In April, two detainees were found dead in the Orenburg pre-trial detention center. The Investigative Committee opened a criminal case into these deaths


29 May 2023


The mothers of 30-year-old Sergey Bershatskiy and 28-year-old Viktor Samsonov applied to the Crew Against Torture. Their sons were found dead in the cells of pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Orenburg, with an only difference of 11 days. The women believe that their sons could not commit suicide.

Natalya, the mother of Sergey Bershatskiy, learned about the death of her son on 22 April 2023. In that morning, a local police officer called her and informed that the day before her son had committed suicide in the detention center No. 1. Natalya told the CAT’s lawyers that before being sent to the Orenburg detention center, Sergey went through other similar facilities: as he was arrested in September 2022 in Lyubertsy on suspicion of theft, he was placed in the pre-trial detention center in Kolomna, then he was transferred to Ufa and then to Chelyabinsk. On 5 April, Sergey was placed in the Orenburg detention center. Natalya underlines that her son did not have any problems during the transfer, and the last time she met with him was after one of the court sessions.

«He was very happy to see me, asking how I was doing, how things were with his brother and father.»

The hearings took place on 13 April 2023, and a week later Sergey was found dead in his cell. Natalya does not believe that the son could have committed suicide unless he was pressured or threatened.

«I know my son well, he loved me very much and would not leave like that without even leaving a note,» says Natalya.

On 12 May 2023, the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case into the death of Sergey Bershatskiy under the article «Inducement to suicide» (part 1 of Article 110 of the Criminal Code).

Viktor Samsonov’s mother, Valentina, learned of her son’s death in the evening of 10 April. The attorney who represented Victor in court called her and told her about the accident. From the defendants who were kept in the pre-trial detention center together with her son, Valentina learned that Viktor was put under pressure in a special cell designated for ill-treatment. This allegedly happened on 8 and 9 April, that is, the day before the suicide. Valentina also indicates that at the end of March, her son allegedly tried to commit suicide, and after that incident Viktor was registered by the detention center’s management as suicidal.

According to her lawyer, Valentina said that her son was found not immediately, but only two hours after his death. The Investigative Committee opened a criminal case under the article “Negligence» (part 2 of Article 293 of the Criminal Code) and granted victim status to Valentina. The decision to open a criminal case states that unidentified employees of the Orenburg pre-trial detention center No. 1, knowing that Mr. Samsonov was registered as a person prone to suicide, showed criminal negligence and allowed his demise.

The CAT’s lawyers note that this is not the first time that the center No. 1 comes into their field of vision. According to the head of the Orenburg branch of the CAT over the past six months, they have received more than ten applications related to the illegal actions of the facility’s employees. For instance, according to some applicants, the administration officers forcibly removed their underwear under the pretext of a body search.

«We have sent petitions to the regional prosecutor’s office, to the public oversight commission, the Ombudsperson and the investigative bodies. However, the prosecutor’s office has repeatedly answered that there were no grounds for supervisory measures. It is noteworthy that we have never received a single response from the public oversight commission. It is the inaction of the official bodies and agents that often leads to such tragic events.»

In addition to the demands to investigate these two deaths, the lawyers of the Crew Against Torture request that the Investigative Committee should investigate each previous complaint filed by the human rights defenders against the employees of the detention center No. 1.

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