Laptev v. Russia (Application no. 36480/13)

A selection of key paragraphs can be found below the judgment.


(a)   Alleged failure to carry out an effective investigation into SL’s death 

39. The Court has previously ruled in a number of cases against Russia that failure on the part of the authorities to open a criminal investigation in a situation where an individual has died while in State custody is in itself a serious breach of domestic procedural rules capable of undermining the validity of any evidence which has been collected (see, among other authorities, Trapeznikova and Others v. Russia, no. 45115/09, § 34, 1 December 2016; Kleyn and Aleksandrovich v. Russia, no. 40657/04, § 56, 3 May 2012; and Fanziyeva, cited above, § 53).

40. The Court further reiterates that in the context of the Russian legal system, a “pre-investigation inquiry” alone is not capable of leading to the punishment of those responsible, since the opening of a criminal case and a criminal investigation are prerequisites for bringing charges against alleged perpetrators which may then be examined by a court (see Trapeznikova and Others, cited above, § 35; Lyapin v. Russia, no. 46956/09, §§ 132 and 135‑36, 24 July 2014; and Zelenin v. Russia, no. 21120/07, §§ 56-57, 15 January 2015). The Court points to the failure of the domestic authorities to examine in detail SL’s psychological profile and any need for special care he may have had and the potentially negligent behaviour of the officials of the detention centre in this connection. It also notes the investigation’s failure to seriously examine Ch.’s possible involvement in the events of 6 January 2011 and thatno efforts were deployed to locate Ch. and to question him again. 

41. Regard being had to the material in its possession and the above considerations, the Court concludes that the Russian authorities did not take all reasonable steps to ascertain the circumstances in which SL’s death occurred.

42. There has accordingly been a violation of Article 2 of the Convention under its procedural limb on account of the authorities’ failure to conduct an effective investigation into SL’s death.

(b)   Alleged breach of SL’s right to life 

43. The Court observes that the factual circumstances surrounding SL’s death are disputed by the parties. The applicant stated that his brother might have been killed or forced to commit suicide, while the Government asserted that he had committed suicide by hanging himself without any outside pressure.

44. The Court notes that SL was placed in a cell with Ch., an undercover police agent (see paragraph 7 above). According to the internal investigation into the death of SL, on the night when SL died between 3.19 a.m. and 6.10 a.m. no guards had been present in the corridor and the officers in charge had thus “seriously breached” various rules on the supervision of detainees (see paragraph 10 above). It furthernotes that during the interview of 5 January 2011 according to the uncontested submission by the applicant, his brother complained to G. about pressure exerted on him by the police to make him confess, including the threat that they would arrange for him to be raped by other inmates (see paragraph 8 above). The autopsy report dating from 6 January 2011 described scratches on both forearms, a bruise on the right calf dating back to between one and three days prior to SL’s death (see paragraph 9 above). Though the Investigative Committee of Russia concluded that the injuries detected on his body during the autopsy had resulted from the proportionate use of physical force during the arrest on 4 January 2011, no such reports regarding the use of force in respect of SL were filed by the officers in the aftermath of the arrest (see paragraph 5 above) and the officer who examined SL upon his admission to the detention centre reported no trace of injuries on his body (see paragraph 6 above). 

47. The Court notes that the officials of the detention centre were aware of SL’s unstable psychological condition, as witnessed by S., an officer on duty during SL’s admission to the detention centre, who conceded to having knowledge of SL’s susceptibility “to suicidal behaviour” and being aware of the detention centre’s duty of care in this connection (see paragraph 26 above). A similar statement was given by SL’s inmate Ch., an undercover police agent (see paragraphs 7 and 11 above), who mentioned that before the incident the former had refused to eat and had felt low. In such circumstances and leaving aside SL’s exact psychological state, which the authorities failed to examine during the domestic inquiry, the Court considers that the authorities knew or ought to have known about the risk to SL’s life.

48. In view of the admissions contained in the relevant domestic decisions regarding the absence of any proper supervision in the detention centre on that night (see paragraphs 10, 12 and 27 above), the Court finds that there was a clear failure on the part of the authorities to respond in a reasonable way to the known risk to SL’s life.

49. There has accordingly been a violation of Article 2 of the Convention under its substantive limb on account of the authorities’ failure to safeguard SL’s right to life.


De versie van de browser die je gebruikt is verouderd en wordt niet ondersteund.
Upgrade je browser om de website optimaal te gebruiken.