The ECHR passed a ruling with regard to a fifteen-year old torture complaint of a resident of Orenburg


16 March 2021

(Oleg Elchaninov, фото: Михаил Солунин / Медиазона)

Today, on 16 March 2021, the European Court of Human Rights passed a ruling with regard to the application of Oleg Elchaninov from Orenburg, who claims that in 2006 he was tortured by the police officers. The Court established that Oleg was subjected to torture by the police officers, that his apprehension and stay at the police department was illegal, and no effective investigation was carried out on his complaint. Due to this, the applicant was awarded a compensation of 34 000 euro. Despite the expiry of the period of limitations for bringing the guilty of torture to responsibility, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture will continue to insist on opening a criminal case, performing an effective investigation of the circumstances of applying violence against Mr Elchaninov.

As we previously have reported, on 3 September 2007 local citizen Oleg Elchaninov applied to the Orenburg office of INGO «The Committee Against Torture» for legal assistance. He told the human rights defenders that on 2 December 2006 he was detained on suspicion of rape. After that Elchaninov was taken to Leninsky District Department of Interior of Orenburg city where four police officers interrogated him.

According to Oleg, the police officers of this department started beating out confessions which they needed: at first, one of the police officers hit him two times on the back with a baseball bat, after that they put a plastic bag on his head and repeatedly blocked air access, kicked him in the chest, hit his face against the table. Elchaninov recounts that tortures continued for about a day, but he never incriminated himself.

Next day at about midnight the police officers took Elchaninov to hospital where he was examined by doctors who registered numerous injuries: injured brow, abrasions on the chest, right shoulder, right cheek, right and left thighs, back, right buttock, around both eyes, bruise of the left supraorbital ridge, bruises of the left eyelid.

After Oleg was examined by the doctors he was taken to the Temporary containment cell of Orenburg where his injuries were also registered. On demand of the judge these facts were also included in the court records of Elchaninov’s bail hearing.

While remaining in Temporary containment cell Oleg lodged a complaint with the prosecutor’s office about the crime committed against him, indicating names of three police officers who took part in his battery. No response followed. Another application to the supervising authority was filed by the human rights defenders in December 2007 (in May of that year Elchaninov was convicted to seven years of imprisonment).

From the very start, the enquiry based on this application was performed extremely inefficiently: within 4 years 5 identical refusals to initiate criminal proceedings were issued, they differed from one another only in the date of their issuing. The investigative authorities completely ignored Elchaninov’s medical record, providing evidence of his injuries. The man wasn’t even questioned about the facts described in his application, no witnesses or police officers that Elchaninov identified were interrogated, no crime scene examination was conducted. Bureaucratic delays in this case resulted in expiry of the letter of attorney issued by Elchaninov to human rights defenders for representation of his interests in law-enforcement agencies and courts. For a long time, officers of the penal institution where Elchaninov was hold in detention unlawfully prevented him from authorizing the letters of attorney. Thus the citizen from Orenburg was left without legal assistance from human rights defenders for a long time (over six months), which had a negative impact on the progress of the inquiry based on his application. Eventually the letter of attorney for Elchaninov was authorized by the head of the colony but the time was lost.

Having exhausted all domestic remedies at the national level in March 2012 human rights defenders had to lodge a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Oleg Elchaninov.

On 24 June 2014, the European Court communicated this complaint, having posed the following questions to the Russian authorities: was the applicant subjected to tortures? Was effective investigation conducted based on his complaint, including whether the investigators performing the inquiry were independent from the investigators who were on the case related to the applicant himself?

In addition, the European Court of Human Rights was interested in the legitimacy of applicant’s arrest in December 2006, as well as whether Elchaninov was explained his rights, when he was provided with a defense lawyer, and when his relatives were informed about his arrest.

Right after the communication the investigators resumed the checking of Elchaninov’s torture complaint. However, during all this time they managed to refuse to open a criminal case for only twenty-six times. Thus, for fifteen years Elchaninov’s claims to open a criminal case were dismissed for thirty-one times.

On, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture received the anniversary thirtieth refusal dated 27 January 2020.

On 2 March 2020, investigator with the Investigative Department for the Southern Administrative District of Orenburg Anvar Akhmedov issued another dismissal of a claim to open a criminal case.

For a long time, human rights defenders could not familiarize themselves with the materials of the check, because the material was requested by the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation, which declared the dismissal of a claim to open a criminal case to be legal.

On 23 October, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture appealed against the investigator’s ruling at the Leninsky District Court of Orenburg. On 11 December, the court chaired by judge Svetlana Shabanova dismissed the application, having declared the dismissal of a claim to open a criminal case to be legal.

On 19 February 2021, judge of the Orenburg Regional Court Vladimir Avdeyev, having examined an appellate appeal of human rights defenders, dismissed it and upheld the ruling of the Leninsky District Court.

Today, the European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling with regard to Oleg Elchaninov’s complaint. The Strasbourg judges acknowledged that the applicant, in violation of Article 3 of the Convention, was subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment and that no effective investigation was performed with this regard, and also that in violation of item 1 of Article 5 of the Convention, he was illegally detained and was kept at the police department on suspicion of committing a crime without drawing up procedural documents on his detention.

With regard to this, an applicant was awarded a compensation of moral damage in the amount of 34000 euro.

“Unfortunately, the police officers, who applied tortures against Mr Elchaninov, will not be brought to criminal responsibility, as the period of limitation for such type of cases has already expired. Despite this, we intend to keep insisting on effective investigation of the circumstances of applying violence against the applicant”, – lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Timur Rakhmatullin comments.

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