Legal proceedings in jail death case deadlocked
Despite the fact that the judges have overturned a number of decisions by the Svietlahorsk district office of the Investigative Committee, they generally support the investigation in the death of Aliaksandr Akulich, disregarding the undeniable arguments of human rights defenders.
This is clearly evidenced by the latest court ruling by the Svietlahorsk District Court that quashed an earlier refusal to open a criminal investigation into Akulich’s death in the city’s detention center in May 2012.
During a hearing held on October 12, the victim’s mother Valiantsina Akulich and her representative said that, in accordance with the law regulating the work of the Interior, it is prohibited to detain people with symptoms of acute mental, infectious and other acute illnesses that require emergency medical care. They recalled that police officer Stseshankou failed to fulfill his duties properly, namely refused to call an ambulance. In their view, the need for this assistance was apparent for the police officer, as Aliaksandr Akulich behaved inadequately, demonstrating symptoms of a mental disorder. Instead, Stseshankou decided to see whether Akulich simulated the disease. Thus, the applicant insists that the actions of Stseshankou and other police officers (refusal to provide emergency medical assistance to a person in a life-threatening condition) constituted a crime under Art. 159 of the Criminal Code.
In addition, the victim’s mother and the human rights activists say that attempts to handcuff the agonizing arrestee to a metal lattice, knocking him in the while, are an act of prohibited cruel and inhuman treatment.
The judge, after hearing the parties, said that the investigation was incomplete. Moreover, among the deficiencies requiring correction, he stressed that of the 10 people who were at the police department on the night of the accident, from 25 to 26 May 2012, the investigator interviewed only one; that the fact that of viewing video footage from surveillance cameras was not documented and only mentioned by the detention center’s deputy chief in his explanations. “In these circumstances, the decision of the senior investigator of the Svietlahorsk District Department of the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus of February 7, 2015 shall be canceled,” concludes the judge.
Representatives of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", who are working on this case, are not satisfied with this conclusion, because, apparently, further investigation will again be reduced to the formal execution of formal requirements. The case file is not likely to feature video footage, and the witnesses may have already forgotten the events of 2012. Meanwhile, the numerous significant flaws of the investigation that have been stubbornly set out in the human rights defenders’ complaints, are still ignored by the authorities.
According to the human rights defenders, the judge failed to understand the main thing: the sick person should be treated rather than convulsing in agony fastened to the bars. According to his logic, police officers are not obliged to call an ambulance to detainees in need of treatment; they may determine if the sick person pretends without having a special education; and they can beat an apparently sick person.
However, this is not the problem of the judge, but also one of the legislators, who greatly limited the grounds for the prosecution of persons guilty of cruel and inhuman treatment, say the human rights activists.