The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will deal with a case on tortures in the Orenburg police


10 October 2019

Ineffective execution of the European Court ruling by the Russian authorities may allow the police officers who tortured Yury Zontov, a resident of Orenburg, in 2011, to escape from responsibility. In 2017, the European Court established the fact of Zontov’s tortures, however, after over two years the Investigative Committee investigator never clarified all the circumstances of the case and once again dismissed it. With regard to this, the lawyers with the Committee Against Torture applied today to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.   

As we have previously reported, in September 2011, Yury Zontov applied for legal assistance to the Orenburg office of INGO «The Committee Against Torture». He told the human rights defenders that on 27 August he was taken to the police department No.4 for Orenburg city. 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 of thefts of a cell phone and a golden necklace. Having yielded to tortures, Yury signed the full confession.

At the first-aid station the man told the doctors that he was beaten up by the police. Later the bodily injuries were registered when he was transferred to the temporary detention facility (IVS) and to a pre-trial detention center (SIZO): bruises on the chest and both feet, numerous scratches on the lower back, in the area of left cheek-bone and in the area of both wrist joints.

On 30 September 2011, the crime report based on this case was submitted to the Investigative Department for Orenburg of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Orenburg region. During the pre-trial investigation 20 dismissals to initiate criminal case were issued, 19 of which were subsequently quashed at the initiative of the human rights defenders as illegal and ungrounded.

Having exhausted all domestic remedies aimed at restoring Yury’s rights at the national level, in April 2014 human rights defenders lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (the ECHR). In a year, in March 2015, it was communicated.

It is worth noting that after the complaint was sent to the European Court of Human Rights the Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case under the article “abuse of office”, however, right on the next day, Acting District   Prosecutor Vladimir Lugovin dismissed it on the grounds that Zontov received bodily injuries as a result of wrestling techniques used by the police officers.

All the attempts of human rights defenders to insist on initiating the criminal case turned out to be in vain.
On 2 May 2017, the European Court of Human rights passed a ruling concerning the complaint submitted on behalf of Yury Zontov. The Strasbourg judges have unanimously established violations of Article 3 of the Convention in negative and procedural aspects: the applicant was subjected to tortures and this fact was not efficiently investigated. With regard to this Zontov was awarded a compensation for moral damage in the amount of 45 000 euro.

After the ECHR ruling entered into legal force, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture applied to the Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation with a request to initiate the check based on Yury Zontov’s complaint of torture.

On 23 May 2018, the Supreme Court of Russia quashed the rulings of the Orenburg courts, which declared the refusal to initiate criminal proceedings to be legal and passed a ruling to resume the check based on Zontov’s complaint.

Having received a copy of this ruling, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture, once again applied an appellate appeal to the Promyshlenny District Court of Orenburg against the ruling of prosecutor Vladimir Lugovin, which he passed four years ago, and with which he quashed the initiation of the criminal case investigating torture.

In the course of examination of this complaint it turned out that on 2 August 2018 Deputy Prosecutor of the Orenburg region Andrey Vyazikov quashed Lugovin’s ruling at his own initiative, which allowed the Investigative Committee to resume the work on the criminal case.    

Despite the fact that the case was handed over to the first department for major cases of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Orenburg region, its investigation was performed superficially and formally.    

On 15 September of this year, investigator Azamat Zhamansariyev dismissed the criminal case for the second time. At the present time, this investigator’s ruling is being appealed against by lawyers with the Committee Against Torture.   

Due to unsatisfactory investigation of Yury Zontov torture case, human rights defenders submitted today an application to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe requesting to pose questions to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia concerning the execution of the ruling of the European Court with regard to the Zontov’s complaint. The Foreign Affairs’ representatives will have to tell what has been done by the Russian Federation already and what it intends to do in order to fully restore Zontov’s violated rights, and the ECHR ruling, passed in 2017, is fully executed.          

“Investigator Zhamansariyev has not even performed the face to face confrontations with the police officers, who were identified by Yury Zontov, so what effective investigation can we talk about here, – lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Timur Rakhmatulin poses a question. – It is a little over one and a half years before the expiry of the period of limitation for bringing the police officers, guilty of Yury Zontov’s tortures, to criminal responsibility, and we hope, that the response from the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will make the Russian investigators perform their work properly and the criminals will be punished, in the end”.   

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