The European Court of Human Rights (the ECHR) has communicated a complaint of Aleksandr Zhdan from Orenburg concerning police torture and inefficient investigation at the national level. In relation to the Aleksandr’s complaint the European judges posed a number of questions to Russian authorities, in particular, whether the applicant was subject to torture in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention, as well as whether the investigation conducted based on his application was effective. In the nearest future the Russian Federation shall submit its comments on the case to the Strasbourg Court.
(Photo: Aleksandr Zhdan)
As we have previously reported, in July 2009 Mr Zhdan applied to the Orenburg regional branch of the NGO «Committee Against Torture» seeking legal assistance. According to the applicant, 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. The severe torture provoked a stroke of cerebral apoplexy, and the officers had to take him to hospital. Aleksandr, who had suffered no health conditions before the detention, was after that granted a disability status, the II group according to Russian scale. In the course of his medical rehabilitation, arranged for by the Committee Against Torture, doctors managed to restore his speech function, but Aleksandr’s right hand and partly one leg will remain paralyzed for life.
In 2009, Mr Zhdan obtained no help from the authorities. Having applied to them for protection, the man discovered the authorities of the Investigative Committee of Orenburg to be in fact sabotaging the investigation instead of conducting professional work and bringing the guilty party to responsibility.
Thus, for five years human rights defenders have been seeking justice at the national level. Lawyers have lodged dozens various complaints with the Investigative Committee, Prosecutor’s Offices and courts on Aleksandr’s behalf. The lawyers representing his interests have appealed against at least ten unlawful refusal to investigate. Twice courts have sustained claims for compensation for moral damage inflicted by the officers’ unlawful actions. However, there has been no progress in the criminal investigation, and the pre-investigation inquiry, which the relevant procedural law gives 3 days to be finished, has lasted for years.
Having exhausted all possible remedies for restoring Aleksandr’s rights at the national level the human rights defenders submitted a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights. As it turned out, a criminal case was nevertheless initiated sometime before that based on p. «a» part 3 Article 286 of the Criminal Procedural Code of the RF (abuse of office with use of force).
Due to social significance of the criminal case its pre-trial investigation was assigned to investigator of first department for major cases of investigative department of the Investigative Committee of the RF for Orenburg region Sergey Trofimov. At the present time investigation of this case has still not been completed.
Lawyer of Orenburg department of INGO «The Committee Against Torture» Dmitry Dimitriyev: «Less than three months are left before pre-trial investigation limiting period is over. I think our investigative authorities should try hard in order to gather a sufficient scope of evidence after six years for referring the criminal case for indictment approval to the Prosecutor’s office, and subsequently – to the court. However, I hope that it will still be done and those found responsible in torturing Aleksandr will be held criminally liable and receive punishment adequate to the gravity of committed offence».
«This case has a very strong body of evidence concerning violation of Article 3 of the European Convention in material sense (the fact of applying torture), as well as in the procedural sense (inefficient investigation). Taking into account grave bodily injuries received by the applicant, and presence of a certain objective of inhuman treatment (obtaining a confession) as well as extremely brutal actions of the police officers which caused great pain and suffering, paralysis and cerebral hemorrhage, we expect that the European Court states precisely torture and not other types of inhuman treatment, which will influence the sum of adequate compensation for the applicant, – The Committee Against Torture international law consultant Ekaterina Vansilova emphasizes. – It is also remarkable that violations in the case of Zhdan continue to happen. This situation is increasingly frequently happens in the practice of The Committee Against the Torture lawyers. By the moment of complaint application to the European Court of Human Rights the criminal case based on Zhdan statement was initiated at the national level. However, due to physical impossibility of exhausting all the means of legal defense the applicant’s representatives applied at the European Court at the stage of the pre-trial investigation and specified in the complaint that initiating criminal proceedings after such a long time and another failure to notify the applicant on the decision taken will not lead to effective investigation and restoration of the applicant’s violated rights. The fact of communication of the complaint signifies that the European Court judges have taken our arguments into account having communicated the complaint in half a year, which is quire fast by standards of the European Court».