On the International Day in support of torture victims, MediaZona publishes the story of several applicants of the Committee Against Torture, who are trying to ensure that the justice prevails for several years – but the Investigative Committee is dragging on the investigation, and the persons guilty of tortures continue their police service.
Human rights defenders with the Committee Against Torture point out that there are no regions in Russia where the Investigative Committee officers promptly investigate torture cases. Sometimes they drag on investigation for years, in parallel dismissing the requests to initiate criminal cases — sometimes up to 30 times. Press-secretary of the Committee Ivan Zhiltsov says that the investigators can be pushed to work without delay by either high level of mass media publicity or death of the victim of the police violence.
“Previously, we had a point of view that wishing or not the investigators are trying to cover for their colleagues, — he explains. — Very often all of them know each other, especially if we are talking about remote settlements. But also, the problem lies in the fact that the investigators are simply not punished. We are struggling that these investigators are punished for this red tape and openly poor performance, we are writing to their superiors — but, at best, they respond that “measures for punishment are taken”. They do not even explain what these measures are: bonus deprivation, downgrading?”
Zhiltsov points out: “Inaction of the Investigative Committee is definitely one of the reasons for tortures in Russia. MediaZone presents several torture cases, which demonstrate how the victims have to struggle for their cases to be investigated for years.
Electric shocking device, dildo and identification eight years after
Who was tortured: three police officers from Nizhny Novgorod came home to 44-old long distance trucker Aleksandr Semenov on 19 May 2011 and demanded that he confessed of murder of a safeguard.
How they tortured: “Made me sit on a chair, put a body warmer on me, tied me up with a rope: one end was tied to my feet, the other, through the neck, - to my hands. The one who was with a bandaged hand, took an electric shocker out of the writing table and started to apply electricity to my fingers. The curly one put a plastic bag on my head, blocked air access – it was clearly seen he got off on it. <…> They took out a dildo, and said, now we are going to rape you with this. I tell them: “Have you gone completely mad?” — “Why not, we’ll do it in a nick!”
Injuries: two dozen of extravasations on the face, head, ear globes, collar bone, ribs and thighs, dissection of forehead.
How long the investigation went on: for five times the investigators dismissed the requests to initiate criminal proceedings, the case was opened only seven years later. During these years the medical forensic examination report disappeared from the case materials — the investigative department acknowledged that the document was lost, but they did not find the guilty ones. There is only one defendant in the case — according to Semenov, “he was beating me least of all”. Three more investigative officers are involved as witnesses; two of them are still active police officers.
Electricity torture, bodkin in the thigh and repair works at the department
Who was tortured: the armed police officers stormed the house of a 40 year old Rustam Kuchmenov in June 2017. They handcuffed him, put him a black plastic bag on the head and delivered him to the Department of Criminal Investigations of the Ministry of the Interior of Kabardino-Balkariya. The police officers forced him to confess of theft.
How they tortured: “They tied up my feet and arms behind my back and brought me to the floor of the room, face down. On the sides, in the area of thigh joints, they attached a metal clothespin on a wire on each side. The man at the unit started to turn the lever generating electricity. I felt a sharp pain all over my body. I started to tell the officer who was pressing my neck with his foot that after the car crash I have a metal fixture holding my neck vertebrae. In response he only pressed more strongly with all his body weight onto my neck, saying that he was going to squash my head and play football with it. <…> From time to time they poured water on me. It lasted for about an hour and a half. After that they lifted me and made me sit on a chair, having tied me up with a scotch tape. One of the officers sat on a table in front of me and started to force me to write a confession. He accompanied his threats with kicking me hard in the groin area. They put a new plastic bag on me, I was suffocating. <…> One of them came up to the table, took a bodkin from the drawer and stuck it in my thigh”.
Injuries: contusions of the head, extravasations of face and thighs, scratch on the abdomen.
How long the investigation took: in July 2017 a criminal case was opened against head of the department for organized crime and illegal arms trafficking with the Republican Department of the Ministry of the Interior Anzor Ashkhotov. The investigation was proceeding very slowly: the check of Kuchmenov in the places of his battery and apprehension was conducted only after one year. By that time repair works were done at the building of the department: the rooms were completely repainted and the furniture was moved around. The case against Ashkhotov was dismissed for the first time in May 2019, but in August it was resumed and handed over to the department for major cases investigation of the Investigative Committee for the Kabardino-Balkariya. But this did not help: as of now, the case against Ashkhotov has been dismissed four times already. Human rights defenders do not rule out the possibility of the fifth dismissal.
A plastic bag on the head and examination of the incident scene three years after
Who was tortured: 17-year old Anton Shestopalov, he was apprehended on 24 May 2004 in Nizhny Novgorod under suspicion of rape of a former classmate (the girl herself gave evidence that Shestopalov did not rape her).
How he was tortured: “I was tied up, put on the floor, they started to hit me and kick me on the head and body. For several hours they were choking me with a wooden stick, put a bag on the head”.
Injuries: craniocerebral injury, brain concussion, concussions of chest and knees, scratches of the postaural areas.
How long the investigation went: the Investigative Committee issued six refusals to initiate a torture case. In 2006 the case was finally opened, the incident scene was examined a year later, but then the case was suspended due to “failure to identify the suspects”. In 2014 the period of limitations expired and the case was closed.
Strangulation on the highway and the medical records lost by the investigative authorities
Who was tortured: 18-year old Vladimir Arkhipov, whose car was stopped by the Traffic Police Officers of Orenburg at one night in August 2011. According to Arkhipov, the police officers tried to extract money from him and claimed that he was drunk, not showing the results of the alcohol tester.
