Soft verdict of former superiors of the Detention Facility, guilty of the death of a convict, is upheld


17 May 2018

Today, on 17 May 2018, the Orenburg Regional Court upheld the verdict with relation to former head of Detention Facility #2 in the Orenburg region Evgeny Shnaider and former head of the Operational Department of this establishment, Vitaly Simonenko. Previously they were declared guilty of abuse of office with the use of violence with regard to three convicts, one of which, Vladimir Tkachuk, subsequently succumbed to injuries and died. The court sentenced Evgeny Shnaider to two years prison term, Vitaly Simonenko – to four years prison term with serving at the standard security penal colony. The verdict entered into legal force.

As we have previously reported, mother of convicted Vladimir Tkachuk Nadezhda Chertovskikh applied to interregional non-governmental organization «Committee Against Torture» for legal assistance in September 2013. She informed human rights defenders that on 5 September she received a call from an unknown person who told her that her son had been beaten to death by the officers of Pre-Trial Detention Facility No.2 in Orsk, Orenburg region, where Tkachuk was seconded from Penal-Colony No 11 to serve his sentence as a household worker.

Initially the investigation of Tkachuk’s death was conducted in a rather spiritless and drowsy manner: this was expressively showed by the fact that investigator of Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the RF for Orsk (Orenburg region) Anastasia Chichina issued six refusals to initiate criminal proceedings which were subsequently declared illegal and quashed. For half a year the investigator was asserting that Tkachuk received his numerous injuries as a result of a wooden plank falling on him. By the way, the unknown person who telephoned Nadezhda Chertovskikh on 5 September 2013 told her that the detention facility staff was going to maintain the version with the falling plank.

In all likelihood, the investigator considered the following version of the incident to be credible: a plank 30 centimeters wide and 5 centimeters thick was standing at the wall – the convicts used such planks to cover floors in the room. For some reason the investigator did not define the length of the plank, specifying it at «about 2-3 meters». As a matter of fact, the investigator did not see the «killing plank» as such, but just took the words of the detention facility staff for it. And so this plank supposedly fell on Vladimir Tkachuk’s head. However, judging by the character of his injuries, the plank fell several times…

Later on the conclusion of the specialist of State-owned Federal State Institution «111 Head State Center of medico-legal criminalistic examinations» of the Ministry of Defense of Russia established that «the character of V.I.Tkachuk’s closed craniocerebral injury shows that it was made as a result of repeated blows with a blunt hard object or objects with predominant traumatizing surface in head’s frontal, sincipital and cervical zones».

– According to the theory of Pre-Trial Detention Facility officers, Tkachuk received his injury during production operations on 2 September, and then he was taken to the Punishment Isolation Cell allegedly because he refused to get up after the wakeup order. According to the witnesses’ evidence, during all this time Tkachuk was asking for medical assistance, complained of headache and feeling bad, and in the course of several days before death he was already in the state of delirium, not realizing where he was. However, the doctors arrived to him only at 00.45 on 5 September when he was already in a coma. At 02.50 of the same day the doctors registered the death of the convict, – lawyer of the Committee Against Torture Timur Rakhmatulin, representing the interests of the mother of the deceased, reported.

The criminal case with relation to this fact was initiated only in half a year, but even after that the investigators did not come closer to establishing the persons guilty of Tkachuk’s death: the case was dismissed six times, and each time human rights defenders appealed against such rulings of the investigators.

At the same time, on 4 May 2016 human rights defenders applied a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Nadezhda Chertovskikh. In December of the same year the complaint was communicated – questions were put to Russian authorities concerning the circumstances of Tkachuk’s death, as well as about the efficiency of the conducted investigation at the national level.

On 7 June 2017 in the framework of the investigation of the criminal case based on the fact of the death of Vladimir Tkachuk, two high-ranking officials of the Orsk Pre-Trial Detention Facility No.2 were apprehended: Acting Head Evgeny Shnaider and Acting Head of the Operational Department Vitaly Simonenko.

Later on Evgeny Shnaider confessed of committing the crime under item “a” Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“abuse of office using violence”) – he hit convict Vladimir Tkachuk several times in the area of arms and chest.

Initially Vitaly Simonenko was charged with committing crimes under two articles: abuse of office using violence which led to grave consequences, and inflicting grave bodily harm which led to the convict’s death by negligence. Later on, the investigators decided that Simonenko did not have the intent of inflicting grave bodily harm to Vladimir; that is why part 4 of Article 111 of the Russian Criminal Code was excluded from the indictment.

In addition, during the preliminary investigation, two more victims appeared in the criminal case – according to the investigation, on the same day when Tkachuk was beaten up, Simonenko beat up two other convicts, as well.

After the Prosecutor’s Office approved the indictment, the criminal case was submitted to the Sovetsky District Court of Orsk and on 10 November 2017 the preliminary court hearing took place.

In the course of discussions State Prosecutor Vitaly Chatarev considered the guilt of the defendants in committing the incriminated crimes to be proven and asked the court to sentence Evgeny Shnaider to 3 years and 2 months of prison term and Vitaly Simonenko – to 5 years.

On 21 March 2018 the Sovetsky District Court of Orsk, Orenburg region, passed an indictment to former Detention Facility officers. The court sentenced Evgeny Shnaider to two years prison term, Vitaly Simonenko – to four years prison term with serving at the standard security penal colony.

Lawyers with the Committee Against Torture, representing the interests of victim Chertovskikh, appealed against the verdict as being too soft in the part of the assigned term of punishment at the Orenburg Regional Court. The convicts were not satisfied with the verdict, either: Vitaly Simonenko continues to insist on his innocence and the former head of Detention Facility-2, who partially acknowledged his guilt, considers his punishment to be too harsh, because it involves restraint of liberty.

Today in the course of appellate appeals examination, unexpectedly for the court hearing participants, Evgeny Shnaider withdrew his appellate appeal, saying that he considers the verdict to be fair, and Vitaly Simonenko asked the court to re-qualify the crime he committed according to item 3 of Article 285 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“abuse of office led to grave consequences”). Human rights defenders supported their complaint, in which they asked the court to increase the terms of sentence for the convicts. 

As a result the court dismissed all the submitted complaints. 

“The imposed punishment, definitely, cannot be called fair, since the court often gives harsher sentences even for property crimes, – lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Vyacheslav Dyundin comments. – The victim, whom we were helping to restore justice for over five years, lost a son as a result of the committed crime, he died as a result of criminal actions of the Federal Penitentiary Service officers. We find Evgeny Schnaider’s sentence to be especially cynical. The court sentenced him only to two years’ term, which is lower than the lowest level provided by the corresponding article of the Criminal Code, according to which he should be sentenced to jail time from 3 to 10 years. Out of two years, to which Shnaider was sentenced, he spent nine months under house arrest, and after the verdict of the court of the first instance he was at the Detention Facility. Most likely, he would not be even transferred to the penal colony, and as early as in June he would be able to file a motion on release on parole. We, in our turn, will file a lawsuit against the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia on compensation of morale damage inflicted by the crime, as well as appeal against the appellate resolution and the verdict to the court of cassation”.

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