Committee Against Torture: Council of Europe Committee of Ministers to deal with Orenburg Police Torture Case

posted 16 Oct 2019, 13:28 by Translation Service   [ updated 17 Oct 2019, 10:54 by Rights in Russia ]
Главная10 October 2019

Source: Committee Against Torture

Ineffective implementation by Russian authorities of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights may allow the police officers who tortured Orenburg citizen Yury Zontov in 2011 to evade accountability. In 2017, the European Court established the torture as fact, but after more than two years the investigator working for the Investigative Committee has not found out all the circumstances of the case, and has closed it once again. In connection with this, the lawyers of the Committee against Torture today appealed to the Committee of Ministers in the Council of Europe.

We recall that in September 2011 Yury Zontov turned to the Orenburg branch of the Committee against Torture for legal assistance. He told human rights activists that on 27 August he had been taken to Police Station No. 4 where, according to him, he was beaten, hit with a rubber baton on his feet and suffocated with a plastic bag until he lost consciousness, to force him to admit the theft of a gold chain and a phone. Unable to withstand the torture, Yury signed the necessary confession that he had committed the crimes.

In the emergency room, he told doctors that he had been beaten by police. Later, he was documented as having bodily injuries, and when he was admitted to a temporary isolation prison and a detention centre bruises were found on his chest and both feet, along with multiple lacerations on his lower back, in the region of the left cheekbone and in around both wrist joints.

On 30 September 2011, a crime report was filed with the city of Orenburg investigative department, in the Orenburg Region. In total, during the pre-investigation check, twenty times investigators decided not to open a criminal investigation into the case. Nineteen of these were subsequently cancelled as illegal and unfounded on the initiative of human rights activists.

Having exhausted all possible effective means to restore Yury’s rights at national level, in April 2014 human rights activists filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. A year later, in March 2015, the Court communicated the case.

It is notable that, after the complaint was sent to the European Court, the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case under the item “Exceeding official powers”; however, the very next day, Acting District Prosecutor Vladimir Lugovin cancelled this decision on the ground that Zontov’s bodily injuries had been received as a result of police use of combat techniques during his detention.

All attempts by human rights activists to achieve the annulment of Mr Lugovin’s decision were unsuccessful at that time.

On 2 May 2017, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on a complaint filed in the interests of Yury Zontov. The Strasbourg judges unanimously found violations of Article 3 of the Convention in the negative and procedural aspects: the applicant was tortured and there was no effective investigation into this fact. In this regard, Zontov was awarded non-pecuniary damage in the amount of EUR 45,000.

After the ECtHR decision entered into force, Committee against Torture lawyers appealed to the President of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation with a request to initiate the resumption of the investigation into the torture complaint of Yuri Zontov.

On 23 May 2018, the Supreme Court of Russia quashed the decisions of the Orenburg courts, which recognized the refusal to initiate a criminal case, and decided to restart the investigation on the complaint of Zontov.

After receiving a decision of the Supreme Court, lawyers of the Committee against Torture again appealed to the Industrial District Court of Orenburg against the decision of the prosecutor’s employee Vladimir Lugovin four years ago, by which he canceled the opening of a criminal case on torture.

In the course of the consideration of this complaint, it turned out that on 2 August 2018, the Deputy Prosecutor of the Orenburg Region, Andrei Vyazikov, took the initiative to cancel Lugovin's decision, which allowed the Investigative Committee to resume work on the criminal case.

Despite the fact that the case was transferred to the first department for the investigation of especially important cases of the Investigative Committee in the Orenburg region, its investigation was conducted superficially and formally.

On 15 September this year, investigator Azamat Zhamansariev stopped the criminal case for the second time. Currently, this decision of the investigator is being appealed by lawyers of the Committee against Torture.

In connection with the unsatisfactory investigation into the torture of Yury Zontov, human rights defenders today sent an appeal to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe asking them to ask representatives of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the implementation of the decision of the European Court on Zontov’s complaint. Representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are to explain what the Russian Federation has already done and what it intends to do in order to fully restore the violated rights of Zontov and to implement in full the decision of the ECtHR issued in 2017.

“Investigator Zhamansariev didn’t even have a face-to-face confrontation with the police officers identified by Yury Zontov, so what kind of effective investigation was conducted?” asks Timur Rakhmatulin, lawyer of the Committee against Torture. "A little more than 18 months remains until the expiry of the statute of limitations for the criminal prosecution of the police officers guilty of the torture of Yury Zontov. We hope that the reaction of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will force Russian investigators to do their work properly and all the criminals will be punished." 

Translated by Anna Bowles