2008/12/26 "Justice Does Exist!"
  • Press Release No. 140/1141
  • 26/12/2008

Today on December 26, the 3 District Military Court (Moscow Region) has finished the case of the death of Nikolai Ishimov (b. 1986) from Chelyabinsk. For the Mother's Right Foundation, this two round trial (two hearings in the court of first instance and two hearings in the appeal court) is the trial of 2008. It was a matter of honour for us to secure maximum punishment for the accused, as well as maximum moral damage compensation to the dead soldier's mother - in spite of the established vicious practice of handling alcohol-related murders. The sentence in the case of Nikolai Ishimov's death can be considered as a precedent. In this category of cases, it's the best sentence in Russia. The sentence comes into effect today.

It means that our year's work on the Ishimovs' case was not vain. And it means one more thing - justice does exist and we should struggle to obtain it.

Kolya Ishimov died in military unit 58612 in the Sverdlovsk Region - on August 20, 2007, he was shot by a drunken warrant officer, Vladimir Bazelev, in the presence of his fellow servicemen (47 guys stood in front of his gun). The case materials recorded that habitual hard drinking of junior officers took place in the unit belonging to the Strategic Missile Forces - a ‘key guarantor of national security' (see ads in the centre of Moscow). Now, when it's clear that Bazelev will serve a maximum term behind bars, and the unit will pay a good sum of money for its officers' hard drinking, we think of March 28, 2008 - the day when a confident voice of Andrey Anatolievich Shakhov,  judge of the 101 Orenburg Garrison Military Court,  announced Bazelev's sentence passed after a hasty investigation in the course of which they refused all the petitions of Lubov Grigorievna Ishimova's representatives - summoning of the main witnesses (all the guys needed were sent to training grounds, hospitals and on guard duty), watching the video with the investigatory experiment, announcing the witnesses' evidence from the case materials, etc.

The first trial's public prosecutor and advocate demonstrated their great capacity to make friends against the NGO lawyer (our lawyers have not experienced such pressure and animosity for a long time). According to the sentence passed by Shakhov, Bazelev got a 3 year 4 month term in a colony-settlement. For the murdered boy's mother, such a sentence was nothing, complete impunity. But that was not enough for judge Shakhov - on the day of announcing the sentence he used a trick which was not usually used by judges, no matter what they thought of NGOs: knowing the time of our lawyer's flight, he dragged out the announcement procedure and she was late for the airport thus making the Foundation pay a ticket exchange fee.

When the results of the trial became known, it was not only the Ishimovs who got upset. Different people started phoning us - journalists, readers, and others - those who had heard the story. All of them asked to convey their support and sympathy to Kolya's parents. They asked what they could do to promote our work on the case. They asked us if justice existed. And we swore to achieve that very justice: ‘Bazelev will get behind bars; the unit will pay compensation; the 101 Garrison Court will receive the Ishimovs' case for retrial'. Because a murder case of any soldier should be considered attentively, without haste.

The Mother's Right Foundation appealed against the sentence passed by Shakhov. On August 11 2008, the panel of judges of the 3 District Military Court complied with the appeal and submitted the case for reconsideration. This time the trial was run by judge Rushan Melisovich Rachapov. The hearing started on August 20, 2008, the 1-year anniversary of Kolya's death. The new sentence was quite different from the previous one: Bazelev received a maximum term, i.e. 5 years and 8 months of imprisonment. According to the sentence, military unit 58612 where hard drinking was flourishing was to pay 1 million roubles to Lubov Grigorievna Ishimova as compensation for the moral damage caused by her son's death.

But Bazelev thought that his punishment was too harsh, and the military unit whose junior officers were alcohol fans would not pay the compensation to the dead soldier's mother. And so they appealed to the 3 District Military Court.

The whole of the Foundation worked for today's session. On having achieved the precedent sentence we thought that we should do our best to prevent its repeal and a new series of drinking, negligence and impunity in the missiles unit. At today's session, Lubov Grigorievna Ishimov's interests were protected by Zarema Yusupova, Julia Lebedeva and Tatiana Sladkova, Mother's Right Foundation lawyers. They appeared before three judges of the 3 District Military Court, Alexey Ivanovich Masin (chairman),  Alexey Alexeyevich Shalyakin (reporting judge), and Boris Ashirbayevich Kozhevnikov, and gave an account of the Foundation's position: the sentence passed by the 101 Garrison Court was legal, well-grounded and passed in accordance with the Criminal and Criminal Procedure Codes. In the opinion of military unit 58612, the Court did not take into consideration the fact that ‘Ishimov's death had been a result of Bazelev's carelessness and that Ishimov had not suffered before his death'. Such a cynical statement shows complete indifference to the mother's suffering caused by her son's death, a result of the criminal acts of the official whose responsibility was to take care of her son's security.

The suffering of Ishimov's mother ceased neither after her son's funeral nor on the day of the death anniversary. They will aggravate and last as long as she lives. Parents who bury their children are the most unhappy and unfortunate people in the world. After their son's death they don't live - they just live out their days. On the day of Ishimov's death, Bazelev was more than a warrant officer, he was on duty and, according to the Military Forces Regulations, was responsible for order and security. The Foundation lawyers claimed that the sentence passed by the 101 Garrison Court should remain valid and that Bazelev's and the unit's appeals should be denied.

The Office of Public Prosecutor of the Missile Forces Garrison was represented by Sergei Gennadievich Yamschikov, who made us happy by supporting the position of the Mother's Right Foundation in court.

Representatives of the military unit did not come to court. Bazelev's lawyer never appeared.

After debate, the panel of judges announced the decision, according to which the sentence passed by the court of first instance was left unchanged and the appeal of Bazelev and that of the military unit were denied. Thus the sentence comes into effect and must be executed.

During today's court session, Kolya Ishimov's parents - father and mother - were sitting and waiting side by side for a phone call from Moscow, from us. We understand what they felt during the hour when the case of their son's death was being considered in the Moscow Region. We understand them because the Mother's Right Foundation has been working with dead soldiers' families for twenty years. When we phoned to Lubov Grigorievna and told her about the results, she said, ‘Thank you. If not for your Foundation...' For a few moments she could not say a word. We felt that our efforts were not vain. And justice does exist.

The Mother's Right Foundation thanks all the journalists who supported our work thus helping Kolya Ishimov's parents.

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