The ECHR awarded a compensation to a mother whose son died in the Orenburg Temporary Detention Facility


30 March 2021

Today, on 30 March 2021, the European Court of Human Rights passed a ruling with regard to application of Nadezhda Chertovskikh, whose son died in 2013 after he got beaten up by Temporary Detention Facility officers. The court established that Article 2 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“right to life”) was violated with regard to deceased Vladimir Tkachuk, and due to that it awarded his mother a compensation in the amount of 65 000 Euro.

As we have previously reported, mother of convicted Vladimir Tkachuk, Nadezhda Chertovskikh, applied to interregional non-governmental organization “The 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 No.2 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, who represented 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” Part 3 of 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.

Vitaly Simonenko was initially 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, which is why part 4 of Article 111 of the Russian Criminal Code is excluded from the indictment.

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

On 21 March 2018, the Sovetsky District Court of Orsk of the Orenburg region passed a judgment of conviction with regard to former officers of the detention facility. The court convicted Evgeny Schnaider to two years’ prison term, and Vitaly Simonenko – to four years’ prison term, with serving the sentence by both convicts in a standard security penal colony.

In April 2019 both criminals were released on parole.

After the verdict entered into legal force, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture, representing the interests of Nadezhda Chertovskikh, applied to the court with a lawsuit on compensating the moral damage, inflicted to her by the crime of the former superiors of the Orsk Pre-Trial Detention Center No.2. Later on, the similar lawsuit was filed on behalf of Evgeny Tkachuk – a brother of the deceased.

The courts at the national level awarded Nadezhda Chertovskikh a compensation for moral damage in the amount of five hundred thousand rubles, to Evgeny Tkachuk – two hundred thousand rubles. In addition, the court awarded Nadezhda Chertovskikh with two hundred and thirty thousand rubles as a compensation for failure to provide a hearing within a reasonable time.

Due to the fact that the compensation of moral damage turned out to be a lot lower than the compensation usually awarded by the European Court of Human Rights in similar cases, as well as due to the fact that the criminals were subjected to extremely mild punishment for the crime they committed, human rights defenders continued representing the interests of Nadezhda Chertovskikh at the European Court of Human Rights.

Today, the ECHR passed a ruling with regard to the applicant’s complaint. The Strasbourg judges acknowledged that Article 2 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“right to life”) was violated with regard to deceased Vladimir Tkachuk, and due to that it awarded his mother Nadezhda Chertovskikh a compensation in the amount of 65 000 Euro.

“The application of Nadezhda Chertovskikh was joined with three more cases where the applicant’s relatives died under the state supervision and numerous injuries were found on their bodies, – head of the Department of International Legal Protection with the Committee Against Torture Olga Sadovskaya comments. – However, in all of these cases the state insisted on completely improbable reasons of the deaths of these people: Tkachuk, allegedly, died due to the wooden plank that fell on him, Romanov, having enormous number of injuries, died allegedly due to a heart attack at the police department; Bogatyrev with numerous hematomas and fractures of the ribs allegedly died of ischemic heart disease; Kartoyev, allegedly having fallen from the bed in a penal colony, broke several bones and died over this. Having examined all these circumstances, the Court came to a conclusion that the causes of the people’s deaths, set forth by the authorities, cannot be accepted as reasonable explanations, but the revealed injuries clearly testify the death caused by the state representatives”.

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