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The authorities are hypocrites, they know that if you fully observe of the law, you, the hardworking detective, are physically not able to keep crime at an acceptable level. The authorities understand perfectly well that you can frequently only expose a criminal and bring the case to a conviction with the help of torture. Therefore, the authorities silently permit you to torture those citizens who end up in the friendly embrace of Femida.

-Letter to the editor of Obshchaia gazeta from police detective Vladimir K.25

Due to conflicts of interest inherent in the procuracy, strong corporate solidarity in the police force, pressures on prosecutors, and intimidation of the victims themselves, the overwhelming majority of the abusive police officers who torture criminal suspects are not held accountable. Procuracy inquiries into torture complaints rarely lead to a criminal investigation against abusive police officers, and complaints filed during the defendant's trial are usually dismissed without serious consideration. Criminal investigations of police abuse have yielded a mixed record, and very few torture victims have received compensation for the injuries they suffered. Victims can also seek accountability through the Russian ombudsman, which started to work on torture when it was established in 1998. However, it remains difficult to assess the effectiveness of this complaint procedure as it came into effect only fairly recently. While international remedies, like appeals to the European Court of Human Rights, are theoretically open for torture victims, it appears that international bodies have not yet heard any torture cases from Russia.

The Procuracy Inquiry

The procuracy is responsible for ensuring that criminal justice system officials-detectives, investigators, judges, and the like-fully observe the rights and freedoms of suspects and defendants, and is therefore responsible for investigating complaints of ill-treatment and torture.26 At the same time, theprocuracy brings criminal cases to court and conducts criminal investigations on certain categories of cases. This combination of tasks produces a conflict in which officials of one and the same body are charged with both investigating and prosecuting a defendant in a criminal case and reviewing the defendant's torture complaint.

The procuracy investigates torture or ill-treatment complaints by first conducting an informal inquiry;27 if this produces credible evidence that criminal abuses occurred, the procuracy then institutes a criminal investigation within three days.28 The informal inquiry is, however, frequently superficial and plagued with delays, and few inquiries end in criminal proceedings. Indeed, procuracies appear generally to treat these inquiries as a mere formality.


Under a 1992 instruction issued by the procurator general, all complaints of abuse must be fully and objectively investigated and the complainant must be informed of the decision taken on the complaint.29 In practice, our research andthat of numerous human rights groups in Russia's regions shows that this informal inquiry is exceedingly superficial. It is conducted primarily by young and inexperienced procurator's assistants, who often merely forward complaints to the chiefs of police precincts for a response, take these responses at face value, and neither interview the complainant or seek other evidence of abuse. The procedure frequently ends with a letter informing the complainant in a few stark sentences that because his complaint "was not confirmed by the facts," no criminal proceedings will take place, without further explanation.30 Most torture complaint procedures end after this decision, since many complainants are not aware of their right to study the records of the procurator's inquiry and to challenge it.31

The informal inquiry is also limited procedurally in the same manner as initial inquiries into reports on any other crimes. It has an informal nature, meaning that the official conducting the investigation has less power than an investigator in a criminal investigation. For example, the official may not subpoena the alleged perpetrators or witnesses, who are thus not obliged to appear and are not under oath, and does no formally record interviews he or she conducts. The official also cannot order a forensic examination of the complainant.32

The criminal procedure code sets no standards for the informal inquiry, beyond the requirement in the 1992 instruction that it be "full and objective." This lack of specific standards facilitates sabotage of the inquiry by procuracy officials who do not work in good faith, allowing them to dismiss complaints without conducting a thorough and objective investigation.

A provision in the 1992 instruction encourages procurators to "decide the question of the expediency of involving the complainant and specialists in conducting [the inquiry]"; in practice, however, the procurator's assistant oftendoes not question the complainant during the review. Andrei Babushkin of the Committee for Civil Rights told Human Rights Watch that he recently studied seventeen informal inquiries conducted by the Butyrskaia district procuracy in Moscow, all of which ended in a refusal to launch a criminal investigation. In none of the cases had the procuracy assistant even questioned the complainant: "In seventeen out of seventeen cases, they had limited themselves to questioning the people who were the subject of the complaints."33

It seems standard practice for many procuracies to limit the inquiry to raising the allegations with the superiors of the alleged torturers; the denial of any wrongdoing generally suffices for the procuracy not to pursue criminal proceedings. A former police officer told Human Rights Watch that generally the procuracy does not question the alleged torturers themselves but sends the complaint on to the chief of the appropriate police precinct with instructions to look into it and reply in writing. He said that the procuracy questions the police officers only if the complainant himself submits medical or other convincing evidence of ill-treatment or torture.34 However, in five of the cases Human Rights Watch investigated criminal proceedings were not begun even when medical evidence was available.

Tatiana Popkova's case was apparently typical. She was forcibly taken to the police station in Usol'e-Sibirskoe, Irkutsk province, and reportedly beaten in relation to the case of Igor Akhrimenko. She told Human Rights Watch the following about the response to her complaint to the procuracy: "They called me into the police station, the same investigator who conducted the case against Igor Akhrimenko.... She asked me to recount what happened-that was it. I told her and she didn't believe me, she smiled maliciously and said that `that can't be' and that I `was making it all up.'"

