The European Court asks questions, Russian justice system leaves them unanswered


13 April 2016

The Promyshlennyi District Court of Orenburg dismissed the complaint of lawyers of the Committee for Prevention of Torture against the latest, the 17th in succession, refusal to initiate criminal proceedings, issued in the framework of the check of Yury Zontov’s complaint of the police torture. Human rights defenders, representing Zontov’s interest, will appeal against this court ruling, since, in their opinion, the investigators failed to perform a proper check and left a lot of inconsistencies unresolved.

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 17 dismissals to initiate criminal case were issued, 16 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 the Prosecutor’s Office of the Promyshlennyi District of Orenburg immediately dismissed it on the grounds that Zontov received bodily injuries as a result of wrestling techniques used by the police officers.

The latest, 17th in succession, refusal to initiate criminal proceedings was issued by the investigator of the Investigative Committee on 20 July of last year. Human rights defenders appealed against this ruling at the Prosecutor’s Office, however, their complaint was dismissed. An attempt to have the refusal declared illegal at court also failed – on 11 April the court dismissed the human rights defenders’ complaint. 

Lawyers of the Committee for Prevention of Torture will challenge the ruling of the Promyshlennyi District Court of Orenburg on appeal.
«It is still not clear to us what kind of wrestling techniques that the police officers used could result in the registered numerous bodily injuries of Yury, including extravasations of both feet. Unfortunately, the investigator is not answering this question, because he did not commission a situational expert examination, – lawyer of the Committee for Prevention of Torture Evgeny Litvinov emphasizes. – The investigator also failed to conduct many other verification activities, for example, he did not establish and question a number of witnesses, did not demand and obtain the video records of the outdoor and indoor video surveillance cameras and did not attached them to the case materials, as well as copies of a number of documents… Due to that we cannot consider the performed check to be effective and the court ruling – fair, so we will appeal against it in the appeals instance. We are also planning to file a suit in the interests of Yury Zontov on compensation of moral damage incurred by inefficient check of the crime report».

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