Information Note on the Court’s case-law No. 176
Lyapin v. Russia - 46956/09
Judgment 24.7.2014 [Section I] See:  ECHR 837
Repeated failure by investigative committee to open criminal case into credible allegations of police ill-treatment: violation
Facts - In April 2008 the applicant was arrested in connection with an investigation into a series of thefts. He alleges that while in police custody he was gagged, tied up with a rope, punched, kicked and subjected to electric shocks for almost twelve hours. Although an investigative committee carried out a pre-investigation inquiry into his injuries it repeatedly (ten times in all) refused to open a criminal case, which would have allowed the investigators to use the full range of investigative measures available. The applicant’s appeal against the committee’s tenth refusal in December 2009 was dismissed by the domestic courts, which considered that the pre-investigation inquiry had been thorough and the decision lawful and reasoned.
Law - Article 3
(a) Substantive aspect - The applicant had suffered various acts of physical violence that had caused him intense physical and mental suffering. Subjecting him to electric shocks and tying him up in a painful position would have had required a certain preparation and knowledge on the part of the police officers, who had intentionally meted out such treatment to extract a confession. Such treatment amounted to torture.
Conclusion: violation (unanimously).
(b) Procedural aspect - The pre-investigation inquiry served as the initial stage in dealing with a criminal complaint under the Russian law of criminal procedure. The inquiry had to be carried out expediently and, if it disclosed elements of a criminal offence, was followed by the opening of a criminal case and a criminal investigation.
In the applicant’s case, however, owing to its repeated refusal over a 20-month period to open a criminal case, despite credible medical evidence in support of the applicant’s allegations of ill-treatment, the investigative committee had never conducted a “preliminary investigation” into the applicant’s complaint, that is, a fully-fledged criminal investigation in which the whole range of investigative measures were carried out. As a result, police officers who could have shed light on the events had never been questioned as witnesses subject to criminal liability for perjury or for refusing to testify, and it had not been possible to hold a confrontation or an identity parade.
The “pre-investigation inquiry” alone was not capable of establishing the facts and leading to the punishment of those responsible since the opening of a criminal case and a criminal investigation were prerequisites for bringing charges which could then be examined by a court. Confronted with numerous cases of this kind against Russia, the Court was bound to draw stronger inferences from the mere fact of the investigative authority’s refusal to open a criminal investigation into credible allegations of serious ill treatment in police custody.
The investigative committee’s failure to discharge its duty to carry out an effective investigation had not been remedied by the domestic courts which had reviewed its decisions. In the first set of proceedings they had declined to carry out a judicial review on the grounds that criminal proceedings were pending against the applicant. In another set of proceedings their decision had not been executed by the investigative committee, which had meant that the defect identified by the courts had continued to reappear in the committee’s seven subsequent decisions throughout the following year. Lastly, the domestic court had, without exercising any independent scrutiny, upheld the investigative committee’s decision not to open a criminal case.
There has been a violation of Article 3 under its procedural aspect.
Conclusion: violation (unanimously).
Article 41: EUR 45,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.
© Council of Europe/European Court of Human Rights
This summary by the Registry does not bind the Court.
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