The European Court communicated the complaint of a woman from Nizhny Novgorod, whose head was hit by a police truncheon


04 June 2018

The European Court of Human Rights communicated a complaint of Ekaterina Zaitseva from Nizhny Novgorod, who was injured during the rally in 2012. The complaint was lodged due to absence of response from the official authorities to the illegal actions of the police officer.

As we have previously reported, on September 2012 during a rally in Nizhny Novgorod there happened an incident when a Special Police Force officer hit Ekaterina with a rubber truncheon on the head. Since the event was rather large-scale for Nizhny Novgorod, and a lot of mass media representatives were present, the incident was recorded with many photo and video cameras.


(Video recording screenshots: A police officer hits Ekaterina Zaitseva with a truncheon on the head)

Ekaterina Zaitseva underwent a treatment at hospital where she was diagnosed a closed craniocerebral injury, brain concussion, soft tissue bruise of the hairy part of the head.

After the incident the woman turned for legal assistance to the local representative office of the Committee Against Torture. Upon the request of human rights defenders the video recording was subjected to expert examination. The expert came to the following conclusion: «analyzing the obtained results of the provided video recording examination it can be established that the man (Special Police Force officer Lebedev – hereinafter – note by the Committee Against Torture) hits the girl (Ekaterina Zaitseva) with a truncheon on the head. Since the above-mentioned blow was on the head the experts rule out the possibility that the blow was made against the helmet which the girl held in her right arm».

(Scanned page of the expert examination)

However, the police officer was not brought to trial. Only in a few weeks investigators of the Investigative Committee, which the victim applied to, managed to turn her into a suspect (later on she was nevertheless qualified as a witness). Special Police Force officer Lebedev submitted a counter statement, stating that the woman, allegedly, constituted a hazard to his life and health. In his explanations Lebedev specified that he used the truncheon lawfully since he hit the shoulder not the head. This wording was taken up by the officers of the investigative department of the Investigative Committee of Nizhny Novgorod, who earnestly repeated it in their refusals to initiate criminal proceedings.

Lawyers of the Committee Against Torture, having conducted a public inquiry, came to the conclusion that violence was used against Zaitseva unlawfully, which is verified by the expert examination report of the video recording of the incident, as well as, indirectly, by eye-witnesses’ evidence. The Investigative Committee investigator’s referring to the federal law «On police» for justifying Lebedev’s actions is, in fact, groundless, since the above-mentioned law does not allow using impact munition in order to retain the entrusted property.

However, human rights defenders failed to bring the police officer to responsibility at the domestic level, and on 26 January 2015 they lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Ekaterina Zaitseva. Now this complaint is communicated: the court asked the Russian authorities questions regarding how Zaitseva obtained her injuries and whether the state performed an efficient investigation of her complaint as the domestic level.

“In the course of communication, the European Court, joining Zaitseva’s complaint with five others, pointed out a huge number of refusals to initiate criminal proceedings and absence of evaluation of proportionality of the force applied by the police officers against the applicants, – lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Ekaterina Vanslova comments. – Unfortunately, brutal treatment by police officers during the realization by the citizens of their freedom of assembly turns into a system-level problem of Russia. Not only participants of street actions are beaten up, but even journalists. At the same time it is practically impossible to bring them to responsibility for their actions during public events even with so many witnesses available. Investigators just don’t take the applicator’ theories of events seriously and refuse to open a criminal case against the police officers. A large number of complaints with regard to the events of 2012 in Moscow were submitted, there are already passed rulings in favor of the applicants. Now the ECHR will express its view on the violation of rights of the woman from Nizhny Novgorod”.

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