The officials who are to blame that Russia has again lost the police torture case in the European Court of Human Rights


09 October 2014

This week the European Court of Human Rights (the ECHR) passed a ruling in cases of two Russians who suffered from police torture and inefficient investigation of these incidents. It involves Sergey Gorschuk  and Sergey Fartushin from Nizhny Novgorod, who at various times applied to the Committee Against Torture for legal assistance. In both of the cases the Strasbourg judges established the fact of the Russian Federation’s violation of the rights of its citizens and awarded compensations in amount of 17,000 and 30,000 euro, accordingly. Let us name the authorities through the fault of which our country has lost two torture cases in the ECHR again and will have to pay over three million roubles at the expense of the taxpayers.

Due to the fact that the investigative authorities (in 2007 and 2008 – that’s the Investigative Committee under the Prosecutor’s Office) did not conduct a timely and effective investigation of the applicants’ complaints against the police torture, we still don’t know the names of law-enforcement officers, guilty in committing grave crimes, and they still have not been convicted.

However, the facts of torture occur. That’s what the human rights defenders claimed seven years ago when they conducted their own public investigation, this was admitted by the Russian Federation in 2012, and lastly, this week it has been confirmed by the European Court of Human Rights with its decisions.

Thus, we still don’t know the names of the police officers who committed crimes, however, we know the names of the authorities through illegal actions of which the rights of Sergey Gorschuk and Sergey Fartushin were violated, and the Russian Federation has been yet again declared guilty of applying torture.

The case of Sergey Gorschuk.

In 2007 when Sergey Gorschuk filed a complaint about the use of illegal violence against him by the officers of the Criminal Investigations Department of the Department of Interior of the Kanavinsky District of Nizhny Novgorod, the material of the check, conducted by the investigator of the Investigative Department for the Kanavinsky Disctrict A.V.Smolyaninov, involved only the testimony of one of the police officers. However, this has not prevented the investigator from issuing the first illegal refusal to initiate criminal proceedings. This initial check set the tone for the whole subsequent inefficient official investigation that lingered for years. Numerous drawbacks of the check were not eliminated even during the change of the investigators (apart from Smolyaninov, investigators V.A.Mironov and A.A.Andreyev had a chance to work on the Gorschuk case). Prior to submittal of the complaint by the Committee Against Torture to the European Court of Human Rights not a single one of them established a severity level of the health damage inflicted to Sergey Gorschuk, despite the direct orders of the immediate superior – K.A.Fatekhov. The conducted check never involved questioning the witnesses of Sergey Gorschuk’s apprehension.

Head of the Kanavinsky Investigative Department Mr.Fatekhov, neglecting his direct duties, was not conducting adequate control of his subordinates and of the quality of their work; moreover, Fatekhov himself twice quashed the illegal procedural rulings of his investigators only after half a year after they had been passed.

Judges of all the instances, actually, legalized the conclusions of absolutely shallow pre-investigation check. The list of the authorities, who the Russian citizens owe another payoff for inefficient work of state authorities, include: judge of the Kanavinsky District S.A.Azova, who dismissed the complaint against the illegal and ungrounded refusal of the investigator to initiate the criminal case based on the fact of inflicting bodily injuries to Sergey Gorschuk, judges of the Nizhegorodsky Regional Court V.S.Myasnikova, D.V.Khodak, Yu.L.Kukhovanova and E.A.Pavlova, who in the cassational and supervisory authorities decided that the legal assessment of Groschuk’s statements about being subjected to torture shall be given in the framework of the criminal proceedings against him, and, surely, judge of the Kanavinsky District Court Zh.N.Berezina, passed a guilty verdict for Gorschuk, despite the availability of sufficient evidence of torture applied against him.

The Prosecutor’s office also contributed its share. Prosecutor of the Kanavinsky District of Nizhny Novgorod A.N.Yakovlev signed the indictment in Gorshuk’s case, and his assistant A.A.Belov supported the indictment in court, not paying any special attention to obvious violations of Sergey’s rights.

The case of Sergey Fartushin.

The preliminary check of Sergey Fartushin’s complaint against the police torture, which was repeatedly suspended and resumed, was obviously not corresponding to the criteria of effective investigation, developed by the European Court of Human Rights, and the rulings, passed based on its results, were clearly contradicting to the Russian criminal procedure legislation, as well. The fact that the investigators never even opened a torture case and did not perform the necessary investigative actions in its framework, eliminating all the contradictions, will subsequently play one of the key roles in the ECHR passing another ruling against Russia.

In the course of a year the officers of the Sarov Department of the Investigative Committee under the Prosecutor’s Office issued five refusals to initiate criminal proceedings which were subsequently quashed as illegal. However, the investigators repeatedly issued more refusals, without conducting specific checking activities, the necessity of which was pointed to them during the quashing of previous rulings. It is worth noting that according to the law passing procedural rulings is not permitted without execution of the previously given orders from the superiors.

Thus, the investigators did not assess the bodily damage inflicted to Fartushin, indicated in the forensic medical examination report, no reasonable explanation was provided as to the cause of such damage. During the check some objective medical data was obtained proving that Fartushin could develop the bodily damage while he was in the building of the Department of Interior of Sarov town. No evidence to the contrary (for example, that he could develop the injuries all by himself) was not provided by the investigation.

None of the persons, who shared the temporary detention cell with Fartushin in the building of the Department of Interior of Sarov town, and could clarify the condition of Fartushin on 6 May 2008, were questioned. The call log of emergency ambulance, which was called for Fartushin in the evening of the same day, was not included in the investigation materials.

During the pre-investigation check another typical situation developed: the police officers’ testimony against the testimony of the civilians. The testimony of the latter is often treated by the investigators in a rather critical way, and is called «subjective». However, the European Court has repeatedly stated that such approach was not acceptable, calling attention to the fact that it was the testimony of the police officers which is subjective, because it is them who are accused of torture and, obviously, has a motive to conceal this fact. But even the police officers explanations contained serious discrepancies: the questioned law-enforcement officers confused the date of Fartushin and his wife’s visit to the police department. These discrepancies have not been ever eliminated.

As a result, a clear subjectivism (or a complete negligence) of investigators of the Sarov town Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee under the Prosecutor’s Office I.Yu.Voronin, G.A.Kovalev, D.V.Anoshin, who conducted shallow and poor quality checks, as well as of head of this department V.V.Plaksin (whose direct duties involve timely checking and reversing of such rulings of his subordinates) served a fundamental cause for passing another ruling, tarring Russia’s reputation internationally.

Another cause for Sergey Fartushin’s application to the European Court was inappropriate work of Prosecutor of Sarov town Closed Administrative-Territorial Unit A.A.Karganov and his subordinates, under whose «supervision» the investigators’ illegal rulings were stamped.

And the following officials completed the chain of decisions, violating the rights of Sergey Fartushin: judge of the Sarovsky City Court A.V.Karpunkin, who did not reverse the last refusal of the investigators to initiate criminal proceedings, and after that – judges I.M.Sukhareva, V.A.Frolovicheva and A.I.Skvortsova, who upheld this decision.

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