The ECHR considered the applications of seven residents of Mari El Republic about ill-treatment in the colony of Yoshkar-Ola. Five of the applicants will receive 20 000 euros in compensation

24 September 2021

On 15 June, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia should pay compensation to five of the seven applicants who had complained of ill-treatment. Each of them will receive 4 thousand euros.

Beating: the position of the applicants

Seven applicants were serving their sentences in the colony No. 6 of Yoshkar-Ola. These were Mr. Zagainov, Golovin, Kondratev, Kuznetsov, Maltsev, Vecherov and Yakovlev.

At about 8 am on 20 December 2005, according to them, the employees of the colony and a special purpose detachment “Hawk” took them out of the cells to the street, not allowing them to put on winter clothes. They were beaten with rubber batons and kicked. The jailers forced them to stand against the wall with their legs spread and kept them in this position for two hours.

The response of the authorities

The authorities reported that prison officers entered the applicants’ cells and ordered them to vacate the premises for inspection. The prisoners refused. The employees repeated the order and threatened to use force. The applicants resisted and tried to hit the employees, and they stopped them with batons.

Then the colony employees drew up a protocol on the use of force against five prisoners (all except Golovin and Vecherov), as well as protocols for each separately. They said that the employees used force after repeated warnings.

The protocols indicated the nature of the injuries.

Medical examination

The doctor on duty conducted a medical examination on the same day (20 December). Zagainov had abrasions in the area of the left shoulder blade and on the left buttock. Kondratev had an abrasion on his right thigh, a bruise on his upper lip. Maltsev had an abrasion on his left thigh. Kuznetsov had two abrasions on the backs of his thighs, and Yakovlev — in the area of the right shoulder blade and on the surface of the right thigh.

 

The protocols of the colony staff indicated the facts of the use of batons to these five prisoners.

Regarding Golovin and Vecherov, there were no indications of injuries or requests for help in the medical documents.

Investigation

On 20 December 2005, the applicants filed a complaint of ill-treatment with NGO “Man and Law”. We sent their complaint to the prosecutor’s office.

 

On 16 March 2006, the prosecutor refused to open a criminal case. He referred to the explanations given by the applicants and officials. In his decision, the prosecutor pointed out that physical force was used justifiably against the prisoners, since they refused to obey the legal requirements of the colony’s employees.

 

The decision stated that five of the above-mentioned prisoners had undergone a forensic examination, which confirmed their injuries.

 

There was no conclusion about the alleged refusal of prisoners to wear winter clothes in the prosecutor’s decision.

The applicants filed an appeal to the Yoshkar-Ola City Court against the refusal to initiate a case. On 16 June 2006, the court rejected it, and also indicated that the applicants were allowed to wear winter clothes.

On 9 August 2006, the Supreme Court of Mari El Republic upheld this decision.

ECHR decision

The ECHR ruled that the Article 3 of the Convention on Human Rights (prohibition of torture) was violated against five applicants (Zagainov, Kuznetsov, Yakovlev, Kondratev and Maltsev) in its substantive and legal aspect “in connection with the inhuman and degrading treatment to which they were subjected”, as well as in the procedural aspect (the Government of the Russian Federation did not conduct an effective investigation of the facts of violence against prisoners).

The Russian Federation must pay each of the applicants 4 thousand euros within three months from the date of the decision.

Co-chairman of NGO “Man and Law” Sergei Poduzov:

 

 I believe that the decision of the ECHR in the case “Zagainov and Others v. the Russian Federation” is important both for the employees of the Federal Penitentiary Service for the Republic of Mari El, and for lawyers working with complaints of prisoners about the use of violence in colonies, and for the prisoners themselves, for several reasons:

 

  1. The situation with the use of violence in the colony occurred in 2005 — this was a time when there was no law “On public control” in the country, there were no PMCs, but human rights organizations had free access to places of detention. Such interaction showed the openness of the FSIN system for representatives of civil society and allowed many complex issues of human rights observance to be discussed through dialogue and legal work.
  1. Despite the difficult situation in 2005, according to this case, the human rights organization “Man and Law “and the leadership of the regional Department of the Federal Penitentiary Service for Mari El Republic managed to cooperate further, conduct seminars on human rights, make joint visits to colonies, provide legal assistance, and hold a seminar on human rights for employees of the special purpose detachment “Hawk”.
  1. The Russian government, in its position on the case, referred to the fact that the ECHR had not previously found violations of the rights of convicts in the case of Marin v. Russia, and that the actions of the FSIN officers were lawful. However, the Court stated in its decision that in this case, a group of special officers equipped with rubber batons entered the applicants’ cells and struck them in order to force them to obey. No information was provided that the applicants had offered any resistance or physical force. Under the above circumstances, the use of physical force and special means by FSIN officers against unarmed prisoners cannot be considered proportionate.

 

Of course, the issues of respect for human rights in places of deprivation of liberty remain in the focus of the activities of the human rights organization “Man and Law”. If you or your relatives have suffered from human rights violations in places of incarceration, you can contact us at the address: 25 Zarubina Str., Yoshkar-Ola, Mari El Republic.

e-mail: zakon@manandlaw.info

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