Yesterday the Sovetsky District Court of Nizhny Novgorod confirmed by its decision that the attempts to restrict the rights of a person concerning the choice of legal remedies are unconstitutional.
The Court agreed with the standpoint of the Committee Against Torture that a person could enjoy legal aid not only from his or her advocate. Thecourt’sdecisionwilladdextraremediestocitizens.
On 10 April 2007 federal judge of the Sovetsky District Court V.E. Bondarenko by his decision (p.1, p.2, p.3) acknowledged that the decision of refusal to uphold the complaint of Mr. D.E. Utukin, an expert of the Committee, made by deputy prosecutor of Nizhny Novgorod Region S.D. Belov, was unlawful and ungrounded.
Expert of the NN CAT Dmitry Utukin represents Mrs. Shitov and Podguskov, which applied a year ago to the Committee alleging ill-treatment by policemen. The Sovetsky District Prosecutor’s Office carried out an inquiry into the allegations and a decision of refusal to initiate a criminal case was adopted.
The expert of the Committee who is representing the applicants moved to have an insight into the file of the inquiry carried out by the prosecution service. However, he was refused first by an investigator, then by a deputy prosecutor of the Sovetsky District Prosecutor’s Office. So he lodged a complaint against the decision with the prosecutor of Sovetsky District who, however, upheld the decision of his subordinates. So did a deputy prosecutor of Nizhny Novgorod Region Mr. Belov. He also refused to allow an insight into the file of the inquiry in respect of the allegations of Mrs. Shitov and Podguskov.
The Committee lodged a complaint against the decision of Mr. Belov with a court.
A representative of the prosecutor’s office Mr. Durygin observed before the court that only advocates could represent applicants in prosecution agencies; those who are not formally advocates could not represent alleged victims. However he failed to indicate specific laws in support of his words but reiterated that he was representing the standpoint of the regional prosecutor’s office.
The representative of the NN Committee Against Torture underlined that the Criminal Procedure Code did not provide for that only advocates could represent applicants and also that persons who were not formally advocates were prohibited from representing applicants, so the refusal of an insight into the case file was ungrounded.
The court agreed with the arguments of the NN Committee Against Torture and observed that the restriction of citizens “on choosing the methods of protection of their interests and suggested opportunity of an insight into the materials of the initial inquiry only personally or through advocates was considered by the court as a restriction of their constitutional rights to information and qualified legal assistance, guaranteed by Articles 24, 25 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation”.
The decision has not yet entered into force and in accordance with the law it can be appealed against within 10 days’ after it was brought in.
However, despite this fact experts of the NN Committee Against Torture underline the importance of the decision. The court actually acknowledged that citizens which apply to law enforcement agencies with allegations of a crime can resort to legal assistance of their advocates as well as of other persons who are not formally advocates.
In practice it will, in particular, ensure greater possibilities of legal assistance for the NN Committee Against Torture, because it will save time spent previously on disputes with prosecution officials concerning the possibility or impossibility for experts of the Committee to represent applicants in prosecution agencies.
We express hope that the standpoint of the court declared in its decision will be adopted by every prosecution agency of Nizhny Novgorod Region.