by Mikhail Aleksandrovich ARTEMOV
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting on 20 January 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
Boštjan M. Zupančič,
Luis López Guerra, judges,
and Stanley Naismith, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 31 August 1999,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Mikhail Aleksandrovich Artemov, is a Russian national who was born in 1958 and lives in the town of Rostov-na-Donu. He was represented before the Court by his mother, Mrs L.N. Artemova, and by Mr A. Yevstefeyev, a lawyer practising in Rostov-na-Donu. The respondent Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr P. Laptev and Ms V. Milinchuk, former Representatives of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights.
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
A. Events of 30 and 31 August 1998
According to the applicant, on 30 August 1998 at around 11 a.m. three policemen in plain clothes entered his apartment. The applicant was apprehended and escorted to the Voroshilovskiy District Department of Internal Affairs of the town of Rostov-na-Donu (“the local police station”). According to the applicant, the policemen failed to show any documents authorising their actions. He also submitted that the policemen had not permitted him to put his shirt on, so that he had been taken downstairs half naked.
The applicant’s mother, Mrs Artemova, and their neighbours, Mrs A., Mr Sh. and Mr P., saw the policemen taking the applicant downstairs. The neighbours submitted written statements dated 27 and 28 October 1999 certifying that there had been no bruises or any other visible signs of ill treatment on the applicant’s upper body at that point.
During the questioning which took place on the same date the applicant was allegedly subjected to physical force. Four policemen, including a Mr A., participated in the questioning, beating the applicant with a rubber stick and also kicking and punching him. It appears that the applicant suffered hypertension and bleeding ears as a result of this treatment and the police had to call an ambulance. He was then transferred to hospital. The applicant alleged that during the medical examination and treatment he was handcuffed to a radiator. He was then returned to the police station and on the same date the questioning resumed.
It appears that the applicant eventually admitted his involvement in a robbery committed a few days previously and also signed a statement saying that he had come to the police station on his own initiative to confess. It appears that he was subsequently transferred to a remand prison.
The applicant’s mother submitted that she and her friend Mrs N. had seen the applicant at the door of the police station during his transfer to the remand prison. His hands were fettered and his face was swollen and bluish. Mrs N. submitted a written statement to that effect.
According to the applicant, the remand prison authorities did not want to admit him to the prison initially because of the bruises and scars on his body. They required the applicant to write a statement in which he waived any claims against the prison authorities in respect of the marks in question.
According to the Government, the first questioning of the applicant took place in the presence of his lawyer on 2 September 1998.
B. Criminal investigation into the events of 30 August 1998
On 5 September 1998 the applicant’s lawyer informed the authorities of the ill-treatment of the applicant and requested the prosecutor’s office to order that he undergo a medical examination.
It appears that the applicant’s presumed accomplices in the robbery, Ms N. and Mr G., also filed complaints about police brutality during questioning. On 7 September 1998 Ms N. was examined by a medical expert, who confirmed that, judging by the marks, bruises and wounds on her body, she could have been subjected to the treatment in question during the relevant period. The medical expert also found bruises on Mr G.’s body.
On 8 September 1998 investigator K. ordered a medical examination of the applicant.
