Deaths in custody

<< No 5 (238), 6 February 2017 >>

• Professional ‘heart failure’: the Committee for the Prevention of Torture investigates •

committee-against-tortureFrom time to time the news agencies report on the sudden death of a person, either in police custody or in a place of detention, which becomes the subject of an inquiry, on the basis of which a a procedural decision will be taken.What do such official statements conceal and what, in reality, frequently occurs? Specialists from the Committee for the Prevention of Torture give […] examples.

On 28 January 2014 Mikhail Protasov turned to the Committee for the Prevention of Torture for legal assistance. He asked the human rights activists to undertake an independent enquiry into the death of his brother, Sergei Protasov, on 21st January. Sergei died in hospital a month after being transferred there from a Ministry of Internal Affairs’ reception centre for individuals arrested under the Administrative Code. Mikhail contended that one way or another the police officers were guilty of his brother’s death.

The human rights activists, without delay, sent information regarding the crime to the Investigative Committee, from which they received the expected refusal to open a criminal case.

Within the framework of their investigation the Committee’s lawyers succeeded in gaining access to a video of the observation cell in police station no. 7, where Protasov was transferred for the preparation of a transcript relating to his administrative offence. He had been under the influence of drugs.

In examining the video, the official version that the numerous bruises on Protasov’s body could have been produced by his own actions, was confirmed. At the same time the video provided evidence of no less than four offences: the rude behaviour of the police officers towards Protasov, who had been arrested for an administrative offence; the failure to use special means to restrict his movements; the failure by the police officers, for an extended period, to provide assistance to a person in a helpless condition; the failure by the first aid officer to provide medical assistance.

The activists, during the course of the investigation, also received a copy of the materials of an investigation carried out by the Nizhny Novgorod branch of the Internal Ministry’s division for investigating alleged crimes by police officers. It established that the behaviour of one of the police officers at police station no. 7 suggested evidence of a criminal offence under Article 293, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (“Negligence”) : “The inappropriate execution by (the officer’s name – ed.) of his duties either from an unconscientious or a careless attitude towards his work led to serious damage to the health of S. A. Protasov, arrested for an administrative offence, and to his subsequent death.”

Despite the results of the internal investigation, the officials of the Investigative Committee have, up until now, refused to open a criminal case against the police nine times. Nor has a criminal case been opened with regard to the medical team. According to a police officer at police station no. 7 who carried out a review, the doctors’ actions “suggested no clear intent” to deprive a sick person of assistance.

Translated by Mary McAuley
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