On 7 April 2014 lawyers with the Interregional NGO «Committee Against Torture» lodged four applications with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on behalf of several victims who had at different times applied to the Committee for legal assistance. What they have in common is that they have never been able to restore their infringed rights and attain justice at the national level. Lawyers with the Committee point out the main reason why they have no choice but to complain before the ECHR – it is the fact that the Investigative Committee officials merely sabotage their work.
Six Orenburg residents of different age, social status and occupation were at different times under different circumstances ill-treated by law enforcement agents. However, there are similar traits in their situations. Pre-investigation inquiries following each complaint of theirs lasted not days but years, during which numerous unlawful refusals to investigate were issued and subsequently quashed. Criminal proceedings were initiated basing on only one of those complaints, but five years after it had been lodged.
One of the victims, Aleksandr Zhdan, ran his own business. On 22 January 2009, when being a witness in criminal proceedings, he was apprehended by the police and taken to a department, where police officers tortured him with electricity urging him to confess to a car theft. The severe torture provoked a stroke of cerebral apoplexy, and the man was granted a life disability status, group II according to the Russian scale. The criminal investigation into his complaints started five years later, on 19 March 2014.
Mister Z. was unlucky to learn about the practice of beating out confessions in Police Department no. 3 of the Orenburg Ministry of the Interior in September 2011. According to the young man, he was kidnapped in the street by men he had never seen before, and taken to the department. There the policemen were beating him severely and strangling him with a plastic bag over his head. The officers wanted him to confess to a cell phone theft. Mr Z. was subsequently examined by doctors, had his injuries recorded, and identified two of the four torturers. Nevertheless, the investigative authorities haven’t initiated criminal proceedings yet, as they have assertedly found no indications of a crime.
Yuri Zontov, who applied to human rights defenders in 2011, had come across the very same methods of interrogation. On 27 August 2011 he was apprehended and taken to the Orenburg Directorate of the Interior. There police officers were beating him, hitting his feet with rubber truncheons, and strangling him with a plastic bag in order to make the man confess to thefts of a cell phone and a golden necklace. Yuri obtained medical reports confirming his injuries, and identified the perpetrators, but criminal proceedings against them have never been initiated.
Three friends, Maxim Nimatov, Vyacheslav Sadovskiy and Anton Ferapontov, have been seeking justice since 2008, but in vain. In the evening of August 25 they were apprehended and taken to the Dzerzhinskiy District Department of the Interior of Orenburg city, where they were subjected to severe torture. For the whole night police officers were trying to obtain confession statements from them, and in the morning released their victims without brining any official charges. The injuries sustained were then confirmed by medical reports; numerous witnesses stated either to have seen the guys in good health before the detention, or to have seen them injured and bleeding when leaving the police department. Nevertheless, no effective investigation has ever followed.
Now, human rights defenders observe that the authorities in fact failed to conduct investigations, or so-called pre-investigation inquiries, into these situation, for their actions fell short of such standards of an effective investigation set by the European Court of Human Rights as promptness, thoroughness, independence and impartiality. Having exhausted all remedies available at the national level, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture had to lodge relevant complaints with the European Court.
«There’s no denying the fact that applying to the ECHR has negative side effects. Those negligent investigators, who are either unwilling to work, or incapable of investigating ill-treatment complaints effectively, undermine the reputation not only of some official bodies, but also of the State. Moreover, their unlawful acts and omissions are paid for from conscientious taxpayers’ pockets», stresses Timur Rakhmatulin, a lawyer working with the Orenburg regional branch of the Committee Against Torture.