(Application no. 19223/04)
30 July 2009
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Vladimir Fedorov v. Russia,
The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Sverre Erik Jebens,
George Nicolaou, judges,
and Søren Nielsen, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 7 July 2009,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
A. Applicant’s arrest and alleged ill-treatment in a police station
“On 25 March 2003 the police department received [the applicant’s] complaint from the town prosecutor’s office; [in that complaint the applicant] indicates that the police officers of the district police station applied psychological and physical pressure to him and his acquaintance, Ms S., in order to extract a confession statement.
According to [the applicant], on 12 March 2003, at approximately 10.00 a.m., he and Ms S. were arrested by a police officer, D., and taken to the Rudnichniy District Police Department, where in office no. 17, [officer] D., having handcuffed [the applicant] to the chair back, beat him with a shovel handle.
[The applicant] indicated that on a number of occasions, in the police station between 12 and 14 March 2003, the police officers D., A., I., K. and Ko. had taken him from a detention unit to the service garage, where [they] had beaten him up, had buried him naked in the snow, had threatened him and his girlfriend with violence, [and] had applied psychological pressure.
Ms S. explained that after [she had been] taken to the police station, she had been near office no. 17 for approximately two hours and had heard [the applicant] screaming. After [the officer] D. had questioned her, she was placed in a detention unit where she remained until 9.00 a.m. on 13 March 2003. Ms S. also asserts that psychological pressure was applied to her.
The police officer, D., stated that on the basis of information received pertaining to an armed robbery, on 12 March 2003, at approximately 10.00 a.m., he had arrested [the applicant]. As the latter had attempted to hide on the premises of a psychiatric hospital and a [hospital] staff member had called [the police], [the applicant] was taken to the police station in a police car. On the same day criminal case no. 665913 was opened pursuant to Article 162 § 2 of the Russian Criminal Code in respect of the robbery.
[The officer] D. also explained that Ms S. had voluntarily gone to the police station. D. had a talk with her (not an [official interrogation]) as she had close ties to [the applicant] and could have certain information. Ms S. was not detained in the detention unit.
A police officer working with arrestees, Mr Se., stated in his explanation note, that Ms S. had been registered by housing maintenance authorities (registration no. 1309) and, on an order from [officer] D., [he] had verified information about her in the address inquiry office. However, she had not been placed in the detention unit.
All the police officers, who were named in [the applicant’s] complaint and statements, save for Mr K. who had been on annual leave since 24 March 2003, firmly deny that physical force, threats or psychological pressure were applied to [the applicant].
However, taking into account that on 15 March 2003 [the applicant] applied to the Central Trauma Unit (certificate no. 1983), which recorded injuries, [and having regard to] discrepancies between statements of individuals and police officers, it is necessary to perform certain investigative actions to establish the truth, which is impossible to do within the limits of the official inquiry and is within the competence of the prosecution authorities.”
“On 15 March 2003, in the trauma unit, [the applicant] was diagnosed with several injuries; however, in the course of the inquiry it has been impossible to establish the time and mechanism of their appearance without a forensic medical examination. The circumstances of [the applicant’s] beatings as indicated by him were not corroborated by any objective data. The police officers ... interrogated in the course [of the inquiry] strongly object to [the applicant’s] arguments concerning the application of unlawful investigation methods...”
B. Trial and appeal proceedings
Opening of the criminal investigation into the ill-treatment complaints
The investigator had been unable to examine the medical evidence, including the X-ray records made in May 2003 and records of the medical emergency unit of the Prokopyevsk Town Hospital, as they had been destroyed due to the archiving time-limit.
The investigator concluded that the applicant’s ill-treatment allegations were not supported by any evidence, save for statements given by him and his relatives. The investigator noted that those statements had to be treated with caution as they had been made by persons having a direct interest in the case.
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW
A. Investigation into criminal offences
30. The Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation (in force since 1 July 2002, “the CCrP”) establishes that a criminal investigation can be initiated by an investigator or a prosecutor on a complaint by an individual or on the investigative authorities’ own initiative, where there are reasons to believe that a crime was committed (Articles 146 and 147). A prosecutor is responsible for overall supervision of the investigation (Article 37). He can order specific investigative actions, transfer the case from one investigator to another or order an additional investigation. If there are no grounds to initiate a criminal investigation, the prosecutor or investigator issues a reasoned decision to that effect which has to be notified to the interested party. The decision is amenable to appeal to a higher-ranking prosecutor or to a court of general jurisdiction within a procedure established by Article 125 of the CCrP (Article 148). Article 125 of the CCrP provides for judicial review of decisions by investigators and prosecutors that might infringe the constitutional rights of participants in proceedings or prevent access to a court.
B. Civil-law remedies against illegal acts by public officials
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 3 OF THE CONVENTION
“No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
A. Submissions by the parties
B. The Court’s assessment
(a) General principles
(b) Application of the general principles to the present case
(i) Alleged failure to appeal against the assistant prosecutor’s decision of 13 October 2003
“since the same domestic courts, to which a formal criminal complaint laid, examined the substance of the applicants’ complaints about the ill-treatment in the police station and the prosecutor’s inactivity, the applicants cannot be said to have failed to exhaust domestic remedies. It follows that the complaint cannot be declared inadmissible for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies.” (see Akulinin and Babich v. Russia, no. 5742/02, § 33, 2 October 2008)
Failure to appeal against the decision of 27 July 2007
(c) The Court’s decision on the admissibility of the complaint
(a) Establishment of the facts
(b) Alleged inadequacy of the investigation
(c) Alleged ill-treatment of the applicant: assessment of the severity of ill-treatment
(i) General principles
(ii) Application of the above principles in the present case
II. OTHER ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OF THE CONVENTION
III. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, EUR 10,000 (ten thousand euros) in respect of non-pecuniary damage, to be converted into Russian roubles at the rate applicable at the date of settlement, plus any tax that may be chargeable on that amount;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amount at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
Done in English, and notified in writing on 30 July 2009, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Søren Nielsen Nina