Legal protection of persons arrested during the protests

07.03.2012
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It has already been three months since ADC “Memorial” had begun its work on the project “Protection of the rights of civil activists.” Since December, 2011, many individuals, including those who were illegally arrested during the protests after the Parliamentary elections, appealed to our organization for legal consultation and assistance.
The situation for practically all applicants is similar – detention by police officers without an explanation of the reason, then taken to the police station, where they issued each applicant, no matter what the real circumstances were, a police report on administrative violations (19.3 Disobedience of police orders; 20.2 Infringement of the prescribed order of the organising or holding an assembly, meeting, demonstration, protest or picket.) After that – imposition of administrative sanctions, with a deferral of the court hearing due to transfer of case to the local court based on the place of residency of each applicant.

And then in February, justice courts of city’s various districts began to review all these numerous cases. Frequently, the practice of courts in similar cases consists of unconditional acceptance of the often-unreliable reports from the police station, and rendition of a guilty verdict – usually, imposing a fine, or an administrative arrest, which happens less often. Moreover, the judges do not examine the merits of the case nor do they take into account the data, contradicting the police reports. All this violates the right to impartial judicial examination and defence in court.

In such situation, the lawyers of ADC “Memorial” began to actively defend the rights of the victims: act as defence lawyers on behalf of the applicants (what any person, not necessary a lawyer, can do in administrative cases), help prepare motions to summon witnesses for defence (to confirm the absence of violations) and for the police officers, who filed the police report (to expose their wrongful actions.) Thanks to these actions, judges had begun to review similar cases more closely, invite and hear witnesses, and issue exonerating verdicts.

Here are examples of the latest occurrences:

Tamara K: was arrested in December near metro station “Gostiny Dvor.” The young woman was accused of participating in the unapproved protest, while she was walking home with her friend after taking exams at the university. Upon receiving the summons, Tamara appealed to the human rights defenders for help. A lawyer of ADC “Memorial” represented the applicant in court. Four court hearings took place, during which interesting details were uncovered – police officers, who wrote the police reports for the arrested persons, were summoned as witnesses (according to the law, it should be the persons who carried out the detention.) The first police officer gave the following explanation: “I am an officer of a different district, we were sent from our department to the other, we arrived and began to write police reports.” To the question where or not he arrested Tomara, the police officer frankly admitted: “No, the chief [of police] told me to fill out the report – and I did, I was given a stack of police reports, they were already filled out.” The second police officer said the same thing: “They gave them [police reports] to me, I filled them out, I did not see these people, who they are or what they did – I have no idea.” As a result, legal proceedings on administrative cases were terminated.

Anna V: was arrested on December 4 at the metro station “Gostiny Dvor,” also did not have anything to do with the protests, but was walking toward the metro with books from the library. The applicant’s interests were represented in justice court, resulting in the termination of the legal proceedings.

Denis K: was arrested on December 5 at the protest rally, to which he came with his friends. However, this young man did not take any actions in this protest, did not shout any slogans, did not show any resistance. On January 18, he received a call from the court, asking him to come to the court hearing, although he did not receive any court summons. The court summons arrived on January 30th. Denis was given consultations on court case procedures; standard petitionss were also printed out. The court issued a verdict, assigning a minimal penalty.

Nikita I: was arrested on December 5 at the protest rally. In the explanation section of the police report, he wrote that he participated in the event. Like everyone else, he was accused of violating two Articles: Art. 20.2 and Art. 19.3 of the Administrative Offences Code (AOC.) However, the case materials did not contain any evidence of any “infringement of police orders.” The court hearing is postponed, so that witnesses can be summoned and video recordings can be reclaimed from the police officers –it might be possible to prove that Article 19.3 of AOC is irrelevant in this case.

Dmitry M: was arrested on December 5 during the protest rally. Two court hearings had taken place. Last time, the video recording was reclaimed from the police officers. It has still not appeared in court, therefore, the court hearing has been postponed until March. Police officers appeared at the court hearing as witnesses, who asserted that after surrounding the protest participants, the SWAT team had declared three times that the meeting was illegal and the participants need to leave.

Alla K: came to the protest rally with her friends, where she was arrested by the police. In the explanation note, she wrote that she participated in the event. An ADC “Memorial” employee organised the applicant’s defence – one court hearing took place, after which the legal proceedings on the administrative case were terminated.

Summarising the case, we can give the following recommendations:

-after being taken into custody, demand to have a police report filled

-read the police report closely, be brave and write in your own remarks and additions to the police report, demand to have your own copy, in the worst case, refuse to sign it; according to Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, you have the right to refuse to answer questions;

-pay attention to compliance with the time you are allowed to be detained for and the time you actually spent in detention. It is also written down in the police report and according to Articles, not stipulating arrest (for example, Art 20.2), this time cannot be more than 3 hours;

-in case of appearing in court, you have the right to petition to postpone it: due to the place of residency, to have a lawyer present, to get acquainted with the case materials (all this will help to defer the court hearing and allow you to prepare);

-in case of a court hearing, you have the right to petition to have defence present, become familiar with the case materials, petition to summon witnesses and police officers, who filled the police report.