Procurator's assistants often ignore evidence of torture that is provided by the complainant and, according to Babushkin, they sometimes deliberately lose documents that confirm the torture.35 Medical and other documentation that is necessary for an objective inquiry of the complaint is almost never requested. In various cases, torture victims and their relatives told Human Rights Watch that the procuracies refused to question witnesses who saw the victim after the torture with clear signs of abuse.

The father of Andrei Semenov told Human Rights Watch that in 1995, the procuracy of Ekaterinburg's Kirov district refused to investigate his son's torture complaint and wrote its formal reply without even questioning several witnesseswho reportedly saw Semenov with clear signs of violence after police ill-treated him for hours.

They took him to the place where the burglary took place at around 3:00 p.m. of that same day.... The witnesses, the neighbors saw it all...saw that he was all beaten up.

Whoever we turn to, we wrote to the province procurator twice, the city procurator, we receive formal replies. We live in the Kirov district ourselves, they send the case to the procurator of the Kirov district, who arrested him, do you understand?...We write, they delay for a month or two, then...the answer: "No violations." How can you investigate a case when neither witnesses nor anyone else is called, and my boy is already in jail for the third year.36

When complainants send their complaints to higher-level procuracies, the claims often bounce back to the local level. For example, Andrei Potanin's father told Human Rights Watch a similar story, in which the handling of the complaint was ultimately handed on to a subordinate of the officer-Kolosovskii-who he said had tortured his son:

[W]hen I found out that after that [violent arrest] they continued to treat him badly and threatened to rape him, I wrote a complaint demanding that [the policeman] be brought to justice. I sent it to the Kirov [district procuracy], sent it to the city...province, and further [procuracies]. They sent everything back and the investigation was carried out by a subordinate of Kolosovskii, a young man, who is only interested in protecting his boss.37

In several cases we researched, the procuracy carried out a more extensive inquiry, but failed to question witnesses who could have confirmed the torture, and assessed testimony of other witnesses and evidence with a clear bias in favor of police officers. For example, on October 14, 1997, the Nizhnii Novgorod province procuracy replied to a complaint lodged by the mother of Anton Shamberov and Kirill Komlev, who were, respectively, acquitted and sentenced to twelve years'imprisonment in August 1997. In its reply, the procuracy cited the following reasons to explain why it would not launch a criminal investigation into the alleged abusive treatment:

Explanations from police officers, who detained the defendants, stating that Komlev and Shamberov were not subjected to physical and psychological coercion during investigative activities; documents received from the IVS and SIZO, from which it is clear that neither Komlev nor Shamberov asked for medical assistance during the course of the investigation and which state that at the time of entry [into the detention center] after carrying out investigative activities, medical check-ups did not discover any physical injuries.38

The procuracy failed, without explanation, to interview three people who say they saw Kirill Komlev in the days following the detention with clear signs of injuries. Komlev's mother, Liubov' Shamberov, told Human Rights Watch that she saw her son on September 7, two days after his arrest, at the police station:

I walked into the office and before me [I saw] the following picture: Investigator Bubnov, two detectives...and my son turned toward me. You know, he was all beaten up, his face was crimson...all swollen, and tears ran from his eyes.

When I clasped him to me, he said: "Mom, they're killing me, threatening to kill me during an escape attempt." That's what he whispered, when I embraced him.39

In addition, Komlev's lawyer and his wife said they saw him on September 5 with signs of beatings.

In the Shamberov and Komlev case, the procuracy and the court blithely accepted at face value the interrogation report's claim that the investigation used no coercion, explained to the defendants their rights, and granted them access to an attorney. The procuracy's October 14 reply cited the court's verdict:

The verdict states that "the conclusions of the defendants that their testimonies were fabricated, recorded incorrectly, given under psychological and physical coercion cannot be taken into consideration by the court because they are refuted by the factual circumstances of the case. In the course of the investigation, article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation was explained to the defendants, the testimony was given with participation of lawyers. The correctness of the testimony of each of the defendants has been certified with an indication in the interrogation report regarding the absence of any form of pressure on them."

The court and the procuracy ignored the fact that Komlev and Shamberov were granted access to a lawyer only eight days after their detention on September 5, 1996. Shamberov told Human Rights Watch that he saw a lawyer only on September 13; Komlev was briefly given access to a duty lawyer on September 5, after he had been tortured. However, investigative activities were subsequently carried out without this lawyer and continued until September 13.

The procuracy (as well as judges, see below) also tend to ignore the length of time between the actual time of detention and the time the suspect is registered at the police station (the "procedural" time of detention). In the case of Alexander Volod'ko, the procuracy of Aleksin failed to explore what happened during the four-and-a-half hour interval between the time police detained him at his home at 12:00 midnight and the time he was registered at the local police station at 4:30 a.m. Procurators and judges also frequently fail to examine whether the defendants were lawfully detained. This is significant, for an indicator that foul play may have occurred is when a defendant confesses to a criminal offense after he has been detained for an administrative offense. However, in most cases procurators and judges refuse to acknowledge any relevance of these circumstances to allegations of ill-treatment or coerced confessions.


If victims of police abuse or their advocates remain unsatisfied by the superficiality of the informal inquiry and are undeterred by intimidation and the lack of cooperation of the procuracy, they may challenge the review's outcome with the procuracy at a higher level. However, they then face lengthy delays as the complaint wends its way through many levels of the hierarchy ofprocuracies-district, city, province, and federal.40 As the process drags on, evidence of torture disappears and the likelihood of a criminal investigation of the torture claim diminishes.

