The Quickly Initiated Criminal Investigation into Torture in the Nizhny Novgorod Police to End in the Convuction of the Guilty?


18 May 2012

Yesterday, it became known that the Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Avtozavodsky District of Nizhny Novgorod had initiated criminal proceedings against Nizami Gasanov and Elshan Zamanov, residents of Nizhny Novgorod, following     a fact of unlawful violence. The investigator qualified the actions by unknown police officers as bearing signs of the crime contemplated by §§ a, b, Pt.3. Art.286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, i.e. the commission by an official of actions which manifestly transcend the limits of his powers with the use of violence and non-lethal weapons. It should be noted that, given the Russian law-enforcement practices, this was rather a rapid response to reported torture: it took less then months 2 from the submission of the crime report.

Let us recall that a group of police officers broke into the Gasanovs’ house for search in the evening of March 2, 2012. According to the applicants, the police officers took Nizami Gasanov and Elshan Zamanov to the police department, where they used torture to force them to confess to a car theft. As a result of the search, electric tools and automobile parts had disappeared from the house; also, the police officers took away some food products: 15 l of vegetable oil, 10 kg of sugar, and 40 packs of yeast.
It should be noted that, despite the timely response to the crime report, an investigator of the Avtozavodsky District Investigation Department unlawfully denied Alexei Matasov, a lawyer from the Committee against Torture, a possibility to participate in the proceedings as the affected persons’ representative.
Alexei gave the following comment on the situation: “Often, investigators do not allow lawyers from the Committee against Torture to act as the affected persons’ representatives prior to the initiation of a criminal investigation. Alexei Yeremin, Chief Investigator in the Avtozavodsky District Department of the Investigative Committee, said on the telephone that he had surely rejected the respective request and mailed us a notice thereof. However, two weeks after that, we have not yet received his reply. We have already sent a complaint about the investigator’s unlawful inaction to the head of the investigative agency”.
Meanwhile, it should be reminded that in its decision of May 10, 2012 the Nizhny Novgorod Regional Court pointed out that the verification of a crime report was a constituent element of criminal proceedings and that at this phase the applicants were entitled to have a representative, who did not necessarily have to be a licensed defence attorney.
The Committee against Torture hopes that the investigative agencies’ heads will eventually pay their attention to the said court decision and preclude similar unlawful actions by subordinate officers in future. Also, human rights activists hope that in this case the persons guilty of torture will be identified in due time and receive appropriate punishments.

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