2008/02/20 "Facilitate the search for the truth..."
  • Press release №: 15/1016
  • Dated from: 20/02/2008

TODAY, the 20th of February 2008, Independent Press Center (Moscow) "Mother's Right" Foundation held the annual press-conference "Independent examination in the cases of servicemen's death". The speakers were Veronika Marchenko, Foundation Board Chairwoman, and Lubov Vinogradova, Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia ("Mother's Right" Foundation is cooperating with it on the project).

Veronika Marchenko opened the press-conference referring to the Report on the correspondence of the rules of law in the Russian Federation to the norms of the Council of Europe (Strasbourg, 7 October, 1994) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). The sub-group there concluded that "...the army cannot be out of the norms in the sphere of human rights and if Russia is going to join the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms it shall agree to international control in this sphere. (...) Within the frames of judicial inquiries of death and suicide cases nothing shall impede the parties concerned to use all available evidence and have access to them including requests for physical contra-examination according to the principle of legal remedy equality that is the basis in fair proceedings in judicial authorities ".

Unfortunately, fourteen year have passed the situation in the army is still awful and again we have mournful results...

Veronika Marchenko presented the statistics of the Foundation: in 2007 the lawyers of the Foundation   were engaged in 132 judicial sittings in 21 Russian cities. During the reported period the Foundation rendered competent legal assistance, free of charge, to 5323 (five thousand three hundred and twenty three) families of those who were died in the army (different years). The most "disastrous" commands in 2007 (according to the appeals of the parents whose sons died in the army during 2007) were: Volga-Ural (28% of appeals), Moscow (27%), North Caucasus (20%), and Far Eastern (14%) Commands.

Initial versions presented by the parents of the servicemen died in the army in 2007 who appealed to the Foundation were the following:

1) suicide, "incitement to suicide" (40%); 2) diseases (acute heart failure, hemorrhage, death during operations, etc.) - 20%, 3) accidents (poisoning, drowning, casual handling of arms, death at fire, etc.) - 12%; 4) traffic accidents (9%); 5) do not know the official version of their son's death at the moment of appeal (8%); 6) murder (6%); 7) at performance of military service duties (3%);  8) missing in action (2%).

Veronika Marchenko underlined that in 2008 the situation would not change for the better as there had happened no positive changes in the army. Also in 2008 due to the abrogation of some denial of determent of call-up the army will call up the people with a high level risk to become victims of the system: those who left pregnant wives or disabled parents. "Our Foundation is registering the appeals of the parents whose sons have died in 2008", - Veronika Marchenko said and gave some examples. Sergey Yatselenko (born in 1989) was called up to the military service in December, 2007, from the Ryzan region. He served in the troop unit 5128 and died from meningitis in Burdenko Hospital. Igor Rysiev (born in 1988) was called up in spring of 2007 from Udmurtia. He served in the troop unit 78796; on the 23d of January he was beaten by an officer that caused a cardiac rupture. Mikhail Zemlyanichkin (born in 1988) was called up on the 18th of 2006 from the Ivanovo region. He served in the troop unit 83466 in Moscow. They regularly squeezed money from him (see press release 06/1007 dated from the 24th of 2008). On the 6th of Juanuary, 2008 he died; the official version is "suicide".

As suicides are the most common reason for the servicemen's death Veronika Marchenko reminded that the Foundation had developed its own classification of them.

1) "real suicide" (there turned up some questions to the draft committee).

In October Nina Arsentievna P. addressed the Mother's Right Foundation. Her son Alesha had served in the army for a half of the year, after that they reported his suicide. The Foundation turned immediately to the Independent Psychiatric Association. Our second speaker Lubov Vinogradova tells the story of Lesha's death in the army. He was born and brought in the hereditary tainted family (there were cases of suicide among his relatives). He was called up to the military service in depression state developed after his friend's murder. The officers in the military enlistment office knew that he had attempted a suicide. That is why they asked him... to write a paper that he had not attempted suicides. In the troop unit he attempted suicide five times but nobody paid attention to it. The sixth one was fatal. Lubov Vinogradova underlines that the problem of suicide in the army can be solved. The Mother's Right Foundation and the Independent Psychiatric Association have a real plan to solve the task. There is a successful program "Suicide prevention" (see press release N 75/991 dated from the 6th of December, 2007). This year the Foundation and the Association have held a two-day seminar for military psychologists. The program was welcomed greatly. Now the Foundation is asked to repeat the seminar for those who could not attend it in December 2007. The best way is to include the program to the compulsory training course for military psychologists (this is our aim).

2) "incitement to suicide" (there are a lot of such cases). Veronika Marchenko stressed that incitement to suicide is a public wrong. But to prove the connection between the suicide of a serviceman and the actions of the guilty person in the troop unit requires much patience. Those who turn to our Foundation in time have high chances to win the case. In 2007 and the beginning of 2008 the Foundation won several such cases: the cases of the death in the army of Vasiliy Nikolaev, Pavel Chuikov, Denis Panasenko, Sergey Medvedchikov, Alexander Pozdeev, Viktor Ivancha, etc.  (see the Foundations' report for 2007). The most important thing in proving the cause-and-effect relations in such cases is psychological and psychiatric examination. More details on the problem of examination Lubov Vinogradova gave. Analyzing some examinations and giving their conclusion the experts of Independent Psychiatric Association found out that state experts' summaries in their reports were very often incomplete and sometimes biased. The examination is the cornerstone of any criminal case.