In many cases, the higher-level procuracy merely forwards the complaints to the local procuracy that has already "answered" the complaint, and the complainant receives a short notice that the complaint has been passed on to the local procuracy. For example, in 1994 Oksana Bykova wrote numerous complaints to the local procurator about the torture of her husband. The local procurator rejected her complaints, claiming that "the case is being conducted correctly." After that, she wrote to the procuracy of Irkutsk province and to the Procuracy General in Moscow. She told Human Rights Watch:

I knew that there would be formal replies from Moscow to Irkutsk, and from Irkutsk to Chudov [the local procurator]. That's exactly what happened: on the Moscow letter [complaint to the Procuracy General] Chudov answered that "the case is being conducted correctly." It's a vicious circle, you can't achieve anything.41

Very few people have the endurance to battle the unwilling procuracy for long, especially because most do not believe the procuracy will ever conduct a criminal investigation. But even if a criminal case is finally instituted and investigators are willing to investigate police abuses scrupulously, they face considerable problems. Elena Topil'skaia of the Leningrad province procuracy told Human Rights Watch:

It usually goes like this: the complaints are received, the complaints are handed over to the procurator's assistant, he carries out a review. That all takes time. According to the [1992] instruction, they answer in the course of a month. They conduct the inquiry for a month, issue a decision refusing to institute a criminal case. The person who was subjected to the unlawful methods appeals this again. That takes more time once again and, finally, we [the investigators] end up receivingcases for investigation that are a half a year or eight months old. That obviously makes the task much more difficult.

In some cases, it is even expedient to immediately institute criminal proceedings on such facts...when people haven't forgotten yet, when it's still possible to determine the exact time, down to the hour, because [if] a case that has gone back and forth ends up with an investigator after half a year, it will be very difficult for him to ask a question about confirmation of an alibi, for example, and receive a response. About the events of, say, yesterday I can talk with the precision of an hour, in a half a year I can't remember that anymore.... 42

Paradoxically, a poorly coordinated and insufficient informal inquiry may serve to warn abusive police officers, allowing them to eliminate evidence of torture and conspire with their co-abusers. Igor Kaliapin of the Nizhnii Novgorod Society for Human Rights worked closely on a case that involved this practice. In September 1996, police wrongly detained and severely beat Timofei Petrov (not his real name). The man refused to confess, and had no relation to the crime under investigation. When the procuracy refused to sanction the man's arrest, police released him with clear signs of beatings. After his release, he filed a complaint with the procuracy. According to Kaliapin:

The procuracy begins some sort of review. Two weeks later, he [the torture victim] receives a standard notification that there was nothing of the kind [torture], everything was fine and correct. Then, when we started working with the case fairly meticulously, it turned out that all the participants in the beating, having found out that there is a complaint [against them] with the procuracy and that the [complainant] might not be satisfied with a standard notification that institution of a criminal case has been refused, that he may pursue his complaint further, they were immediately on their guard and immediately agreed among themselves, clarified all the details.

As it turned out, [the victim] had at first not been registered in the registry [at the police station]. When someone is detained for drunkenness, they [police] should enter him into the detention registry in the duty room: That, yes, he was brought in by so-and-so, a report.There was nothing of the kind [at first]. It was all put in only when the procuracy started its review. In this case, all those ends that can be used to pull [the case together] and prove [torture], had been redone retroactively, [missing] documents suddenly appeared.43

Kaliapin, however, still succeeded in gathering sufficient evidence of the abuse to have criminal proceedings instituted against the police officers for knowingly unlawful detention and violent coercion to testify.

Criminal Investigation and Court Action

In the minority of cases in which criminal proceedings are begun, abusive police may threaten and intimidate the complainants or case investigators, or the procuracy itself can undermine the investigation. The court record on such cases is mixed, ranging from acquittals to lenient to appropriate sentences.

The Case of Vitalii Sokolov (Nizhnii Novgorod province)

Vitalii Sokolov was beaten by a police officer in 1997 and then released; the local procuracy resisted investigating the case, and the abusive officer persistently harassed Sokolov. In April 1997, Sokolov was on his way home from work when an intoxicated police officer pulled him from a bus, accused him of illegal drug possession, and started beating him. The next morning, Sokolov was released after signing a statement that he had drunk alcohol in the bus, sworn, and thrown nut shells on the ground. After visiting a travmapunkt, where all his injuries were recorded, Sokolov filed a complaint to the procuracy in Bor. Sokolov told Human Rights Watch:

Kolbovskaia, who they gave the case to, she didn't question me about anything and on the basis of the report of the person who carried out the internal investigation, she issued a refusal to institute criminal proceedings. I didn't agree with that, wrote a complaint about that. After that, she organized a meeting for me with the procurator of the city of Bor, who listened sarcastically to what I told him....After that, he did open a criminal case.44

At the time of Human Rights Watch's visit to Nizhnii Novgorod in October 1997, the criminal case had been under way for four months.

So far, there is no movement. The only thing is that after the criminal case was instituted, I started getting phone calls from out of town [from people connected to the police officer].45 They called me at home, talked to my mother and called me by a different name. My mother answered that they should stop phoning, bothering.... After they failed to get in touch with me, [the police officer who allegedly beat Sokolov] himself came to my house.... After he received a refusal [to see Sokolov] and was told to leave us alone, he pronounced the following phrase: "Well, if I pulled him off the bus, that doesn't mean that I beat him."

