The European Court is going to look into the case of Nizhny Novgorod policemen and members of voluntary people's patrol


07 October 2014

Lawyers of the INGO «Committee Against Torture» have lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on behalf of Evgeniy Smirnov from Nizhny Novgorod. As we have already reported, he claimed that he had been severely beaten by police officers and members of voluntary people’s patrol last year. Due to unconcealed reluctance of the official bodies to investigate this case at the national level, it’s time for the Strasbourg judges to answer the eternal Russian questions: who is to blame and what to do. 


In summer of 2013 the office of the INGO «Committee Against Torture» in Nizhny Novgorod received an application from 24-year old Evgeniy Smirnov from Nizhny Novgorod. According to the young man’s words, on 3 of July, when he was strolling around his place with his girlfriend, he noticed some acquaintances and wanted to say hello. In several minutes time six men approached them, two of them were police officers in uniform, others – members of voluntary people’s patrol, who started to patrol the streets of Nizhny Novgorod only recently. One of them, without explaining his reasons, caught Evgeniy’s arm and tried to put an armlock on him. Evgeniy, in his turn, attempted to find out the reasons of what was going on, however, he was knocked down on the ground, his hands got tied up with a belt (apparently, no other «special equipment» was available within reach), and he received numerous punches in the face. 

According to Smirnov, neither he nor his mates showed any resistance or provoked the police officers, but the battery lasted for about three minutes and was accompanied by curses of the policemen.

Soon after that all the detained were taken to police office No.8 of police department No. 1 of Avtozavodskiy district of Nizhny Novgorod. There Smirnov felt bad (which was no surprise, taking into account the character of his injuries, and he was transported to the municipal clinical hospital No.40 where the police officers handed him over to the doctors and left. Medical workers made an X-ray image of the victim and detected the following injuries to his body: closed nasal fracture, bruises, numerous abrasions and bruises all over the body. Numerous bodily injuries were also registered the following day based on results of Smirnov’s forensic medical examination.

Evgeniy, being outraged by what happened to him, applied to the Prosecutor’s Office and the Investigative Committee. But neither presence of confirmed bodily injuries nor evidence of impartial witnesses (that is, the ones that did not take part in the detention) motivated the investigators to at least open a criminal case. Investigative Department for Avtozavodskiy District of Nizhny Novgorod of the Investigative Committee of RF issued five refusals to initiate criminal proceedings. Furthermore, when the police officers learned that Smirnov applied a complaint against them, they filed counter-claims, in which they accused Smirnov of insulting. As a result he was convicted by the Avtozavodskiy District Court of Nizhny Novgorod for insulting of representatives of authority and was sentenced to a RUB 10 000 fine.

Albert Kuznetsov, the inspector of Investigative Department of Nizhny Novgorod office of The Committee Against Torture, comments on the situation: «In our opinion, all the objective evidence of using violence against Smirnov are collected, however, the criminal case has not been opened. In the course of the pre-investigation inquiry the investigator even failed to provide the assessment of the actions of the police officers and of the members of the voluntary people’s patrol. In his successive refusals to open a criminal case he just repeatedly copied the explanations of the parties, adding in the end a couple of set phrases. His orders do not contain any conclusions, generalizations, deductions that would allow understanding why he had confidence in explanations by some people, but rejected the words of others entirely. The investigator does not pay any attention to serious contradictions in the evidence provided by the police officers and the members of the voluntary people’s patrol about the circumstances of the event. This is a work made by a secretary or a file clerk rather than by a highly-qualified executive officer. In 2013 the same drawbacks were pointed out by the Avtozavodskiy District Court in his decision on quashing the refusals to open a criminal case, but the investigator did not take the judge’s opinion in consideration next time, during issuing another refusal. Unfortunately, in such circumstances it is impossible to find justice nearer than in Strasbourg, that is why we decided to apply to the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Evgeniy Smirnov».

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