3). "murders staged as suicides" (There are such cases but it is very difficult to prove it to be a murder). As an example Veronika Marchenko gives the case of Vanya Krashennikov. The Mother's Right Foundation has been struggling to find the truth of Vanya's death for half of the year in the Orenburg garrison military court. The crime investigation was poor; as a result two sergeants are on the dock. They either are not guilty or guilty in some other crime. Vanya's parents want to know the truth about their son's death but face counteraction from the military investigators and the court (more details see in the Foundation's report for 2007). Today the case of Ivan Krashennikov's death has the medicolegal report given by the state expert Mingalimov. It contains the description of the fracture of the shield-like cartilage processes and thyrohyal that correspond to the bending type.  Mingalimov's summary is that such fracture was caused with the loop that crushed the throat. Also we have the opinions of two independent medical examiners (they do not know each other) who do not agree with the official summary. Both of them decided that Vanya was killed and the suicide was staged. Veronika Marchenko tells about the counteraction they faced working on the Krashennikov's case: it was difficult to subjoin the experts' opinions to the case papers and to seek another examination on the case (now the case papers are sent to re-examination. The investigation is going on).

"The search for the truth can be facilitated to thousand of such cases but the law shall be changed for that", - reported Veronika Marchenko. The Foundation and the Independent Psychiatric Association have jointly drafted a bill for such cases. The speakers focused on some points:

1). The Criminal Procedure Code (article 5, paragraph 60) envisages the possibility to hold examination as in state ones as in "other institutions". In theory "other institutions "shall be understand as non-state ones. It means that examination can be done as by a state expert as by an independent one. But the word "institution" is perceived by the court as a state organization. The monopoly of state experts disables the parties to compete in a lawsuit in the proper way, and the parents of the dead soldiers - to know the truth. So the Criminal Procedure Code shall be amended as follows: "other institutions (organizations)". It will really open the way for independent experts to law proceedings.

2). When an examination is assigned an expert's committee is formed. Today it works as follows: the head of the expert's (state) institution forms the committee. It is clear that it consists of the institution's stuff. This norm of the Criminal Procedure Code (part 2, article 199) requires to be amended that will fix the right of the parties to the action to invite independent experts to the expert's committee.

3). Article 286 of the Criminal Procedure Code says that the independent expert's opinion is subjoined to the case upon the judge's decision. It contravenes the Civil Procedure Code where it says that the specialist's opinion is read at court and deposited. The contravention between the Codes shall be eliminated; procedural legislation shall be unified broadening the rights of the independent specialists in lawsuits. (The concept of the bill has much more changes to the legislation. The three given examples do not show the scale of the work done by the Mother's Right Foundation in this sphere).

Then we move to tortures in the Russian Army. Veronika Marchenko drew the journalists' attention to "Optional Protocol to the Convention against Tortures and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment", namely articles 2 and 6 of the Convention commit every participating country to take effective measures to prevent tortures and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on any territory under its jurisdiction..."

The Mother's Right Foundation regularly meets the cases of tortures applied to servicemen. The most outrageous cases were the stories of Yaroslav Lazarev and Igor Andreev (lawsuits of the Foundation in 2007). The soldier Yaroslav was crucified and tortured by his comrades-in-arms (for more details see the Foundation's report for 2007). Igor died in the Presidential regiment; they used classified tortures to him (for more details see the Foundation's report). "In autumn of 2007 we finally managed to prove at court the guilt of the Presidential regiment in Igor Andreev's death. The family got the compensation for punitive damages at the sum of 900 thousand roubles (it is a great amount in the Russian juridical practice). The decision of the Tver court has become a precedent in all aspects. This is the best decision of 2007. Soon it will be published in the book "To parents of the dead soldiers. Legal advice. Publication 4" which is ready to publish by the Foundation, - Veronika Marchenko reports. She also quots the court decision: "The court pays special attention to the fact that the parents sent their child to the Army where he was tortured and beaten, where money was extorted from him. And the headquarters called to watch discipline, law order, moral and psychological status of the crew and safety of military service did not tend to create conditions for safe duties that could exclude the bullying and other acts of violence. They also consciously displayed indifference to Andreev's suffering and tortures, did not prevent violation of the charter from other servicemen and tried to make him an outcast, to show his military inferiority and inability to be a worthy serviceman. They intentionally exhausted him with physical activity and when Andreev reached his limit of power and spirit preferred to relieve responsibility for it...". This decision can be taken as a model for the cases of levying moral damage for the death of people in the Army. We worked in the court for half of the year to get this result, we had sought for re-examination on the case (the experts of the Independent Psychiatric Association gave their summary on the case and were interrogated in the court).

In conclusion Veronika Marchenko announced the annual event of the Foundation and invited to support the parents of the dead soldiers on the 23d of February: "Every year, on the 23d of February the Mother's Right Foundation traditionally has the Day of Memory and Sorrow for the Dead in the Army".

For additional information, please, address the press service of the Mother's Right Foundation.

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