[A]fter that, he came to my work...and tried to talk to me there, but in the presence of my boss and several other people. I told him: "I have nothing to talk to you about." I just couldn't imagine how I could talk to this person after he had beaten me up.

The procuracy in Bor dropped proceedings against the police officers and closed the criminal case in July 1998 for a lack of merits.

The Case of Timofei Petrov46

On September 10, 1996, police requested Timofei Petrov and two colleagues to come to the police station in Nizhnii Novgorod for a "friendly chat"; they were severely beaten in an attempt to coerce confessions on theft charges, and released the following day. Under pressure from Petrov and the Nizhnii Novgorod Society for Human Rights, the procuracy instituted criminal proceedings in October 1996. After three months of intense harassment by the precinct police, Petrov dropped his complaint and the procuracy closed the criminal case. According to the Nizhnii Novgorod Society for Human Rights, Petrov's colleagues did not file torture complaints with the procuracy for fear of reprisals. Igor Kaliapin, who represented Petrov, told Human Rights Watch:

I insisted that they be taken into custody because they had [begun to] actively put pressure on [Petrov]: they came to his home, to his work, talked to his boss, saying that they were, after all, the district police. They, of course, talked to the management of [Petrov's workplace], which in some situations depends on [the police]. We got testimony from a large number of people, a whole file of those things, forced [the procuracy] to add this to the criminal case.

It ended with the police officers definitively getting to [Petrov]. He just took money from them: they bought him. Not a lot, by the way [1.5 million rubles, around U.S.$ 250 at the 1996 exchange rate]. They told him they'd leave him alone, that he wouldn't have any more problems. He quieted down at that and withdrew all complaints against them. On the day [the procuracy] was supposed to issue the indictment against [the police officers], [Petrov] went with [the police] to the procuracy and said: "You know, they...accidentally pushed me, I thought it was on purpose but it turns out to have been accidental. There were no beatings with a stool, I just said all that out of anger."

We tried to talk to him, appealed to his conscience, but he said: "I'm afraid, I'm tired of all this, I don't want anything anymore, please leave me alone."47

The Case of Oleg Fetisov

The Verkh-Isetsk district procuracy of Ekaterinburg opened a criminal investigation against the police officers who reportedly tortured Oleg Fetisov (see above, "A Persistent Patter of Torture and Ill-Treatment" and "Victims") on December 5, 1996, and appointed senior investigator Popov to the case. Popov investigated the case, drafted an indictment, and submitted the case to his superiors for approval and transfer to the court. His superiors, however, stalled and then closed the case, grounding its action on Fetisov's refusal to submit to a psychiatric exam. Fetisov's mother told Human Rights Watch:

He [Popov] told us: "I've done my job. I believe that they are guilty. Now the leadership must take a decision." The leadership decided to put the brakes on the case. They started to put the brakes on the case, toextend the terms.... We now see that all of this was done to drag it out, to red-tape it, and eventually it ended with the case being closed.

They found the following way: they ordered a psychological-psychiatric expert assessment for Oleg. We then sought advice from the lawyer. There were no reasons for carrying out such an expert assessment.... We requested that the decision to carry out an assessment be canceled.... The assessment was scheduled for May 15, we didn't show up.... That was enough to close the case explicitly for that reason. The investigator told me: "If you don't need it, who does? You didn't show up for the assessment-that's it."48

Fetisov's lawyer, Sergei Kotov, told Human Rights Watch that he had objected to the examination because the investigators hinted that Fetisov's jump from a police precinct window may have been a consequence of mental illness, and not motivated by police torture, and because a psychiatrist had already examined Fetisov in the hospital immediately after his jump. The procuracy used Fetisov's failure to cooperate as grounds to close the case. After Fetisov received a suspended sentence for robbery, his parents abandoned their efforts to bring the abusive police officers to justice.

The Case of Sergei Kolosovskii

In 1997, the procuracy of Ekaterinburg's Verkh-Isetsk district began a criminal investigation of Sergei Kolosovskii, deputy head of criminal investigation of the Kirov district police precinct, and two of his subordinates. Procurator Evgenii Ergashev told Human Rights Watch that Kolosovskii had beaten a young man by the name of Paivin for hours at the police station, and had asphyxiated him by forcing a gas mask over his head and spraying alcohol or an ammonia mix into the trunk. Several witnesses, including Paivin's mother, heard him scream. In addition, his mother saw him with a swollen head after the beatings. The three officers were charged under article 171(2) of the criminal code (exceeding one's authority through the use of force). Kolosovskii was also charged in relation to another incident of torture.

Ergashev told Human Rights Watch that he had initially not taken Kolosovskii into custody, although he was suspended from active duty pending conclusion of the investigation. However, he arrested Kolosovskii when the latter threatened the procurator's investigation. Ergashev told Human Rights Watch:

I called him into my office and told him that if he would continue to threaten investigators, I would have to arrest him. Kolosovskii said that he was a high-ranking police officer and would do what he wanted. At that point, I arrested Kolosovskii. During the arrest, we discovered that Kolosovskii was carrying a loaded gun, even though he did not have the right to carry weapons any more.49

Ergashev said that since the arrest of Kolosovskii, he had received seven more complaints of torture against the police officer. Indeed, Ergashev believed that because other detainees had recognized Kolosovskii as their torturer and attacked him, Kolosovskii had to be transferred from the Ekaterinburg SIZO to the Nizhnii Tagil SIZO.50

Police in Ekaterinburg launched a campaign on behalf of their colleague, with the support of several newspapers. Ergashev told Human Rights Watch that large numbers of armed police had sat demonstratively outside his office in the corridor as well as in the court to intimidate employees of the procuracy and court. Kolosovskii was eventually released from pretrial custody and ran (unsuccessfully) for a seat in the Russian State Duma.

