Retribution after 11 years. The European Court passed another ruling about the police torture


24 February 2016

Yesterday, on 23 February 2016, the European Court of Human Rights (the ECH) passed a ruling on the complaint submitted by the human rights defenders on behalf of Aleksandr Andreyev from Orsk, Orenburg region, in 2006. The Strasbourg judges acknowledged the fact of illegal apprehension and torture of Aleksandr by the police in 2005, and also established that the investigative authorities did not perform efficient investigation of this case. In relation to this the applicant was awarded a compensation of moral damages in the amount of 26 000 euro, however, the guilty of torture will not be incurred liability any more.

In February 2005 Vasily Andreyev from Orsk applied to the Orenburg branch of the Committee Against Torture for legal assistance. He reported that his seventeen-year old son Aleksandr got a brain concussion and was delivered to neurological surgery department of the city hospital in the result of torture by the police officers of the District Police Department of the Sovetsky District of Orsk.

In the course of the public investigation performed by human rights defenders, the following accident picture was established. Vasily Andreyev and his underage son Aleksandr came at the Sovetsky District Department of the Interior of Orsk. They were summoned due to the criminal case in which the father and the son were involved as witnesses. After about an hour and a half of waiting the criminal investigator invited Aleksandr to his room. Vasily, having failed to be invited, came along after his son and insisted upon his presence. The police officer suggested that Sasha finds and delivers the information on the persons who performed the theft in Assol shop, if he does not want the responsibility for this crime to be laid on him. His father audibly disagreed to the invitation of his son to informants. After a few of such objections the investigative officer forced the Andreyev-senior out to the street. In the course of a few hours Vasily repeatedly but in vain asked the officer on duty where Aleksandr was and when he would be released.
After 5 p.m. in the evening Vasily went home where he told his wife about the situation. Sasha’s mother, Svetlana, started to call to the Sovetsky District Police Department. The officer on duty answered that her son was in the police department #2 (in 5 km from the District Police Department). However, the local duty officer invariably answered to Svetlana that Andreyev was not there. Having failed to achieve anything by calls, the married couple picked up their one-year old daughter, since there was no one to look after her, caught a minibus and went to the Sovetsky District Police Department. Feeling that there was something wrong the parents started to register time of the events to the minute. They entered the police department at 19 hours 15 minutes. The duty officer refused to accept the application about the disappearance of a teenage boy, but the shift leader condescended – started to call to the second department himself. In an hour the Major informed the alarmed parents that their son was at home.

The Andreyev family arrived home at 21 hours 24 minutes. Aleksandr appeared 15 minutes later. He sat on the chair near the door and told his parents in a failing voice that he was tortured by the police. Then he started to lose consciousness and vomit. His father called for an ambulance. Sasha spent a week in a hospital, his diagnosis was «brain concussion and contusions of the head’s soft tissues». Aleksandr himself told the story that happened to him in the police department.

As soon as he was able to get rid of the parent, the investigator, having conducted the interrogation, released the boy, serving him summons for 17 February. Aleksandr was about to leave but a district officer was waiting for him at the corridor, saying, «Go with me. Fingerprinting is to be performed». But even after the finerprints were taken in the criminalist office on the first floor the police officer did not release Aleksandr although he knew that his father was waiting for him at the steps. The district officer let the teenage boy out of the building through the service door, put him in the police vehicle that was already waiting for him and delivered him to the 2-nd police department. Prior to that the sentry made a mark in the log book that Andreyev left the District Police Department. On the way the police officer «calmed down» Aleksandr: according to him, his father was informed about his whereabouts and, allegedly, passed the money for the son’s road back.

Upon the arrival to 2-nd Department the district officer handed the detained to two police officers and left. These two, in their turn, started to «break» the guy in order to establish his involvement in thefts from the shops. Dissatisfied with negative answer, the second department officers passed on to tortures. The teenage boy’s hands were tied behind his back, he was ordered to sit on the floor, his feet crossed. After that his soles were tied with a rope, its end was passed through the handcuffs and his hands were pulled up to his feet, inflicting a terrible pain to Andreyev. Yielding to this pain, Sasha asked to untie his feet. The police officers, apparently, thinking that he was up to their deal, willingly did what the young man asked for. Later on Aleksandr explained his further action in the following way: in order to avoid the continuation of torture he took a run and hit his head against the glass of a bookshelf. The glass breakings cut the skin in several places, blood spouted over his face, but this situation did not produce impression on the police officers: they tied Anreyev’s feet again, pulled his feet and hands behind his back, passed a metal rod under the rope and hanged the boy between the table and the chair back. The sadists call this type of torture «the swallow». For about ten minutes Andreyev was hanged in pain, seeing his blood from the head dropping on the floor. Then an investigative officer entered the room and, having stopped the torture, took the teenager to his office on the second floor. And the talks urging to confess resumed, and again they were in vain. Sasha refused to bear false witness against himself and was sent for «rework» for the third time. This time – to two other police officers. One of them approached Aleksandr from the back and started to kick him on the ears simultaneously from the two sides. The second officer, completing the execution, hit the teenager on his head so that he passed out for a moment and fell on his knees.

