Strasbourg is no authority for the Nizhny Novgorod prosecutor’s office


25 May 2009

 On 24 January 2008 the European Court adjudicated on the case of Maslova, Nalbandov vs. Russia.

According to that judgment, on 25 November 1999 Nizhny Novgorod citizen Olga Maslova was subject to torture and multiple rape by several police officers and prosecutors of the Nizhegorodskiy district Prosecutor’s office. The European Court chamber unanimously held that the investigation authorities in charge of Maslova’s case had committed irremediable procedural errors bringing the criminal case to a dead-end. The Strasbourg court emphasized that the main reason for those errors was downright incompetence of the prosecutor’s office staff investigating the case from 26 November 1999 till 5 July 2000.   

Olga Maslova was awarded a compensation of 70 thousand euro for her sufferings.

When the judgment entered into force, there were a lot of mass media reports and press-conferences involving human rights defenders and regional administration of the Investigation Committee under the Prosecutor’s Office. At that time it seemed that the Russian state intended to resume investigation and prosecute the perpetrators.

However, it’s been a year and a half since the European Court delivered its judgment. The witness that was raped and tortured by law enforcement agents in course of interrogation has failed to bring her tormentors to court.

There was a whole series of appeals against refusals to resume criminal proceedings. The accused many times tried to protract the proceedings by not showing up in court. However, the court supported the victim and eliminated all the circumstances preventing the criminal case from being re-opened.

The ball seemed to be in the court of the Investigation Committee under the prosecutor’s office, but … the criminal case is still at a stall. Investigators refer to judge Shpak’s decision of 16 August 2000 by which the case had been submitted for an additional investigation and most of the preliminary investigation results had been declared inadmissible. At the same time the victim and her representatives do not know whether the prosecutor’s office had appealed against the decision.  

9 years and 6 months have passed since the notorious events. The suspects have resigned as investigators and become lawyers. The effectiveness of national justice raises doubts.

In six months, on 25 November 2009, the limitation period for holding the perpetrators liable expires. Thus, Russia has only six months to finish this case.

If within six months the investigation authorities fail to indict the perpetrators, Olga Maslova and her representatives will have to file another application with the European Court. This time the application will claim ineffective investigation after January 2008 and failure to execute the European Court judgment. Indeed, when executing the European Court judgment, the state should not only pay the awarded compensation, but also eliminate the sources of the violation, i.e. to find and prosecute the culprits.

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