The European Court is going to examine the complaint of a woman from Nizhny Novgorod concerning the death of her husband


13 February 2015

Lawyers of Interregional non-governmental organization «The Committee Against Torture» lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Elena Shaposhnikova from Nizhny Novgorod who failed to attain effective investigation of her husband’s death at a police center in 2011 at the national level. The case is remarkable due to the fact that Elena’s brother Evgeny Lysenko had spent ten months charged with murder of his brother-in-law, however the charges against him were dropped, he was released and received 600 thousand rubles as compensation.

(Photo: Evgeny Shaposhnikov)

On 27 October 2011 Elena Shaposhnikova from Kovernino settlement of Nizhny Novgorod region applied to Nizhny Novgorod office of INGO «The Committee Against Torture» for legal support. 

According to Elena, everything started from a domestic conflict which took place on 5 October 2011. Her husband Evgeny, who had too much to drink, was about to make a row, but the applicant’s brother Evgeny Lysenko attempted to bring him to reason and hit his brother-in-law twice in the face. The police was called in and took the head of the family to the police center. At the first glance it seems just one of many insignificant stories which happen all the time. However, on the next day, as Elena told the human rights defenders, police officer Tulupov came to her work and informed her that her husband died of heart attack in his cell. She was not allowed to see the body. 

On 7 October Elena Shaposhnikova and Evgeny Lysenko were interrogated by investigators: after the circumstances of the recent family conflict became known, Lysenko became a very convenient suspect in committing murder. As a result Lysenko had spent 10 months in a pre-trial detention center, until the latest in a series of forensic medical examinations proved that hits performed by him in the course of the family row could not have resulted in death. It was established by the expert that Shaposhnikov was subjected to at least 14 traumatic impacts. All injuries were blunt traumas and could be performed with fisticuffs, notably the man received at least 6 traumatic impacts in the facial area. 

As a result on 2 November 2012 the court passed a ruling on termination of Lysenko’s criminal prosecution, having noted that the investigation should check the theory of Lysenko’s defense suggested that Shaposhnikov could die from bodily harm which he received at the police center. 

The wife of the deceased also insisted on checking this theory – a year before, on 19 October 2011 she applied to the Prosecutor’s Office of Koverninsky District with a statement about her husband’s death. Later the application was transferred to Gorodetsky Interregional Investigative Department of the Investigative Department of the Russian Federation for Nizhny Novgorod region. This application indicated the possibility that Shaposhnikov received bodily injuries at the police center. 

However in three years criminal case based on the fact of the man’s death at the police center was never opened, despite all the efforts of lawyers of the Committee Against Torture, who appealed against unlawful refusals to initiate criminal proceedings issued by Gorodetsky Interregional Investigative Department.

Based on the European Court of Human Right’s practice when successive refusals to initiate criminal proceedings by investigators are almost exact copies of the previous ones and practically no work on the case is performed, lawyers of the Committee Against Torture had to resort to «big guns» – lodging a complaint to the Strasbourg court. 

The Committee Against Torture public investigations inspector Evgeny Chilikov, who represents Elena Shaposhnikova’s interests, comments on this case: «Unfortunately, we see that the investigative authorities, going along the path of least resistance, sent an innocent man to prison in a speedy fashion, at the same time during these three years we haven’t seen any willingness to investigate real causes of the man’s death, in which the police officers may be involved. We would like to hope that lodging this complaint with the European Court will add the necessary momentum to the investigators’ work, a thorough investigation will be performed and the guilty parties will be punished»

«We think that in this case the state violated several articles of the European Convention at once – «Right to life», «Prohibition of torture» and «Right to an effective remedy». For example, declaring the refusal to initiate criminal proceedings to be unlawful and groundless, and subsequent issuing the identical decree by the investigator deprived the applicant from the possibility to use the judicial means of legal protection and created a vicious circle, where the applicant found herself in a situation when she could not possibly influence either the course of the investigation or its quality, – emphasizes consultant on international law of the Committee Against Torture Ekaterina Vanslova. – In addition, in the course of the investigation the state authorities did not provide any satisfactory and convincing explanation of Shaposhnikov’s death, which would be consistent with the results of the medical forensic examination and the testimony of witnesses who saw the man prior to his detention. Besides, such a prolonged and unexplainable delay of this case investigation not only demonstrates that the authorities did not take actions at their own initiative, but amounts to violation of the state obligation in relation to the quality of the conducted investigation».

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