New court judgment in the case on Sergey Titorov’s death after battery in the police in 2010 has again come as an unexpected development. On 28 May 2013 the Nizhny Novgorod Regional Court of Appeals modified conviction passed by the Sarov City Court of Nizhny Novgorod region against two former district police officers of the Main Department of Internal Affairs of Sarov. The ruling of the lower court that the accused had committed crime under article 111 (4) of the Criminal Code (infliction of a grave injury which involved the death of the victim) was found unlawful. Therefore, a punishment was imposed only pursuant to article 286 (3) of CC RF (exceeding official powers). Sergey Belokobylskiy’s sentence was reduced from 13 to 3.5 years in prison. Aleksandr Shyukin’s sentence was reduced from 5 to 3 years in prison. Taking into account the pre-sentence custody, the accused Belokobylskiy will soon be set free. Human rights defenders believe this judgment not only to be a blow to the reputation of the Prosecutor’s Office, but also to discredit the notion of the rule of law in society.
(Photo: Sergey Titorov)
On 25 January 2011 Sergey Titorov’s sister Olesya Kurnikova applied to human rights defenders for help. In the course of public investigation carried out by the INGO “Committee against Torture” it was established that on 6 August 2010 policemen beat up Sergey Titorov cruelly, firstly at his place, and then at the police station, urging him to sing an administrative offense record. The Committee lawyers found out that the man had not in fact committed the offense.
An investigator from the Investigative Committee came to a similar conclusion. The police officers hit and kicked the man many times in different parts of his body, including vital organs. The battery resulted in numerous external wounds, three fractured ribs and splenic rupture.
On 7 August 2010 the trooper, who had participated in military operations and possessed military awards, who was wounded during his military service in Kirovabad, died in hospital critical care unit from hemorrhagic shock due to acute blood loss caused by splenic rupture.
The Sarov City Court delivered judgments in this case twice. In 2011 the both accused were acquitted. In 2012 Sergey Belokobylskiy was sentenced to 4 years in prison. On both occasions the judgments were reversed after appeals to the Court of Cassation filed by lawyers of the Committee against Torture, who represented the victim’s interests, and by the Prosecutor’s Office of Sarov city.
The Head of the Investigation Department of the INGO “Committee against Torture” comments on the decision of the Nizhny Novgorod Regional Court: “We are deeply dissatisfied with this appellate decision. I believe it is a hard blow to the reputation of the Prosecutor’s Office and the Regional Investigative Committee. This decision has come up unexpectedly to us, and it triggers lots of questions. The investigator collected irrevocable evidence of Shukin and Belokobylskiy’s guilt. The Prosecutor fully endorsed the IC’s arguments.
The first instance court three times examined all the evidence. In the end their guilt was proved beyond reasonable doubt, and the court passed just sentences. I am sure that the Regional Court judgment challenges the principle of inevitability of criminal liability for torture, and also subjects the victims to extra mental suffering.
Just sentences for State officials are indispensable to provide public confidence in the rule of law. They as well prevent society from suspecting state bodies either of conspiracy, or of turning a blind eye to unlawful acts. According to participants in this process, the appeal hearing lasted for 10 minutes. That appeared to be enough for the judges to examine all the numerous files of the criminal proceedings.
We will, for sure, appeal against this sentence before the Court of Cassation as soon as we examine the transcript of the appellate hearing and receive the appellate decision. If the Court of Cassation upholds these sentences, we will have to apply to the European Court of Human Rights which has many times found that, passing too lenient sentences for State officials, the State cultivates the atmosphere of impunity in law enforcement bodies, instead of emphasizing that acts of the sort are impermissible”.