Then the guy was again hanged on a steel rod… Having yielded to torture, Aleksandr signed the confession of theft.

At about 9 p.m. he was released and never called back.

It has to be noted that no criminal case was initiated against Andreyev.

The Sovetsky District of Orsk Prosecutor’s Office investigator Oksana Balybina, who checked Vasily Andreyev’s complaint about the crime against his son, within two months twice refused the opening of the criminal case. The first refusal was quashed by the Prosecutor, the second refusal was appealed against by the human rights defenders at court, but in vain – the refusal to initiate criminal proceedings was declared legal.

Having failed to achieve the efficient investigation and restoration of the violated rights at the national level, the human rights defenders lodged the complaint with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Aleksandr Andreyev. Yesterday, on 23 February, the European Court of Human Rights delivered a ruling. The Strasburg judges unanimously established that:

– Article 5 of the Convention was violated (right to liberty and right to the integrity of the person),

– Article 3 of the Convention was violated in its material part (inhumane and degrading treatment of the applicant) and procedural part (inefficient investigation of the applicant’s complaint).

In relation to this the applicant was awarded a compensation for moral damage in the amount of 26 000 euro.

Member of the Committee for Prevention of Torture Vyacheslav Dyundin, who performed a public investigation of this case, comments on the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling: «The crime pattern is crystal clear. A group of police officers separated underaged Aleksandr from his father, using brutality and deceit, in order to obtain confession from the teenager. Then the boy was actually kidnapped and in secret from his father was taken to another district of the town. At the police department № 2 Aleksandr was subjected to violence which inflicted physical sufferings and impelled him to the attempt of self-mutilation. It has to be pointed out that Alesksandr is just a kid in terms of his physical parameters. In 2005 he was 1.5 meters in height; his weight was only fifty kilograms. The police officers were beating up and torturing, basically, a kid!

In the result of brutal treatment Aleksandr got bodily injuries in the form of brain concussion, abrasion of the supraorbital ridge and contusion of the head’s soft tissues. The unsettling detail is that virtually all of the department’s officers, who were at work, took part in this crime to different extents. Some of them were involved in kidnapping, others – in torture, another group was covering their mates, deceiving the parents.
What do we have in the final analysis? The teenager got not only physical but also psychological traumas for the rest of his life, and the guilty officers have not been brought to responsibility, and it remains unknown, how many of such “exploits” they performed after that. The Prosecutor’s Office investigator, most probably, is honorably retired by now, the torture in Russian police are going on, and the compensation, awarded by the ECHR, will be paid by all us from our pockets».

«During the examination of this case at the European Court the Government admitted the violation of the applicant’s rights provided by Article 5 of the Convention. In particular, the RF authorities agreed that Andreyev’s taking into custody from 19:00 to 20:00 on 15 February 2005 was performed in violation of Articles 91 and 92 of the Criminal and Procedural Code of the Russian Federation, which regulates the grounds and the procedure of the suspect’s apprehension, as well as of Article 423 of the Criminal and Procedural Code of the RF, relating to additional guarantees of the underage persons during apprehension. Establishing the violation by the state of item 1 Article 5 of the Convention, the European Court emphasized the fundamental importance of the guarantee to every person not to be subjected to arbitrary detention by the authorities and pointed out that any deprivation of liberty shall be performed not only in accordance with the law, but also in accordance with the objective of Article 5 itself – protection of the man from the abuse of power.

Having established the violation of Article 3, the European Court has emphasized the importance of medical forensic examination during the establishment of the fact of brutal treatment. The RF authorities insisted that if the applicant had been in handcuffs and had been tortured by hanging, his limbs would have had bruises and that the traumas on the applicant’s face registered by the emergency ambulance paramedics were inflicted by the applicant to himself. The court’s answer to this was that the materials of the case feature no expert examinations supporting the arguments of the Government about the handcuffs bruises and that apart from the traumas of the face the applicant had extravasations on the head’s skin, which, according to the forensic expert, could have been inflicted by hard blunt objects prior to the applicant’s taking to hospital. Thus, the RF authorities failed to prove that all the bodily injuries of Andreyev were caused not through the fault of the police officers.

As to the investigation, the court pointed out that the mere fact of the investigative body’s refusal to initiate the criminal proceedings in relation to the report about the brutal treatment in the police department indicates the inability of the state to stick to its obligations in accordance to Article 3. The applicant’s forensic medical examination was performed with a month’s delay, in addition, such an important question as “whether all the traumas on the applicant’s head could be inflicted in the result of one hit against the glass of a cupboard”, was not posed to the medical expert at all. Apart from that, the court pointed out that the investigators had not even tried to seek for the instrument of crime, indicated by the applicant – the rope and a metal rode, used in the process of hanging. The European Court also pointed out that the national judges did not indicate in their rulings why they consider the refusal of the investigator to open the criminal case to be sustainable. Based on that the violation of Article 3 in the procedural aspect was established», – lawyer of the Committee for Prevention of Torture Ekaterina Vanslova comments on the ruling of the ECHR.

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