Unlike the Federal Government, the Mariy El Minister of the Interior does not see any grounds to apologize to Boris Rzhavin


30 November 2010

Yesterday, on its official web-page the Mariy El Republican Ministry of the Interior voiced its position in connection with the address of the ICAT requesting apologies for the actions of the police in respect of Yoshkar-Ola resident Boris Rzhavin.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, during the press-conference which took place in the Yoshkar-Ola prosecutor’s office on 25 November, the Committee Against Torture “failed to provide all facts of the case and gave them a one-sided assessment”, while the position of the Republican Ministry of the Interior “is based on concrete facts and judgments”.

We have no inclination to point out all the discrepancies of the message, although we could do that, having the materials of numerous prosecutorial checks and judicial proceedings at our disposal. For us it is more important to explain why we disagree with the Ministry’s position in general.

In the first place, we would like to emphasize that the ICAT did not task itself with presenting Rzhavin’s case, which is underway since 2001, in detail. We told mass media about Rzhavin’s claims and the options of dealing with his application pending trial in the European Court. For instance, it was noted during the press-conference that the Government of the Russian Federation had acknowledged violation of applicant’s rights by the state.  The press-conference culminated in the demonstration of a friendly settlement agreement signed by Mr. Rzhavin and the Russian Federation.

The city prosecutor’s office also expressed its position. In particular, Yoshkar-Ola prosecutor Sergey Skvortsov confirmed that the investigative authorities had been blatantly protracting the case for several years.

The Mariy El Ministry of the Interior also had a chance to state their view on the case during the press-conference. It must be added that the ICAT had many times tried to contact the Ministry heads and discuss the issue of apologies to Rzhavin and their possible participation in the press-conference. But the dialogue never took place. The Ministry of the Interior representative limited himself to diligently making a video record of the press-conference.

The press-release published by the Ministry stresses that “at the moment there is no European Court judgment under Rzhavin’s application”. We can add –it’s good that there isn’t any. That is why the Russian Government opted for a friendly settlement and acknowledged the breach, unwilling to “wash dirty linen in public”. Apparently, the Marie El Ministry of the Interior disagrees with the Russian Government in principle and is ready to apologize to a victim, only provided there is an ECtHR judgment smearing Russia’s reputation within the European legal environment. Perhaps, the Russian Government should consult the Regional Minister of the Interior before paying Rzhavin 500 000 ruble from the federal budget.

It is also pointed out in the publication that the Ministry did not receive any official documents from the Russian Ministry of the Interior or the European Court. It is worth mentioning that a regional ministry is not supposed to receive any documents from the ECtHR, since there are special federal authorities empowered by the Decree of the Russian President to represent Russia in course of ECtHR proceedings, namely, Deputy Russian Minister of Justice and his office.

We find the attempt of the Ministry of the Interior to shift the focus to Rzhavin’s previous conviction inappropriate. As for Rzhavin’s detention in December, his guilt was not ascertained, no criminal proceedings were instigated against him, he was not indicted, his detention and delivery to the police station were not registered.  

We would like to underline once again that the authorities have violated Boris Rzhavin’s rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Russia has acknowledged the violation and offered Rzhavin a half million compensation. We did not request the heads of the local prosecutor’s office and Ministry of the Interior to apologize for the crimes committed by their subordinates. Indeed, the perpetrators in charge of the crime have not been prosecuted. We only wanted the authorities to apologize to the pensioner for subjecting him to inhuman treatment, for taking him to the police station at night for no reason, for the failure of the prosecutor’s office to effectively check his application.

The message on the Mariy El Ministry of the Interior web-page and the stand of the police heads outspoken in it once again demonstrate the attitude of the law enforcement authorities to the problem of human rights protection, protection of fundamental freedoms and legal interests. This attitude is obviously disdainful. In seems that the republican police does not realize how important it is to observe human rights, treat the region’s residents with respect and care, even when they are disliked by the local Minister of the Interior personally.

The position of the Mariy El Ministry of the Interior proves that the ongoing law enforcement reform is not a whim of the human rights community, but a necessity. It also involves the pressing need for staff changes in the Ministry.

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