The Sverdlovsk Province Court heard the case against Kolosovskii in the fall of 1998. The court acquitted Kolosovskii on one charge and returned the charge that he had ill-treated Paivin to the procuracy for further investigation. Local human rights activists told Human Rights Watch that Paivin did not appear at the court hearing on Kolosovskii's case because he feared for his life.51

In her interview with Human Rights Watch, Elena Topil'skaia of the Leningrad province procuracy also asserted that police show a strong corporate solidarity: "the agencies that investigate such cases encounter active resistance, simply with a wall from the side of the corporate brotherhood of police officers, who do not want to give their brothers over to the justice system to be torn to pieces, irrespective of whether or not they are guilty."52

The Case of Mikhail Sobolev

On March 28, 1995, police officers violently detained Mikhail Sobolev, of Ekaterinburg, in his house and beat him so severely that he required a month of hospitalization and a month of bed rest to recover. The day after the abuse, he senta complaint to the procuracy. After his recovery, Sobolev went to the city procurator to ask why he had received no response to the complaint.

He [city procurator Kornilov] laughed in my face: "What, are you going to teach me what to do?" I asked: "Why haven't you opened a criminal case? According to the criminal procedure code that must be done within three, maximum ten days." Only after three months...the lawyer talked to the deputy city procurator and a criminal case was begun retroactively. From that moment on I have been trying to achieve the punishment of the guilty....

They changed investigators on the case five or six times in three years and they closed the case for alleged absence of corpus delicti.... Despite the fact that we identified the defendants right in the face, they recognized them as defendants only after nine months. And they didn't recognize us [Sobolev's wife witnessed the detention of her husband but was not beaten herself] as victims immediately but only after six months of investigation. One investigator closes the case, a second investigator closes the case. We've already gone through all our [local] law-enforcement agencies, [and] began to write to Moscow. I wrote to the government in Moscow, to Yeltsin, to the Commission on Human Rights, to the State Duma, the Procuracy General. All these papers from there...are sent back to those people about whose actions we complain.... I went to see both the city procurator and the province procurator Tulkov. They openly told me: "You'd better, man, take the money and leave it. We have to put a stop to this case and forget everything."

The first year especially there were a lot of threats, from the defendants...and from my boss [the head of a private security firm that is made up primarily of former police officers]. He came to me and said: "Come on, forgive them." He [the boss] offered money and threatened...saying that I would regret it. Still, we succeeded in bringing the case to court in three years.53

On January 1, 1997, the procuracy transferred the case to the Kirov District Court. Judge Ryndia scheduled the first hearing for July 14. The day of the hearing,Sobolev was surprised to learn that a different judge, who had apparently not studied the case materials, would preside. The prosecutor failed to appear at the hearing, and the judge banned the press from the courtroom. According to Sobolev, the judge clearly sympathized with the police officers and frequently interrupted him and his wife. After two days of hearings, the judge remanded the case for further investigation in view of "newly discovered facts."

In 1999, the case was transferred to the procuracy of neighboring Perm province, which was continuing the investigation as of this writing.

The Case of Andrei Getsko

On March 20, 1998, a judge in Bratsk began a criminal investigation against police officers who had beaten Andrei Getsko on September 30, 1994-after several doctors testified in court that they had witnessed police officers beating Getsko in an elevator at the Central Hospital-1 in Bratsk. Despite this irrefutable evidence of ill-treatment, the procuracy that had been instructed to investigate the beatings dropped criminal proceedings in early 1999. Human Rights Watch was unable to establish what formal grounds the procuracy gave for closing the criminal case.


Although comprehensive statistics do not seem exist, it appears that only a small number for abusive police officers have been convicted for crimes related to torture.54 Human Rights Watch on two separate occasions requested from the Procuracy General statistics on convictions of law-enforcement officials for the abuse of detainees, but was informed by letter merely that "the requested statistical data about the crime situation in Russia are regularly published in the media." Vladimir Byzenkov of the Sverdlovsk province procuracy, however, told Human Rights Watch that no statistics are gathered on the number of complaints or convictions for police abuse. However infrequent, convictions of police for crimes against detainees have attracted widespread attention in the Moscow and regional press. They include the following:

C In 1998, seven police officers were convicted in Mordovia for torturing Oleg Igonin to death (see below).

