"Killing plank, tree roots and a cupboard. The police officers explaining bodily injuries of torture victims”, MediaZone

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15 August 2017

Illustrated by: Mariya Tolstova / MediaZone

MediaZone and the Committee for the Prevention of Torture present Top-8 of the least convincing stories which the Russian police officers at various times used trying to explain the injuries of the citizens that they had apprehended.

He was rolling over the ground and hit against the tree roots

In May 2015 Pavel Baronin from Moscow and his friends were apprehended in a park by the Center “E” officers. Baronin told that he was trying to run away from these unknown men in civilian clothes, however, they kicked him down with a puncher and started to beat him up, all seven of them together. They tied up the young man’s hands with a strand of wire and left him lie on the cold ground for three hours after the battery.

The investigative authorities concluded that the police officers’ actions were legal, and the bodily injuries developed since Baronin tried to escape and “purposefully fell on the ground, hitting with his head against the ground, roots of the trees and other objects”. The criminal case was never opened.

The similar way of explanation was used by investigative authorities to explain the case of Islam Zhabrailov, who was apprehended in a park in May 2014 by people in civilian clothes. Shouting “Stop or I’ll shoot” they kicked down Islam and three of his friends on the ground and started to beat him up. According to witnesses’ accounts, they were kicking him with their feet and used a spade handle.

The investigation did not initiate criminal proceedings against the police officers, referring to the fact that Islam Zhabrailov “fell on his own several times during the chase, then he rolled in a ravine, and when he was apprehended, he broke free and ran to the tree and tried to incur himself bodily injuries by hitting with his head against the tree”.

The plank fell on his head

Vladimir Tkachuk from Orenburg was serving a sentence at the Pre-Trial Detention Center (SIZO) No.2 of Orsk. In September 2013, the unknown person who telephoned his mother told her that the detention facility staff had beaten him to death. Numerous injuries were found on his body.

The Investigative Committee issued six refusals to initiate criminal proceedings — according to the version of the investigator, Tkachuk died because the plank fell on him. The theory of the investigative authorities was the following: a plank 30 centimeters wide and 5 centimeters thick and about 2-3 m tall was standing at the wall – the convicts used such planks to cover floors in the room. And so, this plank supposedly fell on Vladimir Tkachuk’s head, and because of that he died.

Forensic medical examination showed that craniocerebral injury “developed due to repeated blows by blunt hard object (objects) with predominant traumatic surface hitting against the frontal, parietal, temporal and cervical areas of his head”. I.e., the plank should have fallen several times on the victim, human rights defenders point out.

In half a year the criminal case was opened, in the end, however, the suspects — head of Pre-Trial Detention Facility No.2 Evgeny Shneider and head of operational department Vitaly Simonenko — were apprehended only in June 2017, when human rights complaint was communicated by the European Court of Human Rights.

He hit against the police truncheon which was hanging on the police officer’s hand

In January 2008 two police officers came up to Dmitry Efremov from the Mari El Republic. They asked him to show his ID, which he did not have on him at the time. According to Efremov’s words, the argument developed in a battery — the police officers kicked him down on the ground and started to beat him up with hands, feet and rubber truncheons. The man was taken to the police department, where he was released after the medical examination, which showed minor level of alcoholic intoxication. Later on, the doctors at the first-aid station registered bruises on his face, hands, feet and left buttock, as well as rupture of the lower lip mucous membrane.

The police officers claim that they did not apply force. According to police officer Koltsov, he did not have the belt clamp for the truncheon, that is why the truncheon was hanging on a strap on his hand. Due to that it might have happened that “while implementing the apprehension methods some kind of hits could be incurred with the rubber truncheon”.

The investigative authorities issued 12 refusals to initiate criminal case. Human rights defenders submitted a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights, the ruling has not yet been passed.

He was drunk and complained of his liver

In September 2014, the police officers apprehended Farrukh Urozov, a migrant from Tadjukistan, who was suspected of an attempt to rape a six years old girl. In a few hours, the medical ambulance team registered his death in the corridor of the police department. According to the brother of the deceased, he was in the department and through the half-opened door he heard Farrukh’s shouts and thump sounds which sounded like hits. After each hit Farrukh shouted.
 
Forensic medical experts concluded that Urozov died at the police department as a result of a closed chest injury with numerous fractures of ribs and development of acute respiratory failure. He was hit no less than 75 times.

According to the police officers, they suggested that Farrukh wrote a confession, but he declined, saying that his hands were sore and, in addition, he was drunk. The detained, allegedly, asked to give him a few hours of sleep and then he would write everything. The investigative officers claimed that they offered medical assistance to Farrukh, but he declined, having explained that he always was suffering from liver pains when drinking alcohol.

