On 29 June 2012 the Mari El Republic Higher Court upheld the judgment of the Sernur District Court that found the decision to close criminal proceedings concerning the suicide of minors after questioning at a police station in 2005 unlawful.
The tragic incident when three teenagers under 18 committed suicide happened in 2005. On March 3 they were detained by police officers of Sernur District Department of the Interior on suspicion of theft of rabbits from a household in Sernur town. As the policemen stated during the Prosecutor’s check, they had just had a conversation with the detained teenagers without putting any moral or physical pressure on them. During the talk the boys looked back on what they had done and, out of their own free will, showed the place where the stolen rabbits were hidden.
However, the boys told their relatives that their statements had been beaten out of them. After the confession statements they were again summoned to appear for interrogation. But they didn’t go. On the night of 8 to 9 March 2005 they all committed suicide. What had happened six days before during the interrogation, given that they preferred dreadful death to seeing the law enforcement agents again? It must be noted, that the questioning was arranged in breach of all the relevant laws, for neither relatives, nor teachers, nor any other legal representatives were invited.
Criminal proceedings were instituted basing on the death of the boys, but on 30 September 2005 they were closed. The investigation reached the conclusion that Artem together with his friends made the decision independently, with no outside pressure.
Having failed to attain justice with available domestic remedies, a mother of one of the teenagers, Elvira Kislitsina, supported with legal assistance from the Committee Against Torture, applied to the European Court of Human Rights.
At the beginning of 2011 the ECHR communicated the case to the Government and raised before Russia a number of questions concerning the situation. The respondent State acknowledged violations of the Conventional rights of the applicant and her son under articles 2, 3 and 13 (right to life, prohibition of torture and right to an effective remedy). The parties sighed a friendly settlement in which the applicant was to receive EUR 50 000 in respect of moral damage.
On 22 November 2011 the Committee Against Torture lawyers applied to the Sernursk District Prosecutor’s Office requesting to reopen criminal proceedings in this case that were closed in 2005. Nevertheless, even despite the admission of numerous violations and ineffective investigation by the Government, the Sernursk District Prosecutor’s Office and the Head of the Sernursk Interdistrict Investigating Department maintained their old position: the teenagers decided to commit suicide independently and there were no grounds for a criminal case to be opened.
The last unlawful decision to close criminal proceedings was issued by the Head of the Sernur Interdistrict Investigating Department of the Investigative Committee Mr. Vilyukov A. The Committee Against Torture lawyers appealed against this decision before court.
On 10 June 2013 the Sernur District Court agreed with the merits of the complaint and found the decision to close the case unlawful due to the failure to carry out all relevant investigative activities and to establish all the factual and procedural grounds for the decision. The court also noted that after each judicial quash of every new ungrounded decision to close criminal proceedings the investigating bodies repeated precisely those insufficient investigative actions they had limited themselves to before.
However, the Prosecutor for the Sernursk district Mr. Protasov A. appealed against this court decision before the Court of Appeals. Yesterday, on 29 July 2013 the Higher Court of the Mari El Republic upheld the decision of the Sernur District Court.
An expert in international law of the Committee Against Torture Anton Ryzhov comments on the situation as follows: “Two years ago Elvira Kislitsina abandoned her intention to continue the process before the ECHR which was evident to result in Judgment against Russia. Having learned that the Government, and the Minister of Justice in particular, had acknowledged the violations of her and her son’s rights, she was convinced that the local investigating authorities would at last carry out a diligent and effective investigation into the circumstances of the tragedy. But this hasn’t happened yet. The Investigative Committee is repeatedly closing the proceedings without employing new investigative actions. It is encouraging that the District and the Higher courts are firm in their legal opinion ordering the Investigative Committee to reopen the case. Thus, we still have a chance to restore justice and hold those responsible for the death of her son and his friends liable”.