Police discretion: rape or torture – the court will never notice


08 June 2009

    Arzamas judge Alexander Yeliseyev has dismissed the appeal against an unlawful refusal of the investigation bodies to prosecute officers who tortured and raped a woman lodged by the Committee against Torture in the interests of Natalia Stryomina. 

Today judge Yeliseyev from the Arzamas city court (Nizhny Novgorod region) has delivered a decision rendering the refusal to open a criminal case issued upon checking the fact of police abuse in respect of Natalia Stryomina in the Arzamas medical detoxification centre lawful and motivated.  Thus, the court has concluded that the Arzamas Interdistrict Investigation Department conducted a complete check. The court believes that all people involved were questioned and Ms. Stryomina’s injuries documented by doctors originated from immobilization because Ms. Stryomina’s behaviour was violent. Lawyers of the Committee against Torture are going to file a cassation appeal against this court decision.  

At the same time, the police themselves mention in their statements that two times they tied Mr. Styomina up in the so called “swallow” position (position when the victim lies prone and its wrist and ankles are tied together. Some minutes later the muscles start stretching causing severe pain and suffering. According to applicants of the CAT, this method is often used by the police and is, in fact, a type of torture.) Besides, the check did not explain how Ms. Stryomina obtained other injuries since the police only mentioned immobilization and said nothing about beatings. Investigators did not interrogate the people with whom Stryomina had been taken to the police department. Those people were placed in wards next to Ms. Stryomina’s in the detoxification centre and could see Natalia’s injuries and hear what was going on in the neighbouring ward. Natalia claims that she was not only battered, but also raped by one of the officers.
The court mentions that the case file includes materials of the internal check conducted by the Internal Security Administration of the Directorate of the Interior for Nizhny Novgorod region according to which the police officers involved in the incident were held disciplinary liable. However, during the court hearing the check report stating that the actions of the police were lawful and justified was read out.   

Therefore, the court’s conclusions seem rather strange. The judiciary encourages ineffectiveness of official investigations, and by his decision the judge gave a clear sign to the police that they could do whatever they wanted. Rape, torture, beat up – do what you want, Themis will turn a blind eye to everything, including beasts in police uniform and sluggards from the prosecutor’s office.


Of the Interregional Committee against Torture

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