The European Court has decided to deal with torture cases “wholesale”


21 September 2011

The European Court has at once started proceedings under 6 torture applications from 4 Russian regions filed by the Committee Against Torture.

Mariy El resident Suren Ovakimyan was detained by the police in Yoshkar-Ola in September 2007. According to Suren, police agents seized him right in the city centre and without any explanations put a sack on his head and pushed him into a car. He was taken outside the city area and beaten. Suren was also tortured with electrocution. Later he was taken to the Prosecutor’s Office where the police suggested that he should confess to committing a crime. When he refused to do so, the police again drove Suren outside Yoshkar-Ola where they threw him into a pit and started choking with a tow-rope. That time Suren had to accept the proposal of the police. 5 refusals to instigate criminal proceedings were issued under Mr. Ovakimyan’s application.

Nizhny Novgorod resident Sergey Gorschuk applied to the Committee Against Torture in 2008 complaining about ill-treatment by officers of the Kanavinsky District Directorate of the Interior of Nizhny Novgorod. A 30 minute “conversation” with law enforcers resulted in bruises and abrasions for Gorschuk. There were 4 refusals to instigate criminal proceedings issued under his application.

Once in February 2005, 17-year old Orsk (Orenburg region) resident Alexander Andreyev was summoned to the local police station together with his father. According to Alexander, an operative investigator tried to make him cooperate with the investigation and promised to “lock him up” in case of refusal. Having failed to find common language with Alexander, the investigator ordered his father to leave the room, took Alexander to a different police department and started beating him together with his colleagues, demanding that Andreyev should plead guilty to an unsolved crime.  The police tied up Alexander’s hands and feet together and hung him on an iron bar. He spent ten minutes in such a position feeling severe pain. He was also beaten in a regular fashion – with hands and legs.  As a result, Alexander was hospitalized with a concussion and head contusions. Criminal proceedings on the allegations of tortures of a minor have not been instigated.

Sergey Lyapin was detained by officers of the Volodarsky District Department of Internal Affairs of Nizhny Novgorod region on suspicion of theft committed in spring 2008. The police did not think long of what to do with the detainee. First, they withdrew his personal belongings and then suggested that he should meet operative investigator K. who demonstrated Lyapin all his “ingenuity”: he took a rope looking like a tow-rope (a synthetic one), made Lyapin sit down on the floor, passed the rope through his handcuffs and then wound it around Lyapin’s neck and legs, so that his head appeared squeezed between his legs. After that K. started pressing Lyapins legs and back in turn forcing him down. The officer entertained himself in that way for an hour approximately, then he untied Sergey, cuffed his hands at the front and led him to a cell. However, Lyapin did not stay in the cell long, as another operational investigator (S.) arrived at the police department and also wanted to meet the “newcomer”. S. was not so inventive and repeated the procedure designed by his colleague. However, he did not confine himself only to that and proposed to subject Sergey to electrocution. Sergey fainted several times, and the current left burns on his hands. When the police got tired, they took the detainee to the cell. Several hours later they remembered about him and brought him back to the room he had already been to. There were around 6 police officers waiting for Lyapin, each of them approached Sergey and asked him questions about the circumstances of various crimes.  One of the officers who introduced himself as “Maroon Beret” kicked Sergey in the solar plexus and struck in the ribs on the left.  There were 8 refusals to instigate criminal proceedings under Sergey Lyapin’s case.    

On March 17, 2006 Zaindy Ayubov was abducted from his home in Grozny. No one saw Zaindy after that. On April 14, 2006 Iman Ayubova (Zaindy’s mother) applied to the Committee Against Torture with a request for public investigation into the fact of her son’s abduction. It has been 5 years since Zaindy Ayubov was abducted, but his relatives do not have any information about his fate or location. His wife sought medical assistance because she is experiencing moral and psychological sufferings: she often cries, suffers from insomnia, has depression and nervous breakdown symptoms which are the consequence of her sufferings in connection with her husband’s disappearance and worries about him. She is haunted by the feelings of fear and helplessness in respect of law enforcers, and the family has also lost the breadwinner and is now financially impaired. There are 4 children in Zaindy’s family. The children also have some symptoms, and namely, wakeful and restless sleep, fear and anguish at the sight of armed people and people in uniform. The investigation into Zaindy Ayubov’s disappearance has not brought about any results.

Sarov (Nizhny Novgorod region) resident Sergey Fartushin was detained by officers of the Sarov Directorate of the Interior in 2008. According to Sergey, the head of the local Criminal Investigation Department and his subordinate spent the whole night trying to obtain a confession to stealing cars from him by means of ill-treatment.  At the same time, his detention in the Directorate of the Interior was not documented and he was detained on remand only the following day. Criminal proceedings under Sergey’s application have not been instigated.

Upon the whole, September 19, 2011 was a day rich in communicated torture and enforced disappearance cases. Besides the aforementioned applications, the ECtHR also started proceedings under 28 Chechen cases and several torture cases from St-Petersburg, Ukhta and Voronezh. It must be noted that all applicants lodged their application rather recently.  The facts of all cases are rather similar, as we can see. Perhaps, this means that the ECtHR reform has started bearing fruit. The court has begun adjudicating on similar cases much quicker which allows us to be optimistic.  However, if we analyze the cases from different Russian regions communicated by the ECtHR on September 19, we may see that all of them feature sabotage of the investigation. Evident crimes have either not been investigated at all, or investigated ineffectively. Unfortunately, this prompts that the European Court will have to continue trying piles of analogous torture cases in the future.

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