republic of Bashkortostan. It goes without saying, the local Investigative Committee department failed to discover any violations.
Human rights defenders have to state that the proceedings, under which Mr Mkrtchan is acknowledged victim, are being hushed up. Necessary investigative activities are not performed. Lawyers with the Committee Against Torture have been trying to gain access to participation in the proceedings as the victim’s representatives, but their motions are always dismissed by courts and investigators for fictitious reasons. Pre-investigation inquiries into complaints of the others, who have allegedly been tortured by «Gestapo», are all followed by refusals to open criminal proceedings. Human rights defenders subsequently appeal against all these decisions.
Considering that there has been no progress in any of the proceedings against the Bashkirian «gestapo man» on the local level, and national broadcasters seem to be more interested in them than investigating authorities, in August 2013 human rights defenders again applied to the Head of the Investigative Committee of Russia.
The second application sent to Aleksandr Bastrykin contained the same request to transfer the proceedings for further investigation to the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee for Volga Federal District or to the Central Office of the Investigative Committee of Russia, and to take the proceedings under his personal control. Notifications on the situation have as well been sent to the Prosecutor General Yury Chayka, Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, and to the Chairman of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights Mikhail Fedotov.
However the reaction to this complaint was the same with the previous ones. On 6 September 2013 it was again «lowered» to the Head of the Bashkortostan Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee, which issued the expected decision that the proceedings concerning Mr Mkrtchan were under its due control, and all complaints filed on behalf of any other applicant were investigated thoroughly.
Human rights defenders found this answer by the Investigative Committee unlawful, and decided on seeking justice before court.
Dmitry Solodky, a lawyer working with the Bashkortostan regional branch of the NGO «Committee Againat Torture», comments on the news: «Unfortunately, police torture complaints are usually properly investigated only if a person is beaten to death or maimed in the most inhuman way, and when the seamy side of actual work of law enforcement agencies becomes known to the general public. In order to prevent the situation in Bashkortostan from developing as it did with “Dalny” police department in Kazan, we have twice requested Mr Bastrykin to let the case be investigated on the federal level. Unfortunately, we haven’t been heard, so we had to make the relevant complaint to the Basmanny District Court of Moscow».