The Prosecutor’s Office of the Nizhny Novgorod region refused to resume the check of application submitted by Semen Sbornov, who complained that in 2013 the police officers forced him to confess by applying tortures. Previously, the UN Committee on Human Rights acknowledged that Sbornov was subjected to police torture and that no effective investigation was performed with this regard. Due to this, the UN obliged our country to quash the verdict of Sbornov and perform an effective investigation of his torture complaint as well as to compensate the damage he was incurred. Human rights defenders will be appealing against the ruling of the Prosecutor’s Office.
As we have previously reported, on 22 May 2013 Semen Sbornov applied to the Committee Against Torture for legal assistance. At that time, he was under investigation at pre-trial detention center SIZO-3. Semen told the human rights defenders that on 22 January 2013 he was detained in Kstovsky District of the Nizhny Novgorod region by police officers. They told Semen that he was suspected of the battery of his acquaintance who subsequently succumbed to injuries.
That is how the applicant himself described his further stay in the police department: «A police officer closed the door of the office and his colleague started to hit me with a baseball bat in the areas of feet and arms. After that they handcuffed me, tied my feet and drew a rope between them. They bent me down so that it was hard for me to breathe. At the same time, they were beating me in the area of spine and kidneys, demanding to confess to the crime that I had not committed. Having yield to torture I agreed to sign the confession under dictation of the police officers».
In the course of public investigation conducted by lawyers of the Committee Against Torture some medical documents were obtained which revealed that Semen Sbornov underwent treatment in the Central Hospital of Kstovo, were he was diagnosed with head soft tissue bruises, arms bruises. A forensic expert in his report dated 5 November 2013 pointed out that Sbornov’s injuries may have been caused by blow of a hard blunt object (or objects), including arms and a baseball bat.
About ten witnesses questioned by human rights defenders and the Investigative Committee investigators mentioned Semen’s bodily injuries, however, the investigative authorities who performed the check based on the fact of these injuries did not subsequently provide any assessment of these circumstances. Three times the investigators issued refusals to initiate criminal proceedings with regard to Sbornov’s application, which were subsequently quashed based on human rights’ defenders’ complaints.
On 7 May 2014 the Kstovsky City Court of the Nizhny Novgorod region declared Semen Sbornov guilty of committing a crime under p.4 of Article 111 (intended infliction of severe personal injury) of the Criminal Code of Russia and sentenced him to seven years’ prison term. On 15 October 2018 Sbornov was released on parole.
In June 2015, human rights defenders submitted an individual message in defense of Semen Sbornov’s rights to the UN Human Rights Committee.
Lawyer of the Committee Against Torture Sergey Romanov, representing the interests of Semen Sbornov, pointed out at that time: «For two times the battery complaint check was conducted by the same investigator who was in charge of the criminal case in relation to Sbornov. This contradicts to the standard of objectiveness, the investigator quite obviously was not interested in investigating the torture of Sbornov, since it would put a question mark in relation to the evidence collected in the case. In our complaint we have pointed at this outrageous fact».
On 9 April 2020, human rights’ defenders received a ruling from the UN Human Rights Committee on the case of Semen Sbornov. The international authority acknowledged that Sbornov was subjected to police torture and there was no effective investigation conducted with this regard.
In particular, the ruling stated: “State-participant (Russia – editorial comment) is obliged, among other things, to perform the corresponding actions in order to: a) conduct a thorough and effective investigation with regard to claims of the author (Sbornov – editorial comment) concerning tortures and in case they are confirmed, to subject the guilty party to prosecution, court and punishment; b) to release the author, cancel the verdicts of the court of the first instance, perform the new court examination observing all the guarantees of the fair trial; and с) provide the author with an adequate compensation for committed violations. The state-participant is obliged to take all necessary steps to prevent such violations in future”.
On 11 June 2020, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture applied to the Kstovo City Prosecutor’s Office with an application on resuming the check of Sbornov’s application concerning tortures due to new circumstances – the ruling of an international authority.
On 26 June 2020, human rights defenders received a response from Acting Deputy of the Kstovo Prosecutor Stanislav Stravinskas, refusing to resume a check with regard to Sbornov’s police torture complaint, because, in the opinion of the Prosecutor’s Office, the considerations accepted by the UN Human Rights Committee, are not provided by the criminal and procedural legislation as new circumstances.
Later on, City Prosecutor Vladimir Vasen’kin declared this ruling to be legal, that is why lawyers with the Committee Against Torture continued to appeal against it to the regional Prosecutor’s Office.
Today, on 9 November 2020, human rights defenders received an answer from Deputy Prosecutor of the Nizhny Novgorod region Andrey Galyenko, in which he agreed with his colleagues from Kstovo and dismissed the claim to resume checking Sbornov’s police torture complaint.
“Despite the fact that in our complaints we refer to the position of the Constitutional Court of Russia, in accordance with which, our country, as a participant of the International Treaty, is obliged to adequately react to the observations of the UN Human Rights Committee, the Prosecutor’s Office staff consider the dismissal of a claim to resume checking Sbornov’s police torture complaint to be legal, – lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Yuliya Osipova comments. – We strongly disagree with this and we will appeal against this dismissal with the superior Prosecutor demanding to substantiate this position taking into account the position of the Constitutional Court of Russia”.
It is worth noting that on 5 October 2020, the Russian authorities representatives submitted a notification on challenging the fact of Sbornov’s providing evidence under torture to the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. By 15 February 2021, lawyers with the Committee Against Torture will also submit their position concerning these objections.