They also claimed that the hits which the brother of the detained heard, were the sounds of the Criminal Code book hitting against the table: one of the police officers was doing that to bring the suspect to his senses.

This theory, nevertheless, did not convince the Investigative Committee, which initiated  criminal proceedings. In June 2016, the Solnechnogorsky City Court sentenced police officers Stanislav Deikun and Andrey Chernyshev to 7 years and 4 months of jail time each, and Vladimir Gordeyev — to 7.5 years of jail time.

He dropped the glass cupboard and got cut with pieces

In August 2016, the officers of the Moscow SOBR special police force stormed  the apartment of Murad Ragimov, a medical student. He was handcuffed and beaten up for about three and a half hours, first in the corridor and then in the kitchen. According to his relatives, the police officers hit and kicked him, broke their kitchen table, tore off one of its legs and beat up Murad with it. They also used electric shockers, broke a cutglass sweets box against his head, chocked him with a plastic bag, stepped on the chain from handcuffs.

They tried to force Murad to confess of terrorism, possession of arms and manufacturing drugs. As a result, Ragimov was taken to the police department on suspicion of possession of “spices” — his father said that he saw the drug being planted on his son. When Murad refused to sign the protocol, one of the law-enforcement officers put a sheath-knife in his sole.

Despite the injuries registered by the doctors, the investigative authorities refused  to open a criminal case regarding torture. The investigators were satisfied with the explanation of law-enforcement officers who described that the student, allegedly, attacked the SOBR officer “with a big shield” and kicked down a cupboard with a mirror in the corridor. At the same the photos made during the search feature the cupboard in question standing at its place, with its mirror intact and no glass pieces seen.

Jumped from a lumber truck and hit himself

Oleg Krayushkin, entrepreneur from Pavlov town near Nizhny Novgorod, was apprehended by the police officers in September 2012. The police officers demanded that he confessed of theft of mill saw, which he had bought shortly before the apprehension. The police officers handcuffed the businessman and hit him on his feet and soles for several hours.

He spent two months under house arrest, after that the saw mill case died out. It has not been finally over, that is why Oleg is not able to achieve rehabilitation. The criminal case regarding torture was initiated regarding unidentified police officers only after one year, but to this date no one has been brought to responsibility.

In their explanations, which at first were regarded by the investigating authorities as the main version, the police officers referred to Krayushkin’s words, who, allegedly, said that he received his injuries by hitting the ground because of a jump from the lumber truck.

Asked to go toilet and hit the bookshelf

Dmitry Ochelkov was repeatedly tortured in police departments of Zavolzhye and Balakhna in the Nizhny Novgorod region police departments. As the Committee for Prevention of Torture points out,  Ochelkov was beaten up, tortured in “squirrel” and “envelope” poses, choked with a gas mask and tortured with electricity. All the injuries were registered.

The investigators issued nine refusals regarding the case of tortures in Balakhna, and the criminal case, which in the end was opened, was dismissed nine times. Human rights defenders applied to the ECHR, and in 2013 the court awarded Ochelkov 20 000 euro as a compensation of moral damage.

Responding to the questions of the ECHR, the Russian authorities claimed that there were no tortures, and the man got injured “through his own carelessness”. When he sat in the police vehicle he was ‘hitting with his shoulders and other body parts against the protruding parts of the vehicle”, and he got his face injuries “when he fell from the stairs”. In addition, the investigation came to conclusion that Ochelkov asked to go to toilet twice during the conversation with the investigating officers and hit twice with his head against the bookshelf which was hanging on the wall above the chair”.

The period of limitation on the case is expired, and no one was brought to responsibility. Dmitry Ochelkov died in 2012.

He sat on his hands, that is why they got swollen

Sergey Lyapin was apprehended  in April 2008 when he was collecting abandoned scrap metal. The police officers suspected him of thefts from garages and under torture demanded that he confessed — at first, they tied him up with belts and then tortured with electricity applying contacts to his little fingers.

From the police department Sergey went to hospital, and his wife, having written the complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office, successfully insisted that he underwent the forensic medical examination, which registered all his injuries. The police officers claim that Lyapin was sitting on his hands in the cell, and that was the reason why they got swollen, and not electricity torture (Lyapin’s wife Liliya remembered that she saw gigantic blue hands of her husband). The face injuries they explained by the fact that Lyapin was “rubbing his face with his denim jacket which he was wearing”.

In 2014, the ECHR awarded Sergey Lyapin a compensation in the amount of 45 thousand euro. Only after that a criminal case on torture was initiated, but the police officers whom he identified never became defendants. The period of limitations on the case expires soon.

Egor Skovoroda 
Source: MediaZone