Article 7(1) of the 1993 Constitution of the Russian Federation (as amended) stipulate that Russia "shall be a social state whose policy is aimed at creating conditions ensuring a worthy life and a free development of Man". Article 20(1) states that: "Everyone shall have the right to life." According to Article 21(1): "Human dignity shall be protected by the State. Nothing may serve as a basis for its derogation. It is further provided that: "Nobody should be subjected to torture, violence, or other severe or humiliating treatment or punishment."
Articles 30 and 31 of the Constitution grant the rights to association and to peaceful assembly.
By virtue of Article 55(3):
Human and civil rights and freedoms may be limited by federal law only to the extent necessary for the protection of the basis of the constitutional order, morality, health, rights and lawful interests of other people, and for ensuring the defence of the country and the security of the State.
In addition, Article 125(6) states that any international treaty or agreement not corresponding with the Russian Constitution is invalid.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||Yes|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||Not party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||Signatory*|
* In 2016, the Russian Federation informed the Depositary that it had decided not to become party to the ICC Statute.
|1950 European Convention on Human Rights||State Party*|
* The Russian Federation has declared that it will not necessarily give effect to judgments by the European Court of Human Rights in its domestic judicial system.
Police Use of Force
The 2011 Police Law governs policing and law enforcement in the Russian Federation. Chapter V of the law governs police use of force. Article 18(9) states that a police officer is not responsible for harm caused when employing physical force as long as this force was carried out according to Russian law.
Article 19 requires a police officer to inform the individual to be subjected to force that s/he is a police officer, warn the individual of their intent to use physical force, and provide them with an opportunity and the time to comply with the officer’s demands. The same provision requires all use of force to be proportionate but allows police to use force without warning should a threat to life or limb be imminent.
With respect to firearms, these may be used to prevent an imminent threat to life, to release hostages, to detain an individual caught in the commission of a crime, to prevent or combat an armed attack, and to prevent escape from prison. This is more permissive than international law allows.
In 1997, the Council of the Russian Federation approved a federal law in favour of the appointment of an ombudsperson/human rights commissioner in the Russian Federation.
In addition, in 2011 the Russian Federation established the Investigative Committee ("Sledstvennyi komitet"), which is also empowered to investigate alleged unlawful use of police force.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In 2018, in its Concluding Observations on Russia, the Committee against Torture expressed its concern
at consistent reports on the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials during demonstrations. In particular, the Committee is concerned at information that hundreds of protesters were severely beaten and arrested during the anti-corruption demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg on 12 June 2017
The Committee expressed particular concern at
reports that during the “anti-gay purge” in March 2017, the Chechen police and military officials and others arbitrarily detained and tortured with electric devices men presumed to be gay and encouraged their families to make them victims of honour killings.
Russia has been found responsible by the European Court of Human Rights for violations of the right to life and to freedom from torture and other inhumane treatment in many cases. Three important judgments are summarised below.
Gasangusenov v. Russia (2021)
The applicant’s sons, Gasangusen and Nabi Gasangusenov, born in 1997 and 1999 respectively, worked as shepherds in Shamilskiy district. On various dates between June and August 2016, several terrorist attacks were carried out by members of illegal armed groups in the area, including the assassination of a District Court judge on 11 August 2016, the blowing-up of a local television tower, and the burning down of a school. On the evening of 23 August 2016, Gasangusen and Nabi Gasangusenov did not return home for dinner as planned. Early the following morning, their bodies were found about 1 km from the village. The official information issued by the police in the early hours of 24 August 2016 stated that during a special operation in the late evening of 23 August shots had been fired at law-enforcement officers and the criminals had been killed in the return fire.
The Court observed that the documents submitted contained no indication of the applicant’s sons’ involvement in any type of criminal activities. It noted that the way the bodies had been found lent credence to the crime scene having been staged. Concerning the special operation, the Court noted that no information on the planning of the operation could be derived from the documents submitted. It seemed that no serious consideration had been devoted to its planning and carrying out. Accordingly, the Court held that there had been a violation of the substantive aspect of Article 2 of the European Convention.
The Court further observed that the examination of the crime scene had been carried out superficially and that certain important elements had only been found during a second examination the following day. Throughout the proceedings, the investigators had taken no steps to clarify a number of key issues. Furthermore, despite the coherent and consistent allegations of the applicant, and the orders of a domestic court, the criminal case into the killing of the applicant’s sons had been opened only one year and three months after the incident and the domestic investigators had failed to give a proper response to the serious allegations of inappropriate use of lethal force by agents of the State.
Shchiborshch and Kuzmina v.. Russia (2014)
This case concerned a Russian citizen who was suffering from mental illness that required institutional treatment. Mr Kirill Shchiborshch feared that anyone entering his apartment
was a burglar and the police had been informed of this fact. They chose to enter forcibly, and following a struggle Mr Shchiborshch was taken to hospital with multiple wounds and in a coma. He died without regaining consciousness, having sustained cranio-cerebral trauma, brain oedema, concussion, and slash wounds to the head, body, and extremities, several fractured ribs, and a ruptured jugular vein.
Police officers in Russia are obligated to assist medical personnel in carrying out an involuntary hospitalisation and ensure safe access to the person concerned and his or her examination. The Court observed that dealing with individuals with serious mental health issues "clearly requires special training, the absence of which is likely to render futile any attempted negotiations with a person with a mental disorder as grave as that of Mr Shchiborshch". The authorities did not explain why the police had taken "actions aimed at securing Mr Shchiborshch’s involuntary hospitalisation without being accompanied by qualified medical personnel". The Court further regretted that the police used force as if they were dealing with any armed offender and without regard to Mr Shchiborshch’s delirious state or to the fact that he did not pose an immediate danger to either himself or others. The Russian police chose to storm the kitchen in which Mr Shchiborshch had barricaded himself, in the course of which he sustained injuries that proved lethal. This decision, which was not subject to any preliminary planning and assessment, was hastily taken at the scene without their being any necessity for urgent action.
Maslova and Nalbandov v. Russia (2008)
In this case, the applicant, who had been called in for questioning at her local police station in Russia, was forced by police officers into confessing to involvement in a murder through the use of physical and sexual violence. One police officer put thumb cuffs on her, beat her, raped her, and then forced her to perform oral sex. Subsequently he and another officer repeatedly hit her in the stomach, put a gas mask over her face, blocking the air to suffocate her, and ran electricity through wires attached to her earrings. When allowed to go to the lavatory, she tried to cut the veins of her wrists. Three prosecution officers, after interrogating her at the police station, drank alcohol and continued to rape her.
The European Court noted the strong and unambiguous body of evidence in support of the applicant’s version of events. It further reiterated that rape of a detainee by an official of the state had to be considered an especially grave and abhorrent form of ill-treatment given the ease with which an offender could exploit the vulnerability and weakened resistance of his victim. It held that the physical violence to which the applicant had been subjected, especially the cruel acts of repeated rape, clearly amounted to torture.
The Investigative Committee (IC) has considered many allegations of unlawful police use of force. In 2015, the IC investigated a case where an intoxicated police officer, Andrei Artemyev, who shot and killed an individual in his office. At time of writing, the authorities were still considering whether to arrest and charge the individual, although the IC had upgraded its investigation from one of possible negligence to potential murder.