The European Court posed questions to Russia based on complaints from two citizens of Orenburg against torture


04 July 2017

The European Court of Human Rights communicated two complaints applied by human rights defenders Pavel Seliverstov and Aleksandr Bogdanov, who complained against torture and failed to achieve effective investigation to be conducted by the Russian law-enforcement authorities. 

(Pavel Seliverstov)

As we have previously reported, on 24 December 2012 mother of the defendant Pavel Seliverstov Valentina Mikhailovna applied to Orenburg office of the Committee Against Torture. She told that prior to being put to the punitive confinement in penal colony No.4 of Orenburg her son was brutally beaten up. Because of this battery his rib was broken, which punched through Pavel’s lung and nearly got him killed. On the same day, Valentina Mikhailovna applied to investigative authorities with a crime report. In the beginning of January when Pavel recovered from surgery a little, he also lodged a similar complaint. However, for some reason the investigative authorities were not in a hurry to start working: for example, the crime report check was started two weeks later, and not immediately, as the law requires it.

But even having initiated the criminal case only two months after the incident, the Investigative Committee officers continued to systematically violate the rights of the defendant, regarding which the lawyers of the international legal protection of the Committee Against Torture lodged a complaint to the European Court of the Human Rights.

As a result, over two years four investigators changed in this criminal case, which was dismissed twice. First time, due to human rights defenders and high interest of the public, this decision was deemed illegal and the case was transferred to the first department for major crimes of the Investigative Department under the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for Orenburg region. However, the second similar procedural decision passed on 10 November 2014, was declared legal by the courts of the first and the appellate instances.

“We think that the investigation did not consider a lot of factors which are important for establishment of truth. For example, the investigators did not seize the surveillance cameras which should feature either how Pavel fell from the stairs, or his battery buy the officers of the Federal Penitentiary Service, – lawyer with the Committee for the Prevention of Torture Timur Rakhmatulin says. – They did not seize the video record from the event data recorder which is attached to the ammunition of the punitive confinement duty officer, who was present on the day when Pavel suffered bodily injuries, and who, according to Pavel, was watching his battery. Other investigative activities were not performed either, numerous contradictions were not eliminated”.

As a result, after the criminal case against the Penitentiary Service officers was closed, Pavel was charged under Article 306 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“false denunciation”). Although the statute of limitations for this article by the time of court hearing had already expired, Pavel insisted on the case to be examined, hoping to prove that he did not perform false denunciation. On 13 March 2015, the court passed a judgement of conviction, having sentenced Pavel to one year of prison term and releasing him from serving the sentence due to the expiry of the statute of limitations. 

In a year after that, on 16 March 2016, Pavel Seliverstov died. At the moment lawyers of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture represent the interests of his mother at the European Court of Human Rights. 

The second case, communicated by the ECHR, is related to the case happened to Aleksandr Bogdanov. 

(Aleksandr Bogdanov)

According to Aleksandr Bogdanov, in October 2011 he was subjected to severe battery and unbearable torture by the police in Orenburg police department № 3. As the victim recalls, the tortures involved choking using plastic bags, beating with a clasped palm and wiping with a boot’s heel, hanging the victim between the tables on a baseball bat in the «suitcase» pose, threatening with sexual violence. Tortures ended after 39 hours when Bogdanov agreed to confess of his acquaintance’s murder. 

On the next day Aleksandr was examined by a forensic medical examiner who registered the hematomas of soft tissues, bruises, abrasions and hemorrhages. On the following day in the course of the bail hearing of the Dzerzhinskiy District Court Bodganov resiled from his confessions obtained under torture.
On 27 October 2011 the crime report was lodged with the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of RF for Orenburg region based on the fact of battery by the police. A little bit later Bogdanov’s brother Denis, and later on Aleksandr himself (already from the place of detention, as in November 2012 he was found guilty of murder and convicted to 9.5 years of imprisonment) applied to the Committee Against Torture with request to conduct a public investigation and render legal support in the case of Aleksandr’s torture by the police. 

During the pre-trial investigation the officers of the investigative department issued six refusals to initiate criminal proceedings, which were subsequently quashed either in the exercise of supervisory powers, or as a result of complaints and applications, lodged by the lawyers of the Committee Against Torture. 

On 10 July this year the Orenburg Regional Court put a period to the investigation of the events happened to Bogdanov in the police department at the national level, when it refused to review on the merits the complaint against another refusal of the investigators to open a criminal case. 

Having exhausted all domestic remedies available for protection of Aleksandr Bogdanov, lawyers working with the Committee Against Torture lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights on his behalf.

“The European Court of Human Rights, having communicated the complaints of Pavel Seliverstov and Aleksandr Bogdanov, posed the following questions to the Russian Federation: whether the applicants were subjected to tortures or inhuman or degrading treatment, whether the authorities presented a credible and convincing explanation to how the applicants received bodily injuries, whether the effective investigation was conducted by the authorities, – lawyer of the international legal protection department of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture Ekatetrina Vanslova comments. – After we receive the responses of the Russian authorities, we will also present our arguments to the European Court”. 

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