In Nizhny Novgorod two policemen sentenced to prison for breaking suspect's back


23 January 2014

On 23 January 2014 Judge of Sovetskiy District Court of Nizhny Novgorod Maria Lazareva pronounced the sentence for two former police officers with Police Department no. 7, Aleksey Sokolov and Vadim Volkov. They were found guilty under Article 286 (3) (a), (b) of Russian Criminal Code (exceeding official powers with use of violence and special equipment). They were sentenced to 5 years in general regime (minimum security) penal colony, and arrested in the Courtroom. After the sentence enters into force, lawyers with the INGO «Committee Against Torture» representing the victim’s interests are going to file a claim for compensation for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.

(Photo: Vadim Volkov and Aleksey Sokolov)

According to the court’s legal findings, 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.

Despite the court decision, the policemen forcibly took Aleksandr to their department, 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 has injury-related movement difficulties 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. Investigator A.A. Rotkov concluded, that Mr Dmitriyev’s statements could not be trusted. The investigator found the version submitted by the policemen to be more true to life: after being questioned Mr Dmitriyev confessed, but then, seized with a sudden emotion, attempted to flee – but stumbled on the stairs and fell down.

We can only guess what this torture case could have ended in, if hadn’t been for the notorious incident in «Dalniy» police department in Kazan city. Together with that incident, Mr Dmitriyev’s story attracted attention of mass media, and was discussed in the TV show «Pro Zhizn» (can be translated as «about life» or «for life») at the end of April 2012.

After the TV show the case was re-opened and transferred to the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee for Nizhny Novgorod region. The new investigator in charge, Evgeniy Khrokalo, approached the case professionally and impartially.

On 18 October 2012 the case was transferred to the Sovetskiy District Court of Nizhny Novgorod for trial. Both men have been found guilty.

Dmitriy Laptev, the lawyer with the INGO «Committee Against Torture» who represents Mr Aleksandr Dmitriyev’s interests commented on the sentence: «Upon the whole, our applicant is content with the judgment. As soon as it enters into force, we will file a claim for just compensation for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages inflicted by the policemen’s actions. Sad to realize that if it hadn’t been for the spinal fracture and the attention of mass media, which the situation attracted, it’s most likely that the case would have been closed, and Aleksandr would be now in prison for a crime he hasn’t committed. By the way, we don’t possess information concerning the actual perpetrator».

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