Investigation Held by Weaklings, or why Russia loses claims at the Strasbourg Court


20 August 2014

Lawyers of the Interregional Non-governmental Organization «The Committee Against Torture» lodged another complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on behalf of the convicted Pavel Seliverstov. Human rights defenders are convinced that the claimant was subjected to torture in Penal Colony No.4 of Federal Penitentiary Service for Orenburg region, and that the investigation of this fact was inefficient.

(Photo: © AFP/ Olivier Morin)

Timur Rakhmatulin, head of Orenburg office of INGO «The Committee Against Torture» comments on the situation about Pavel Seliverstov’s case, about specific problems and developed malpractice related to uninvestigation of crimes committed by law-enforcement officers:

«Unfortunately, the image of resolute and honest men of principle, experts, who investigate hardest criminal cases in a rather short period of time, is becoming nothing more than a fiction from a movie. Pavel Seliverstov’s case is a good illustration of that.

That’s the line of events according to the victim who applied for help to us. On 24 December 2013 during the search prior to putting in a cell, three officers of colony No.4 found a pack of cigarettes on him and demanded to give it away, to which the convicted objected and suggested handing the cigarettes over to the store-room for safekeeping. This disobedience, apparently, initiated harsh battery by the officers which lasted no less than 7-10 minutes. As a consequence of the battery one of the broken ribs pierced into Pavel’s lung and he nearly died of asphyxiation and blood loss.

One would think that this criminal case did not present any difficulty with all the possibilities that forensic science provides modern time investigators with. But, on the contrary, the investigators did everything in their power for this criminal case never to be investigated and for the guilty party to escape responsibility. For example, the pre-investigation inquiry based on the crime report was initiated two weeks later and not immediately, as law demands. Moreover, the investigator unlawfully refused to initiate criminal proceedings. However, two months later the criminal case was opened. However, even after that the RF Investigative Committee officers continued to systematically violate the rights of the victim:

– the investigators did not perform investigative activities in a timely manner. For example, despite the filed motions they did not demand and obtain video tapes from the room where Pavel’s battery occurred, which resulted in, allegedly, expiry of their storage period. Incident site inspection took place in a year’s time since the crime event;

– the investigators ignored motions which Pavel and his representative filed in the framework of the criminal case;

– in the end of 2013 on sufferance of the prosecutor’s office of Dzerzhinsky District of Orenburg city the only representative of the victim was unlawfully interrogated, and in the beginning of January 2014 Pavel was deprived of his right for a representative altogether on a no-objection basis of the same prosecutor’s office;

– in the end of February 2014 investigator Gorlachev passed unlawful decision on termination of the criminal case in order to avoid applying to the Chairman of the RF Investigative Committee Aleksandr Basrtykin with petition on prolongation of a term for pre-investigative enquiry, realizing that the big brass would not be too happy about his slack subordinates. Let’s stress the fact that the unlawful nature of this decision was determined by the court in June of this year. Despite this, the criminal proceedings have not been renewed till present moment.

But unlawful actions of our useless investigators went on. For more than two months they evaded to provide the materials of the terminated criminal case against penitentiary officers so that our lawyers could not appeal against this unlawful decision. Instead at the same time they forged the criminal case, this time against the convict, stating that he, allegedly, fell from the stairs and was falsely accusing the penitentiary officers.

And Article 306 could have been used («deliberately false denunciation») against Pavel, if not for several factors, which in the aggregate prevented lawlessness from taking over: firstly, lawyers of the Committee Against Torture appealed against all virtually all unlawful activities of the investigators and their bosses. As a result of this, seven court claims in total were won. With regard to unlawful decisions of the investigators two civil claims were won against the Investigative Committee. Public and media attention to what happened to Pavel became the second significant factor. As a result Fortune smiled upon him, and judge of the Orenburg Regional Court, having listened to speeches of the human rights defenders and the regional prosecutor’s office representatives, passed a decision in favour of Seliverstov.

And now let us come to the second part of our story: why, after all, Russian citizens win cases against their own state at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg? In the light of the foregoing this question is rather a rhetorical one. However, it can be mentioned that it is due to inefficient investigation and poor control of investigative bodies that Russian citizens who fail to find justice in their own country turn to Strasbourg. Pavel Seliverstov, too, had to apply to the European Court of Human Rights via his representatives. And it would be no surprise if ECHR satisfies another complaint against Russia…

In a well-known Soviet TV-series justice always prevailed due to investigators who exposed criminals, detected crimes. In reality, when law-enforcement officers themselves become the alleged criminals, professional investigators become not «experts» from the TV-series but «weaklings», showing their inability or indecisiveness, or reluctance to investigate the case at all, failing to bring the «dirty cops» to justice provided for by law».

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