Yesterday, 26 August 2021, the period of limitations for bringing to criminal responsivity the police officers who were torturing Yury Zontov from Orenburg in 2011, expired. Lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Timur Rakhmatulin points out that for 10 years the Investigative Committee failed to fulfil its obligation to conduct an effective investigation. Even if the guilty of Yury’s tortures are established, none of them will be punished.
In September 2011, Yury Zontov applied to the Committee Against Torture. He told the human rights defenders that on 27 August he was taken to the police department No.4 for Orenburg city, where the police officers started to force him to confess of stealing a cell phone and a golden necklace. The police officers were beating him, hitting his feet with rubber truncheons, and strangling him with a plastic bag till he passed out. Having yielded to tortures, Yury signed the full confession. Later the bodily injuries were registered when Yury was transferred to the temporary detention facility (IVS) and to a pre-trial detention center (SIZO): multiple extravasations, bruises on the face and the body.
On 30 September 2011, lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Sergey Babinets submitted a crime report to the Investigative Department for Orenburg. During the pre-trial investigation 20 dismissals to initiate criminal case were issued, 19 of which were subsequently quashed at the initiative of the human rights defenders as illegal and ungrounded.
For almost three years, human rights defenders exhausted all domestic remedies aimed at restoring Yury’s rights at the national level.
After in 2014 human rights defenders lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (the ECHR), the Investigative Committee opened a case on abuse of office. On the next day, this ruling was quashed. In the opinion of Acting District Prosecutor Vladimir Lugovin, Zontov received bodily injuries, allegedly, as a result of wrestling techniques used by the police officers during apprehension.
In May 2017, the ECHR established violations of Article 3 of the Convention: the applicant was subjected to tortures and this fact was not efficiently investigated. With regard to this Zontov was awarded a compensation for moral damage in the amount of 45 000 euro.
Due to unsatisfactory investigation of the case on Yury Zontov’s tortures, on 10 October 2019, human rights defenders submitted an application to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe requesting to pose questions to representatives of the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of Russia on execution of the ruling of the European Court with relation to Zontov’s application. The representatives of the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of Russia will have to describe what has been done by the Russian Federation and what it intends to do in future to fully restore the violated rights of Yury Zontov, and the ruling of the ECHR passed in 2017, is executed fully.
However, on 9 January 2020, investigator Azamar Zhamansariyev dismissed the criminal case for the fourth time. The subsequent appealing against this ruling did not bring any result – on 4 May 2021, judge of the Supreme Court of the RF Dmitry Saburov refused to transfer the cassation appeal for review during the court hearing.
On 24 December 2020, the Orenburg regional court awarded Yury 50,000 rubles as a compensation for violating the reasonable period for criminal proceedings based on his complaint about police torture in 2011.
Due to the fact that on 26 August 2021, the period of limitations or bringing to criminal responsibility the persons who tortured Yury Zontolv expired, no one will be punished for this crime.
“Our country without a fail executes the rulings of the European Court in the part of payments of compensations for moral damage for experienced tortures. At the same time, it almost never executes the rulings with regard to conducting effective investigation of such applications, – lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Timur Rakhmatulin comments. – The law-enforcement system needs to focus on effective investigation, which should be prompt, thorough, objective and impartial. Otherwise, tortures will remain a serious system-based problem, discrediting the law-enforcement, as well as undermining the confidence of people with the state, as a whole”.