The Strasbourg Court celebrates the 60th anniversary of the ECHR with a new judgment under a torture case from Russia

Событие | Пресс центр

09 November 2010

Alexander Sokolov from Lipetsk is awarded 50 000 euro as compensation for police abuse.

According to the ECtHR judgment, on 19 February 2004 Alexander Sokolov came back from work. At about 7 p.m. four police officers barged into the flat and searched the premises in the presence of two attesting witnesses. The applicant was told that he was a suspect in a murder case; they handcuffed him and took him away in a car. Once in the car, an officer punched the applicant in the head and body and then pulled his cap down so that it covered his eyes. After a fifteen-minute ride the applicant was pushed out of the car into the snow. Police officers kicked and punched him, demanding that he tell them about the murder he had allegedly committed. At about 10 p.m. Sokolov was taken by car to the Sovetskiy district police station of Lipetsk. Four officers started beating him, demanding that he confess to the murder. Whenever he fainted, they poured water on him. The applicant was beaten with a baseball bat on his shoulders, arms and upper body.

In two hours the applicant was taken into the detention cell within the police station. While in the cell, he slit open a vein on his left forearm with a shard of a broken light bulb. His cellmate alerted the wardens. An ambulance arrived and took him to the trauma unit where the doctor sutured the wound.

Upon his return from the trauma unit, the beatings continued in the Sovetskiy district police station. The applicant felt that his ribs were broken.

The following day the applicant agreed to confess. The police officers took him to the investigator in charge of the murder case. Feeling unwell, the applicant asked the investigator to take him to a doctor. An ambulance was called in with medical specialists who discovered large bruises on his chest, lumbar region, left iliac area, left elbow, head and face. Three ribs were broken on the left side and one rib on the right side. The case-file contained a statement, allegedly signed by the applicant on 20 February 2004, in which he indicated that the day before he had been seriously drunk and had been beaten up by unidentified persons on his way home from work. However, a later examination conducted by a graphologist from the Lipetsk Regional Forensic Centre revealed that the statement had not been written by Sokolov’s hand.

The applicant complained to the Lipetsk prosecutor’s office, however in three years there was still no criminal case opened under his application. Having failed to redress his rights within the domestic judicial system, Alexander applied to the European Court. He was represented by lawyers of the Committee Against Torture.  

The Court states in its judgment that the scope of the inquiry under Sokolov’s application cannot be described as having been effective, adequate or independent. The most fundamental investigative measures, such as inspecting the scene where the applicant alleged to have been beaten, collecting the material evidence were never carried out. Many witnesses who had seen Sokolov after the beatings were not questioned. The investigator did not prepare any feasible explanation as to the origin of the applicant’s injuries.

On 4 November 2010 the European Court held in its judgment that Sokolov had been injured, being located at the police station. The ECtHR also found the investigation under his application ineffective (in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms). The Court decided that the detention on 19 February 2004 had been arbitrary since the arrest record had appeared only on 20 February 2010 (violation of Article 5 of the Convention).