C In 1998, two police men from Saratov were given three-year suspended sentences for beating and using electroshock on three suspects. The judge reportedly told the Moscow Times that the sentences were adequate because the torture had had no long-term ill effects on the victims' health and the performance records of the policemen had been exemplary.55

C In 1997, the Verkh-Isetsk District Court in Ekaterinburg sentenced one policeman to three years' imprisonment and gave another a three-year suspended sentence for asphyxiating a man they suspected of having stolen a car and forcing a hockey stick up his anus.56

C In 1997, the Voronezh Province Court sentenced three police officers to eight, nine, and ten years' imprisonment for torturing to death a criminal suspect and burning his body. The officers tortured the detainee and his brother for several hours, beating and asphyxiating him. When they realized one of them had died, they tried to dispose of the body by burning it and dumping it in a sewer.57

C In October 1996, a Nizhnii Novgorod court sentenced two police officers to two- and four-year suspended sentences for causing the death of detainee Chistiakov. When Chistiakov demanded that police release him from his cell, the officer took him out, beat him and, after tying him up in the "konvertik" position, threw him in a punishment cell, where he died. A forensic expert examination found forty bruises from night sticks on his body.58

C In 1994, the press reported that seven policemen who had tortured witnesses were sentenced to prison terms of from three to ten years.59

C In 1994, two policemen were sentenced to two and three years of imprisonment for two separate torture episodes in Nizhnii Novgorod. In 1993, the officers had unlawfully detained and beaten a minor, whose injuries were later recorded at an emergency room, and, later that year, had beaten another detainee in the head with a nightstick. A friend of the detainee witnessed the beating when she walked into the precinct office.60

The Case of Oleg Igonin

The torture death in 1995 of nineteen-year-old Oleg Igonin in Mordovia (See above, "Deaths in Custody and Permanent Injury") drew unprecedented attention from the Russian media, which followed the case, beginning with Igonin's death through to the historic conviction of several police officers for a range of related crimes three years later. On February 2, 1998, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Mordovia sentenced seven police officers, including officers Daev, Sazonov, and Guliaikin, to prison terms ranging from three to nine and a half years. The court found the policemen guilty of two episodes of torture under article 171(2) of the old criminal code.

Presiding Judge Vasilii Martyshkin issued, in addition to the verdict, a separate statement (chastnoe opredelenie) to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs accusing Mordovian police authorities of knowingly tolerating widespread torture practices in Mordovia. The statement castigated Mordovian police in particular for inaction on previous torture complaints against two of the convicted officers (Daev and Sazonov). Together with S. Antonov, in 1994 they had called three men to the police station for "informal questioning." In the course of this questioning, the policemen asphyxiated the three men and forced them to sit in the "konvertik" position while beating them. Police had suspected the men of having stolen a tractor. Judge Martyshkin's statement reads:

The procuracy of Saransk opened a criminal case under article 171(2) of the criminal code of the RSFSR against the criminal investigation officers [Daev and Sazonov] on June 7, 1994, about which the leadership of the MVD of Mordovia, the Bol'shebereznikvoskii and Lenin ROVD were informed. On July 25, 1995, investigator Savinov D.A. of the Saransk procuracy wrote the indictments against Daev, Sazonov, Antonov, Frolkin, and Tutaev.

However, despite the results of the investigation of the criminal case against Daev, Sazonov, Tutaev and Frolkin, the leadership of the Mordovian MVD did not take the necessary measures, including relieving [them] from [their] official positions. This carelessness and tolerance, the attempt to defend [the police officers] led to Daev andSazonov committing an offence with even more grave results against minor Lavrent'ev A.S. and Igonin O.V.61

Complaints to the Russian Ombudsman

Under the Russian law on the ombudsman,62 the ombudsman considers complaints on human rights violations only after initial administrative or judicial review has yielded a response unsatisfactory to the victim. In practice, this means that after a procuracy review rules not to bring criminal charges, the torture victim may seek the ombudsman's involvement. The victim must file his or her complaint with the ombudsman within a year from the administrative or judicial decision. If the ombudsman decides to consider the complaint on its merits, he has a variety of tools to investigate the complaint, including unlimited access to documents and officials. After concluding the investigation, the ombudsman informs the complainant and the responsible agency of the conclusions and can take a number of measures that are provided for by law. These include:

C Filing a human rights complaint with an ordinary court and participating in the hearings;

C Requesting the applicable government agencies to institute disciplinary action or administrative or criminal cases against the violating official;

C Requesting a court or procuracy to review a court decision that has entered into force;

C Presenting his conclusions to those officials who have the right to bring protests against court decisions and be present during court hearings in oversight proceedings.63

Although the ombudsman himself cannot overturn decisions by the procuracy or courts, his intervention could be an effective way of forcing a breakthrough when the police, procuracy, and courts refuse to take action on credible cases of torture. In addition, the ombudsman can put torture on the political agenda. For example, he has the right to draw up suggestions and recommendations to both federal and regional state agencies, to address the State Duma about gross and systemic violations of human rights, and to request the Duma to appoint a specialparliamentary commission to investigate these reports and initiate parliamentary hearings on the issue. He may also participate both in the special commission and the hearings.

In May 1998, the State Duma appointed Oleg Mironov, a member of parliament from the communist party, as Russia's first ombudsman. On his initiative, a Department for Criminal Justice was created, which deals with individual torture complaints. Mironov told Human Rights Watch that about 28 percent of the complaints he receives concern violations in the criminal justice system. "The most serious violations of human rights happen at the moment of detention, when physical methods of coercion are used, when detainees are beaten up and tortured," he told Human Rights Watch.64

Using his right under the law to raise his concerns with government officials, Mironov sent a letter to then- Minister of Internal Affairs Sergei Stepashin in December 1998, in which he expressed concern about the widespread nature of torture and asked Stepashin to take the necessary steps to end it. In particular, Mironov stated in the letter that "during personal meetings of the ombudsman with people who are held in SIZOs and colonies, every second person said that he was subjected to beatings and humiliation by police officers from the moment of detention until being sent to SIZOs."65 The letter raised a number of concrete cases of the use of electroshock and asphyxiation. Mironov has the authority to request the State Duma to appoint a special commission or to hold hearings to investigate the torture problem, but has not yet done so.66

