the case is completed

"Educational methods”: the case of three teenagers who committed suicide after being questioned by the police

10 July 2020

This is a story about a tragic case in the village of Sernur, which shocked Mari El Republic. 15 years ago, three teenagers committed collective suicide after being interrogated in the Sernur district police department. The case was not allowed to proceed, as according to the investigation, the pressure on the children was not exerted, they themselves decided to die. Lawyers of the human rights organization “Man and Law” and the “Committee against torture” defended the right to a fair trial.

Conversations in the police

On 3 March, 2005, three teenagers were taken to the Internal Affairs Department of the Sernur district. Police officers accused Artem Kislitsin and two of his friends (Vladimir Romanov and Sergei Bogdanov) in stealing the rabbits and made a questioning. However, contrary to the requirements of the law, neither relatives, nor teachers, nor other representatives of minors were present at this interrogation. Later, Artem told his older brother that the Department employees hit him in the solar plexus, forcing him to confess to the theft, and threatened him.

Artem's house was searched and allegedly stolen rabbits were seized. Meanwhile, the boys were known for their love of tinkering with rabbits, caring for them, and even studying books on rabbit breeding.

Two days later, as part of the investigation, the teenagers were formally invited for questioning, which was scheduled to take place on 9 March, 2005. However, on the night of 9 March, 14- year-old Artem Kislitsin and Sergei Bogdanov, along with 15-year-old Vladimir Romanov, committed a collective suicide. They took turns hanging themselves from a clothesline attached to a ceiling beam in the shed.

At the scene of the tragedy, the children's suicide notes were found. “Mom, the police found out about the rabbits and said that they would put us in jail…” – wrote Volodya. Artem in his letter said: “It is not my fate to live in the world for a long time… Keep an eye on Denis. Don’t let him smoke, and most importantly, walk at night. Danil asked for a rabbit — I brought him a rabbit from Vovka, feed it, don't kill it. Change the water for my fish… I will not be alone, with me, as before, Vovka and Bogdan… I ask you not to cut me dead … I wish you happiness and success.”

Difficult age

A criminal investigation was opened into the death of the children. The investigation concluded that Artem and his friends made the decision to leave their lives on their own, and there was no pressure on them. According to the employees of the Sernur district police department, they only “held a conversation with the detained teenagers, without exerting physical and moral pressure, and the guys repented during the conversation and showed where they hid the stolen rabbits.” However, a logical question arose: “What happened in the police department that on the night before the interrogation the guys decided to take their own lives together?” Artem's mother, Elvira Kislitsina, appealed to the Prosecutor's office about causing her son injuries during the first interrogation. The employees themselves did not see any violations and explained that they “acted in accordance with established practice”.

Officials in their statements focused on the fact that teenagers are often emotionally unstable and unpredictable in their behavior.

On 30 September, 2005, the criminal case was dismissed.

The verdict of guilty

In 2007, having exhausted the possibilities of legal protection at the national level, Elvira Kislitsina applied to the European Court of Human Rights with the help of lawyers from the “Committee against torture” and the organization “Man and Law”.

In 2010, the ECHR communicated the applicant's complaint and at the beginning of the next year asked the Russian government a number of questions. In response, the state recognized that Kislitsina and her deceased son’s rights had been violated. These rights are set forth in articles 2, 3, and 13 of the European Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms (right to life, prohibition of torture, and right to an effective investigation).

In the summer of 2011, Elvira Kislitsina and the Russian authorities signed a settlement agreement, which means that the applicant renounces claims against the government, and the government in turn admits guilt and undertakes to pay compensation for moral damage. In this case, 50000 EUR.

The system protects itself

Despite the fact that the state recognized the fact of human rights violations, human rights defenders decided to continue to defend justice, since the local investigative authorities did not conduct a thorough investigation of the tragedy and did not publicly apologize to the victims. The perpetrators were never brought to justice and continued to work in the police.

On 22 November, 2011, human rights defenders applied to the Prosecutor of the Sernur district to reopen the criminal case. Despite the fact that Russia admitted violations and incompleteness of the criminal investigation, the Prosecutor's office of the Sernur district and the head of the Sernur inter-district investigation department again began to insist that the minors decided to commit suicide independently and there are no grounds for investigating the criminal case.

However, on 10 June, 2013, the judge of the Sernur district court granted the complaint of human rights defenders and recognized that the termination of the criminal case had been illegal. And the Supreme Court of Mari El Republic ordered the Investigative Committee to resume the criminal case of the suicide of Artem Kislitsin, Vladimir Romanov and Sergei Bogdanov.

After repeated appeals and reviews in 2014, the investigation of the case was again stopped, but this time forever. Elvira Kislitsina has lost hope of bringing the perpetrators to justice, because the system protects itself in every possible way.