How they tortured: “One of the police officers swayed and hit me in the right temple. I felt pain and staggered. I asked: “Why are you beating me up?” <…> My mother called, I sat in the car and locked myself in, and told her that I was stopped by the traffic police officers and that one of them hit me. They demanded that I unlocked the car and went out, but I refused. One of the officers opened the trunk and, breaking down the passenger seats, entered inside of my car. He was behind me and started to choke me. I tried to set free, and at the same time, the other one opened the door from my side and started to hit me with electric shocker – I passed out several times. At the same time, other officers were hitting and kicking at my head and body. The last blow, after which I lost consciousness, was in the nasal area.
Injuries: brain concussion, bruises of the chest rib, numerous hematomas on the head, chest rib, abdomen and both hands.
How long the investigation went: 14 times the Investigative Committee passed rulings refusing to open the case. For nine years of checking the investigators lost Arkhipov’s medical records where his treatment after the beating was described. Only in 2019, the investigators sent Arkhipov for examination to check the presence of electrical marks. Scars made by electrical shocker were found eight years after, but the experts deemed that their localization does not coincide with the bodily injuries mentioned by the victim.
In October 2018, the Leninsky District Court of Orenburg collected 10 thousand rubles for seven-year red tape, despite the fact that the resident of Orenburg demanded 385 thousand rubles as a compensation for moral damage. No criminal case was opened.
“Hand-to-hand combat” and questioning witnesses seven years after
Who was tortured: 23-year old Vladimir Chernev was apprehended by five investigating officers in June 2007 during the test purchasing of two grams of heroin. Dwellers of his village in the Nizhny Novgorod region told that Chernev did not make any moves during the apprehension. In the police report it is stated that he offered “active resistance”.
How they tortured: “I ran. They shouted: “Halt, we will shoot!” I stopped, they ran up to me. One of them hit me in the face, I fell, felt blows and kicks all over my body, and lost consciousness.
Injuries: contusions of soft tissues of the face, hematoma of both eye pits, contusion of the nose.
How long the investigation went: only after three years of complaints from the Committee Against Torture, the investigators questioned Chernev and examined the incident scene and talk to witnesses seven years after his apprehension. One of the investigative officers wrote an explanation in which he commented that his colleagues and he applied “hand-to-hand combat techniques” during the apprehension, due to that fact Chernev received “minor contusions of tissues”. Only then the investigators requested the documents, which had been already destroyed due to expiry of the storage period. In October 2015, the investigative authorities refused to initiate criminal proceedings for the eleventh time.
Anti-Extremism Center “E” and lawful “envelope” torture
Who was tortured: in December 2010, officers of the Nizhny Novgorod Anti-Extremism Center “E” forced 25-year old Nikita Danishkin to confess of preparing a terrorist act and distributing information compromising officers of Center “E”.
How he was tortured: “The investigative officer tied my legs with a rope a little above my feet. Then he pulled them up to the body so that my heels got pressed against the groin area. At the same time, he stood on my right knee with his other foot, and my leg was pressed against the floor and I was handcuffed. They made a loop of the two free ends of the rope, it was at the chest level, and pulled the rope ends through my neck and handcuffs. Then they started to pull upwards the free ends of the rope, lifting me above the floor: my hands, held by handcuffs, twisted, damaging the joints. My chest was pressed in my feet and the loop was squeezing my throat, blocking the access of air to the lungs. I felt sharp pain and was out of air. They lifted me above the floor and pulled the ends of the rope up and down in the air, due to that I folded like a harmonica, hanging above the floor. Then they released the ends of the rope and I fell, hitting the floor with my pelvis.
Injuries: contusions and numerous extravasations of the face, neck, abdomen, underarm area.
How long the investigation went: only seven years later the Investigative Committee initiated criminal proceedings — after the ECHR established in 2017 that Danishkin was tortured and awarded him 20 thousand Euro as a compensation. The investigation was dismissed after four months: the investigators did not detect any violations in the actions of Centre “E” investigative officers.
A needle in the neck, little finger twisted with pliers and seven years of dismissals
Who was tortured: in July 2010, investigative officer Andrey Tumanov, using tortures, forced 19-year old Denis Kramchaninov to confess of a theft of a handbag.
How they tortured: “When we arrived at the police department, Tumanov immediately hit me in the face, then – in the chest. Then he made me stand with my face against the wall and hit me several times in the kidneys’ area. Then he put a gas mask on me and forced me to do knee bends. When I removed the gas mask, he hit my face with a palm of his hand and forced me to do push-ups. Then he made me sit on a chair <…> and hit my neck with an edge of his hand, brought a needle and pricked my neck with it, threatened to put the needles under my nails. He took pliers and compressed the little finger of my left hand with it”.
Injuries: closed blunt craniocerebral trauma, brain concussion, contusions of soft tissues of temporal and occipital areas, back surface of the neck, chest rib, shoulder, tongue extravasation.
How long the investigation went: torture case was not initiated for seven years, the investigators issued ten dismissals. The investigation started only in 2017, after the Committee Against Torture applied to the ECHR. The investigators conducted a forensic medical examination based on the medical documentation which were available with them. Former investigating officer of the Ministry of the Interior Andrey Tumanov acknowledged the guilt. The prosecution asked six years of prison time at penal colony, but in January 2018, the Shakhunsky Court of the Nizhny Novgorod region assigned four years of conditional term.