It took the Essentuki City Court four months in order to acknowledge the fact that not everything was legal in the checking of Maksim Lapunov’s complaint about tortures in the Chechen police, conducted by the Chief Investigative Directorate for the North Caucasus Federal District.
Maksim Lapunov applied to the Investigative Committee of Russia with a complaint, stating that in spring 2017 he was illegally detained in Grozny by the police officers in civilian clothes and taken to the police department basement where he was beaten up by cuts of plastic tubing. According to the applicant, he was kept in that basement from 16 to 28 March 2017, after that he was released and instructed not to apply to law-enforcement agencies on any account. However, Lapunov’s application was received on 21 September 2017 at the Chief Investigative Directorate of Russia, and a check was initiated with its regard.
On 28 September the applicant himself arrived at Essentuki of the Stavropol Territory, where he was questioned by the investigator and filed a motion on applying state protection measures to him. However, during almost three weeks of his stay at the North Caucasus the investigation never managed to resolve the issue on applying the measures of state protection to the applicant, as well as failed to conduct an incident site examination with his participation, despite the fact that Maksim insisted that he was ready to show the location where he was kept, as well as the traces of his stay there. Seeing that the investigation is not progressing, the state protection is not provided, and the threat is aggravating each day, the applicant was forced to leave the North Caucasus Federal District.
Lawyers with the Committee Against Torture, representing Maksim Lapunov’s interests, from the very start of the check started to point out numerous procedural violations by the investigative authorities. For example, Lapunov’s representatives were not allowed to participate in checking activities together with the applicant, although the latter insisted on lawyers’ participation. Necessary checking activities, which Lapunov insisted on, were not performed, in addition, the investigators time after time violated the timeline of motions’ examination. On each of these violations human rights defenders applied complaints to the Essentuki City Court under Article 125 of the Criminal Procedural Code, however, until now the court has refused to satisfy them.
However, on 30 January 2018, after the quashing of the ruling on a similar complaint at the appeals instance, the Essentuki City Court still detected a violation of the criminal and procedural law in foot dragging about the examination period of one of the motions. The court acknowledged that investigator Aleksandr Kozhev, who received from Maksim Lapunov a motion on adduced evidence, was obliged to resolve it immediately or no later than three days since the day of the application, but failed to do so and responded only twenty days later.
Today, on 31 January, the court passed a similar ruling on another complaint — foot dragging of procedural time limits during examination of another motion — on applying state protection, was also declared illegal.
“In their totality all these numerous faults provide a picture of systematic violation of the applicant’s rights. The investigators of the North Caucasus Department actually deprived him from the right to use the lawyer’s help during the checking activities; they are ragging the procedural time limits, refusing the necessary activities to be performed. It is the fifth month that they are dragging foot with providing the state protection. They won’t open a criminal case, although the refusing rulings are quashed time and time again. All this taken together, of course, sooner or later brings a thought to mind – whether the Investigative Committee has any intention to work on this application at all?” – lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Vladimir Smirnov comments on the situation.
The court also passed a special ruling addressed to Head of the Chief Investigative Department for the North Caucasus Federal District Major General of Justice Oleg Vasilyev on violation of criminal and procedural legislation by his subordinate investigator. By so doing, the Major General was notified about the procedure of motions examination in the framework of the criminal proceeding according to the Criminal and Procedural Code of the Russian Federation.
“These are the first court rulings in the framework of the check based on Lapunov’s complaint, in which the facts of violations of his rights by the investigative authorities are acknowledged. However, we are convinced that they are not the last ones. For the last four months we sent a whole range of complaints on various grounds to the court. Partly they have already passed the first instance in Essentuki and were quashed by the Stavropolsky District Court after our appeal. Part of them is still in the proceedings of the first instance and will be examined in the nearest future. As we see, from the moment when we stated about numerous violations committed in the course of this check, to the moment when it became obvious to the Essentuki court, almost four months passed. Sooner or later we will go through all the violations which the investigators commit in this case, and then the inefficiency of the conducted investigation will become obvious even to the superiors of the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor’s Office”, – the human rights defender summarized.