Compensation for Damage

At the time of writing, legal provisions for compensation for damages to crime victims largely remained a dead letter for torture victims. Human Rights Watch knows of only one case of this kind: As noted, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Mordovia ordered compensation to be paid by the Russian state for moral "damages" to victims in the case of Daev, Guliaikin, Antonov, and others, who stood trial for two episodes of torture (see above, "Legal Framework"). The court awarded 200,000 rubles (after the January 1, 1998 denomination, or approximately U.S.$33,333) to Valentina Igonina, Oleg Igonin's mother. The court also granted compensation for moral damages to three other torture victims, ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 rubles (approximately, U.S.$5,000 to U.S.$8,333).

Compensation for damages can also be awarded in civil cases. However, civil courts are unlikely to grant compensation for damages to torture victims unless a criminal court has found the perpetrators guilty of such a crime. As long as the procuracy does not actively prosecute perpetrators of torture, victims of torture will have little chance of receiving compensation for damages.

Fear as a Deterrent to Complaints

Police and procuracy officials warned some torture victims about repercussions should they lodge a complaint, a form of intimidation that violates Russian and international law.67 Dmitrii Ivanov's mother gave up all attempts to have the torturers of her son brought to justice after procuracy officials threatened to pursue a further criminal investigation against him. Ivanov, as noted above, had jumped out of a police precinct window after torture in a city in central Russia in 1997, where he was being questioned for a burglary. Following his jump, which left him paralyzed for life, police changed his procedural status to that of witness. When Ivanov's mother, with the help of a local human rights organization, tried to file a complaint about the treatment her son was subjected to, she was told that if she would pursue the torture complaint, her son's "status could easily be changed from witness to defendant."68

Oksana Bykova, whose husband was detained in April 1994 in the village of Usol'e-Sibirskoe (Irkutsk province), told Human Rights Watch that she was harassed and threatened by police investigator Muzyka when she complained about her conduct. When ordered to sign a protocol, written by investigator Muzyka, containing an admission that Bykova's husband was in possession of an illegal weapon:

I refused to sign and she told me she would not give me a meeting [with my husband]. Then she called in police officers and they put me in a police cell...when the day ended, she released me.

The next day, I went to the city procurator of Usol'e-Sibirskoe Chudov. I wrote a complaint against her.... I received a reply several days later. They told me: "Muzyka is conducting the case correctly."...Anyway, she [Muzyka] told me: "Don't get into this, otherwise we'll put you in jail as well."69

Tatiana Popkova, the ex-girlfriend of another defendant in the same case in Usol'e-Sibirskoe, told Human Rights Watch she received a similar warning:

They told me this literally immediately after they applied force; there immediately was this "advice": "...better to forget this case and not to appeal anywhere, that's better for you and for Igor [the defendant]. [If] you don't listen to this advice, it will have very bad consequences for Igor."70

Similarly, Andrei Tuzikov from Irkutsk told Human Rights Watch that he had not told a procurator in Irkutsk that police had asphyxiated and beaten him, even though he had been taken to the procurator's office. He told Human Rights Watch: "They said that `if you open your mouth, that will be it....' The detectives said that, they said that `we'll find you in prison.'"71