The examination was carried out by a forensic expert on 9 September 1998. In its relevant parts, the report stated the following:
“... Under the left eye a pale reddish yellow bruise measuring 1.7 x 1.4 cm. Near the mastoid bone on the left side, a yellow bruise measuring 0.6 x 0.6 cm. In the left helix a yellow bruise measuring 0.4 x 0.5 cm. Chest: between the parasternal and central clavicular lines on the left side at the level of the second to the sixth rib, a yellow bruise of irregular shape measuring 8 x 2 cm, oblique. Between the front and medium underarm lines on the left side at the level of the seventh to the ninth rib a yellow bruise measuring 4.7 x 1.5-4 cm. On the right, from the parasternal to the central clavicular line at the level of the fifth rib a yellow, horizontal stripe-shaped bruise measuring 5 x 2 cm. Between the parasternal and central clavicular line at the level of the ninth rib, a yellow horizontal stripe-shaped bruise, parallel to the previous one, measuring 5 x 2 cm. Along the front underarm line at the level of the second rib (on the right side), a yellow bruise measuring 2.4 x 2 cm. Along the middle line of the abdomen, in the upper tier, a yellow bruise measuring 1.4 x 1 cm. On the right side, three centimetres above the previous bruise and two centimetres to the right of the umbilicus, a yellow bruise measuring 2.7 x 1 cm. On the external back surface of the middle tier of the right shoulder an irregularly shaped yellowish brown bruise measuring 13 x 7 cm. On the external back surface of the middle tier of the left shoulder a yellow-brown bruise measuring 3 x 2 cm. On the surface of the abdomen to the left along the front underarm line in the middle tier, a yellow bruise of 1.8 x 1.7 cm. On the back surface of the upper area of the left shoulder, yellowish brown bruises measuring 3 x 2.5 cm and 1.5 x 1.5 cm. Along the back side of the underarm line on the left a pale yellow bruise measuring 1.8 x 1.7 cm. Along the scapular line at the level of the seventh to eleventh ribs on the right a yellow bruise of 6.5 x 5.4 cm. In the lumbar area on the right side a yellow-tinged bruise of 2.5 x 1.4 cm. In the lumbar area on the left side a similar bruise measuring 2.7 x 1 cm. In the sacrococcygeal area a yellow-brown tinged bruise measuring 2.5 x 1.5 cm. On the front surface of the left knee joint, a graze under a thick black-brown scab measuring 1.2 x 1.2 cm. On the front surface of the lower part of the right knee joint, a graze measuring 0.5 x 0.3 cm, and 5.5 cm below it a graze measuring 0.7 x 0.,4 cm covered by a partially detached brown scab. The top surface of both feet is swollen, but without bruises. On the exterior surface of the right wrist in the direction of the front and along the front surface two stripe-shaped parallel grazes covered by a peeled brown (thin) scab 4.2 x 0.4 cm and 2.4 x 0.3 cm, 0.5 cm apart. On the internal surface of the right wrist a wound treated with bright green antiseptic measuring 1 x 0.3 cm, 0.2 cm deep, in the form of a crack, surrounded by the remains of a peeled scab in the form of a rim 0.2 cm wide. No other injuries detected.
Forensic medical expert V.V. Haustov
Mr M.A. Artemov has numerous bruises to the face, chest, abdomen, back and upper extremities, grazes in the area of the knee joints and grazes and a wound in the area of the right wrist. Inflicted by repeated striking, sliding and sliding/pushing actions using both blunt and hard objects. The injuries could have originated more than five days before the date of examination, which does not rule out the possibility that they were inflicted on 30 August 1998 as claimed. Could be described as ‘not having resulted in damage to health’ ...”
On 25 September 1998 the applicant complained to the prosecutor’s office of torture by the police in the criminal proceedings against him.
It appears that a criminal investigation into the events was initiated and then discontinued. The Government submitted that an inquiry into the events of 30 August 1998 had initially been ordered by the district court on 1 December 1998.
One of the first decisions to discontinue the proceedings was taken by the district prosecutor’s office on 24 December 1998.
It appears that the investigator took account of the medical examinations referred to above and also of interviews conducted with the applicant and his co-accused. He also interviewed the policemen alleged to have been involved: investigator K., investigator Zh. and policemen A., R. and Zh. The investigator considered that the proceedings should be discontinued since, apart from the medical certificates and the allegations of the victims, there was no other objective proof of the alleged ill-treatment. It does not appear that any attempt was made to interview the applicant’s mother, her friend Mrs N. or their neighbours Mrs A., Mr Sh. and Mr P.
On 20 January 1998 the deputy prosecutor of the town prosecutor’s office quashed the decision of 24 December 1998 and remitted the case for additional examination.
By a ruling of 15 April 1999 the district prosecutor’s office appears to have again discontinued the proceedings, for reasons similar to those mentioned above.
By letter of 25 August 1999 the applicant’s counsel was informed that the regional prosecutor’s office had forwarded his complaints concerning the applicant’s ill-treatment to the town prosecutor’s office for additional examination.
By letter of 6 September 1999 the town prosecutor informed the applicant’s counsel that the decision of 15 April 1999 to discontinue the criminal investigation into the events of 30 August 1998 had been quashed as unlawful and that the case had been remitted for fresh examination to the district prosecutor.
By letter of 25 October 1999 investigator A. informed the applicant’s mother that, after an additional inquiry of 25 October 1999, the criminal proceedings instituted in relation to the alleged ill-treatment of the applicant had been discontinued by the Voroshilovskiy District Prosecutor’s Office for lack of evidence of any crime in the actions of the police officers. An appeal lay against that decision within five days of the date of notification.
It is unclear whether the applicant or his counsel appealed against that decision within the specified time-limit.
