The European Court of Human Rights put questions to Russia concerning tortures of an Orenburg citizen in 2006

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29 July 2014

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has communicated the complaint lodged by lawyers of the Committee Against Torture on behalf of Oleg Elchaninov from Orenburg. Strasbourg judges put a number of questions to Russia, and also obliged the state to provide the ECHR with all the materials related to the case.

As we previously have reported, on 3 September 2007 local citizen Oleg Elchaninov applied to Orenburg office of INGO «The Committee Against Torture» for legal assistance. He told the human rights defenders that on 2 December 2006 he was detained on suspicion of rape. After that Elchaninov was taken to Leninsky District Department of Interior of Orenburg city where four police officers interrogated him.

According to Oleg, the police officers of this department started beating out confessions which they needed: at first, one of the police officers hit him two times on the back with a baseball bat, after that they put a plastic bag on his head and repeatedly blocked air access, kicked him in the chest, hit his face against the table… Elchaninov recounts that tortures continued for about a day, but he never incriminated himself.

Next day at about midnight the police officers took Elchaninov to hospital where he was examined by doctors who registered numerous injuries: injured brow, abrasions on the chest, right shoulder, right cheek, right and left thighs, back, right buttock, around both eyes, bruise of the left supraorbital ridge, bruises of the left eyelid.

After Oleg was examined by the doctors he was taken to the Temporary containment cell of Orenburg where his injuries were also registered. On demand of the judge these facts were also included in the court records of Elchaninov’s bail hearing.

While remaining in Temporary containment cell Oleg lodged a complaint with the prosecutor’s office about the crime committed against him, indicating names of three police officers who took part in his battery. No response followed. Another application to the supervising authority was filed by the human rights defenders in December 2007 (in May of that year Elchaninov was convicted to seven years of imprisonment).

The enquiry based on this application was performed extremely inefficiently: within 4 years 5 identical refusals to initiate criminal proceedings were issued, they differed from one another only in the date of their issuing. The investigative authorities completely ignored Elchaninov’s medical record, providing evidence of his injuries. The man wasn’t even questioned about the facts described in his application, no witnesses or police officers that Elchaninov identified were interrogated, no crime scene examination was conducted. Bureaucratic delays in this case resulted in expiry of the letter of attorney issued by Elchaninov to human rights defenders for representation of his interests in law-enforcement agencies and courts. For a long time officers of the penal institution where Elchaninov was hold in detention unlawfully prevented him from authorizing the letters of attorney. Thus the citizen from Orenburg was left without legal assistance from human rights defenders for a long time (over six months), which had a negative impact on the progress of the inquiry based on his application. Eventually the letter of attorney for Elchaninov was authorized by the head of the colony but the time was lost.

Having exhausted all domestic remedies at the national level in March 2012 human rights defenders had to lodge a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. In the end of June 2014 this complaint was communicated.

In particular, Strasbourg judges posed the following questions to RF authorities: was the applicant subjected to tortures? Was effective investigation conducted based on his complaint, including whether the investigators performing the inquiry were independent from the investigators who were on the case related to the applicant himself?

In addition, the European Court of Human Rights was interested in the legitimacy of applicant’s arrest in December 2006, as well as whether Elchaninov was explained his rights, when he was provided with advocate, and when his relatives were informed about his arrest.
Russian authorities have also been compelled to provide the Court with all the materials related to the case.