The European Court communicated Maksim Lapunov’s application regarding torture and inefficient investigation


25 November 2019
Maksim Lapunov during the press-conference at Novaya Gazeta. Photo: Anna Artemyeva / Novaya Gazeta

The European Court of Human Rights communicated the application of Russian citizen Maksim Lapunov, who claimed of having been tortured at the Grozny Police Department because of his sexual orientation. Maksim Lapunov failed to see the effective investigation of his complaint by the Investigative Committee and was forced to leave Russia. Now, his application regarding the Chechen police torture and red tape by the national investigative authorities will be examined in Strasbourg.

As we have already reported, 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.

“They put me next to the wall to the left from the entrance to the cell, facing the wall, and stood behind me, on the left. After that one of the police officers hit my back the first time with a cut of plastic tubing, the hit was very strong, I experienced severe physical pain. Then he started to hit my spine, head, feet, buttocks. I don’t know exactly how many hits there were, but I think more than forty”, – Lapunov recalls.

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 was not progressing, the state protection was not provided, and the threat was aggravating each day, the applicant was forced to leave the North Caucasus Federal District and then Russia, too.

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. For each of these violations human rights defenders applied complaints to the Essentuki City Court under Article 125 of the Criminal Procedural Code, and some of these violations were acknowledged by the court.

On 21 March 2018, investigator on major cases of the Chief Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the North Caucasian Federal District Vitaliy Polivanov issued a refusal to initiate criminal proceedings based on Maksim Lapunov’s torture complaint. Lawyers with the Committee Against Torture appealed against this investigator’s ruling in court.

The appeal mentioned numerous drawbacks of the investigation, as well as the fact that the check was conducted only formally, without establishing all the circumstances of the case. But the Essentuki City Court dismissed the human rights defenders’ arguments and the appeal, itself. The Stavropol Territory Court upheld this ruling, having refused to accept the arguments of Lapunov’s representatives.

Since the legal remedy for Lapunov at the national level was exhausted, on 24 May 2019, human rights defenders submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights on his behalf.

Maksim Lapunov’s interests at the European Court will be represented by lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Olga Sadovskaya and Veronika Lapina, the Russian LGBT network officer, who was providing support to Maksim during the last few years.

Today, human rights defenders received a notification of the European Court of Human Rights that the complaint on behalf of Maksim Lapunov was communicated to the Russian authorities on 14 November of this year.   

“This complaint was submitted to Stransbourg in May of this year, and the speed of its communication is indicative of the importance of the issues it covers. Now the Russian authorities have time till 12 March 2020 to answer all the questions posed by the European Court, – Olga Sadovskaya. Apart from typical questions on whether the applicant was subjected to torture and brutal treatment by the state representatives, whether his arrest was legal and whether the investigation of his complaints against imprisonment and violence was effective, the Court also posed another very important question, namely: whether the sexual orientation of the applicant became the reason for his persecution and tortures, as well as for inefficient investigation of his appropriate complaints? We will be waiting for the response of the Russian authorities and, for one, I still have a weak hope that communication of this case may become a catalyst for the investigation at the national level”.  

The text of communication soon will be available in the ECHR database.

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