By letter of 20 November 1999 the applicant’s counsel was informed by the town prosecutor’s office that the decision to discontinue the investigation of 25 October 1999 had been quashed as unlawful and that the case had been remitted for fresh investigation to the district prosecutor’s office.
It appears that on 10 January 2000 the proceedings were again discontinued.
The Government submitted that on 18 May 2004 the Prosecutor General’s Office had quashed the previous decision to discontinue the proceedings and had remitted the case for a fresh investigation. The prosecutor noted that the previous investigations had been marked by numerous irregularities and shortcomings. Among other things, it appeared that the policemen had videotaped the applicant immediately after the alleged ill-treatment and that no efforts had been made by the investigating officers to find the tape, that the applicant’s cellmate, who allegedly saw the applicant’s injuries on that date, had remained unidentified and that two of the policemen implicated, Mr M. and someone by the name of Roman, had not been questioned at all.
C. Criminal proceedings against the applicant in relation to the robbery
By judgment of 28 December 1998 the Voroshilovskiy District Court of the town of Rostov-na-Donu examined the criminal charges against the applicant and two accomplices, Ms N. and Mr G., and convicted them of aggravated robbery and wilful destruction of property. The court established that at 3 a.m. on 25 August 1998 the accused had entered a shop and, having tied up the watchman, had stolen goods and destroyed some of the shop’s property. At the trial all three accused denied their involvement. The court took account of the incriminating statements made by the watchman who had been an eyewitness to part of the robbery, a shop manager, passers-by who had arrived the next morning and a policeman who had arrived on the scene, rescued the tied-up watchman and noted his bruises. The court also heard evidence from the policeman Mr A. and the investigator Zh., who had been in charge of the case. In convicting the applicant the court took account of his self-incriminating statements. With regard to the allegations of torture, the court noted that they had been refuted by the statements of the police officers made in court and that the investigation into these allegations had been discontinued on 24 December 1998 for lack of evidence of any crime.
The court sentenced the applicant to three and a half years’ imprisonment and forfeiture of his property.
The judgment was upheld on appeal by the Rostov Regional Court on 19 May 1999.
On 19 August 1999 the Rostov Regional Court reopened the case under the supervisory review procedure and, having accepted the arguments of the prosecutor’s special appeal, discontinued the proceedings in relation to the charges of wilful destruction of property. The remaining part of the conviction and the sentence remained unchanged.
D. Proceedings before the Court
On 19 November 1999 the Court received the completed application form signed by the applicant’s mother on 4 November 1999. The applicant’s power of attorney in favour of his mother, dated 18 June 1999 and certified by the prison authority on 25 June 1999, was attached to the application. The application form described the alleged violations of the applicant’s Convention rights; however, Mrs Artemova, the applicant’s mother, referred to herself as an applicant in the section concerning the parties.
On 11 August 2004 the applicant wrote to the Court stating that he had been released and that he wished to pursue the application previously lodged with the Court by his mother and his lawyer on his behalf.
The applicant complained under Article 3 of the Convention that he had been subjected to ill-treatment by police officers on 30 and 31 August 1998 and that no effective investigation had been conducted in respect of his complaint.
He also complained, under Article 6 of the Convention, that the proceedings overall had been unfair and that the court had failed to call some of the witnesses on his behalf.
On 30 March 2004 the case was communicated to the respondent Government.
On 25 June 2004 the Government filed their observations on the admissibility of the case.
On 11 August 2004 the applicant responded to the Government’s observations.
On 21 May 2007 the Court again communicated the case to the respondent Government, seeking clarification of some legal and factual points.
On 20 July 2007 the Government filed their additional observations in the case.
By letter dated 25 July 2007 the Government’s additional observations were sent to the applicant, who was requested to submit any observations in reply by 20 September 2007.
By letters dated 5 December 2007, 4 March 2008 and 23 September 2008, sent by registered post, the applicant, his mother and his counsel were all notified that the period allowed for submission of the applicant’s observations had expired on 20 September 2007 and that no extension of time had been requested. Their attention was drawn to Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention, which provides that the Court may strike a case out of its list of cases where the circumstances lead to the conclusion that the applicant does not intend to pursue the application. No response has been received in respect of the mentioned letters.
The Court considers that, in these circumstances, the applicant may be regarded as no longer wishing to pursue his application, within the meaning of Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention. In view of the above, regard being had to Article 37 § 1 in fine, the Court finds it is appropriate to strike the case out of the list.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases.
Stanley Naismith Josep Casadevall
Deputy Registrar President