25 Published in Obshchaia gazeta, April 9-15, 1998, p. 4. 26 According to the 1995 Law on the Procuracy of the Russian Federation, the procuracy is in charge of exercising supervision over implementation of the law (article 21-25), over respect for rights and freedoms (article 26-28), over search and investigation activities,inquiries and preliminary criminal investigations (article 29-31) and over places of detention (articles 32-34). In accordance with article 27(1), officials of the procuracy "review and check reports, complaints and other statements on" and "take measures to prevent and intervene with" such violations. It further institutes criminal proceedings "if there is reason to believe that the violation of rights and freedoms of man and citizen constitutes a crime" (article 27(2)). Under article 109 of the criminal procedure code, procurators are obliged to accept reports on any crime and decide within three, or in exceptional cases, ten days whether to institute criminal proceedings. 27 Human Rights Watch did not receive any reports that detainees had problems submitting their complaints from pretrial detention centers or IVSs. 28 A criminal case is instituted if it is established that "there are sufficient facts which point at signs of a crime" (article 108 of the criminal procedure code). According to a commentary on the criminal procedure code, sufficient facts exist when their "sum total and quality allow one to make a well-founded assumption that a crime was committed or was being prepared" (V.M. Lebedev, Nauchno-prakticheskii kommentarii k ugolovnomu-protsessual'nomu kodeksu RSFSR, Moscow 1998, p. 211). 29 There is confusion as to the term within which the procurator's office must review torture complaints. Most procurator's office officials we spoke to mentioned a one-month term for reviewing complaints (this coincides with a general one-month term set for government officials for responding to complaints in article 4 of the 1993 law on complaints). However, the criminal procedure code requires that the procurator's office must take a decision on any report on the commission of a crime within three days or, in exceptional cases, ten days. The 1992 law on the procuracy established a general rule that procurators should review complaints within one month but with respect to a violation of a constitutional right (like torture) this term was five days. This article was dropped altogether from the new law on theprocuracy (adopted in 1995). However, an instruction of the procurator general from 1992 (No. 33 of July 30, 1992, "On the manner of review of letters, complaints, statements and reception of citizens in the organs of the procuracy of the Russian Federation") still sets the norm contained in the 1992 law, and, as far as Human Rights Watch is aware, this instruction has not been rescinded. 30 In article 113 (3)of the criminal procedure code requires such replies to supply explanations for decisions. 31 Article 8 of Instruction No. 33 of July 30, 1992, "On the manner of review of letters, complaints, statements and reception of citizens in the procuracy agencies of the Russian Federation" states that after a decision is issued, the complainant must be given the opportunity to study the materials of the procurator's review "to the extent that that does not violate the rights of other citizens...." 32 Article 109 of the criminal procedure code merely gives the procuracy the right to "demand the necessary material" and to "receive explanations" in order to investigate reports on crimes. 33 Human Rights Watch interview with Andrei Babushkin, Moscow, February 15, 1999. 34 Human Rights Watch interview with Vladimir Federov, Moscow, June 8, 1999. 35 Human Rights Watch interview with Andrei Babushkin, Moscow, February 15, 1999. 36 Human Rights Watch interview with Vladimir Semenov, Ekaterinburg, August 7, 1997. 37 Human Rights Watch interview with Andrei Potanin's father, Ekaterinburg, August 8, 1997. 38 Letter from the procuracy of Nizhnii Novgorod province, number 15/1-104941097 of October 14, 1997 to Shamberova, L.V. 39 Human Rights Watch interview with Liubov' Shamberova, October 17, Nizhnii Novgorod. 40 In theory, complainants can also challenge the review outcome in court. However, Human Rights Watch is unaware of any such attempts, and long delays in the judicial process would be unavoidable. 41 Human Rights Watch interview with Oksana Bykova, Usol'e-Sibirskoe, Irkutsk province, April 9, 1998. 42 Human Rights Watch interview with Elena Topil'skaia, St. Petersburg, July 15, 1998. 43 Human Rights Watch interview with Igor Kaliapin, Nizhnii Novgorod, October 17, 1997. 44 Human Rights Watch interview with Vitalii Sokolov, Nizhnii Novgorod, October 19, 1997. 45 In Russia, long distance phone calls are distinguishable from local calls from the length of the ring. 46 "Timofei Petrov" is not the man's real name. 47 Human Rights Watch interview with Igor Kaliapin, Nizhnii Novgorod, October 17, 1997. 48 Human Rights Watch interview with Nadezhda Fetisova, Ekaterinburg, August 11, 1997. 49 Human Rights Watch interview with Evgenii Ergashev, Ekaterinburg, August 12, 1997. 50 Ibid. 51 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Petr D'iakonov of Memorial-Ekaterinburg, April 19, 1999. 52 Human Rights Watch interview with Elena Topil'skaia, St. Petersburg, July 15, 1998. 53 Human Rights Watch interview with Mikhail Sobolev, Ekaterinburg, August 11, 1997. 54 A U.S. State Department official told Human Rights Watch that the implementation of the Leahy amendment (see above "Holding Russia to its Obligations") is apparently complicated by the fact that the Russian procuracy does not keep centralized records on abuse by security forces.

55 Simon Sarandzhian, "Saratov Policemen Convicted of Torturing Suspects," Moscow Times, October 31, 1998.

56 Human Rights Watch interview with Evgenii Ergashev, Ekaterinburg, August 12, 1997.

57 Gennadii Litvintsev, "Samosud v militseiskom zastenke," Rossiiskaia gazeta, April 8, 1997, p. 8

58 Nizhnii Novgorod Society for Human Rights, "The Use of Torture on the Territory of the Nizhnii Novgorod Province, 1997," p. 13.

59 "Osudzhdeny za nasilie protiv svidetelei," Izvestiia, June 15, 1995, p. 1.

60 Anatolii Ershov, "Militsionery poluchili srok za izbienie liudei," Izvestiia, September 8, 1994.

61 Chastnoe opredelenie by judge Vasilii Martyshkin of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Mordovia, Case 2-4/98, February 12, 1998. Emphasis added.

62 The State Duma adopted the law on the ombudsman on December 25, 1996.

63 In Russia, the procuracy has the right to oversee court decisions. It can initiate proceedings to overturn court decisions (even after the appeal period has expired or if there is no right to appeal) even after they have attained legal force.

64 Human Rights Watch interview with Oleg Mironov, Moscow, February 16, 1999.

65 Release of the press service of the ombudsman of the Russian Federation, December 29, 1998.

66 Human Rights Watch interview with Oleg Mironov, Moscow, February 16, 1999.

67 The 1995 Law of the Russian Federation on Detention of Persons Suspected or Accused of Committing Crimes states that "persecution in any form of suspects and defendants for appeals with suggestions, statements or complaints connected to violations of their right and legal interests is not allowed" (article 21(7)). The Convention against Torture states in article 13 that "Steps shall be taken to ensure that the complainant and witnesses are protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of his complaint or evidence given."

68 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a representative of the human rights organization, Moscow, June 3, 1999.

69 Human Rights Watch interview with Oksana Bylova, Usol'e-Sibirskoe, Irkutsk province, April 9, 1998.

70 Human Rights Watch interview with Tatiana Popkova, Usol'e-Siberskoe, Irkutsk province, April 9, 1998.

71 Human Rights Watch interview with Andrei Tuzikov, Bratsk, Irkutsk province, April 5, 1998.

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