Kryuchkova V.F. – No statute of limitations: solving the crimes of the past in the age of new technologies

The article is devoted to the modern possibilities of investigating crimes of past years, including the crimes of the Great Patriotic War.

Keywords: crimes of past years, resonant crimes, mass murders, investigation of serious / particularly serious crimes

«New criminal cases on previously not investigated crimes of the Great Patriotic War, including mass murders, are being investigated according to the principle of the inevitability of punishment at the Nuremberg Tribunal», Chairman of the Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

According to the available archival data, more than two million civilians were deliberately exterminated on the territory of the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic) during the years of occupation. Not everything was investigated, not all persons were identified and brought to trial.

Thanks to the excavation of search teams and the declassification of archives, details of the tragic events in the Novgorod Region, Krasnodar Territory, and Rostov Region, associated with the mass murder of civilians, became known. Last year, the Investigative Committee opened criminal cases for the destruction of more than 30 thousand Soviet citizens.

“Now our task, steadily following the principle of inevitability of punishment for crimes against humanity, approved in the Charter of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg and which gave rise to international criminal law, to investigate all the circumstances of the deed and draw conclusions,” Bastrykin said.

This is all the more relevant in light of the fact that the West is trying to revise the results of the Nuremberg Tribunal, speaking only about the contribution of the United States and Britain to the victory over fascism, “deliberately ignoring the key role of the USSR.”

“We also see attempts, especially in the Baltic countries and Ukraine, to present as heroes those who committed atrocious crimes against the civilian population without regard for the truth. Therefore, countering the glorification of Nazism is also one of the goals of our work, the results of which should become a great legacy for the future generations.

The investigations are based on the norms of domestic and international law. In terms of national legislation, criminal responsibility for the crimes of the Nazi invaders and their accomplices was established by a 1943 decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR “On measures of punishment for German fascist villains guilty of murder and torture of the Soviet civilian population and captured Red Army soldiers, for spies, traitors to the Motherland from the number of Soviet citizens and their accomplices “.

For organizers and perpetrators of crimes, the decree provided no alternative to the capital punishment – the death penalty by hanging. The Criminal Code of Russia contains a rule on responsibility for crimes of genocide, which provides for milder types of basic punishment than allows the application of retroactive force of the criminal law.

It is difficult to find a criminal who has committed a serious crime after a long period of time, but today, in the age of using new technologies, it is still possible.

There is no term “crime of past years” in federal law. Nevertheless, on the official website of the ICR (Investigative Committee of Russia) there is a definition of the concept, which, by its  order, dated July 31, 2014, No. 65 “On the organization for the investigation of crimes of past years”, was introduced by the head of the department, Alexander Bastrykin – a criminal proceedings that the investigator suspended, since he did not find the accused for it (Article 208 of the Criminal Procedure Code).

For seven years now, the search for intruders in such “criminals” has been considered one of the priority areas of the Investigative Committee. Back in 2014, the head of the department, Alexander Bastrykin, ordered the creation on a permanent basis in the central office of the Investigative Committee of Russia and regional investigation departments of analytical groups for solving crimes of past years. There he advised to recruit the most experienced investigators, employees of procedural control units, forensic investigators and veterans of law enforcement agencies. Bastrykin asked his colleagues to involve psychologists in this work in order to “activate the memory of witnesses and victims.” And the chairman of the ICR (Investigative Committee of Russia) demanded that the DNA and fingerprint databases be used to the maximum, which are maintained by the General Directorate of Forensic Science.

With the development of technology, there is a growing number of ways in which you can successfully solve cases of past years. DNA forensics is one of the most effective and fastest growing areas of forensic evidence research, which helps in this work. Its essence lies in the fact that experts examine “biological objects” found at the crime scene. These include blood, hair, and saliva. The Russian security forces have a separate federal DNA database, where the genetic codes of these traces go. It also includes information on the genomes of those convicted of serious / particularly serious crimes and against sexual inviolability.

Now the State Duma is awaiting a second reading of a bill expanding the circle of persons whose DNA information will be included in this database. They are proposed to include convicts and those who serving sentences in places of imprisonment, suspects and accused of committing crimes, as well as those who subjected to administrative arrest.

It was thanks to DNA that the person accused of murdering 26 elderly women in the territory of the Republic of Tatarstan was identified last year. In a similar way, the investigators managed to identify the “Angarsk maniac” Mikhail Popkov, who was responsible for 22 proven murders.

Now in the national federal database there is information only about the DNA of 0.6% of the inhabitants of our country. Therefore, the Cabinet of Ministers believes that the bill under discussion will allow almost 3% of Russians to additionally add information about the genome to the register in three years. This will help to investigate crimes of the past even more effectively.

Another popular tool for investigators in such cases is a fingerprint database. Fingerprints found at the crime scene also fall into a single database. And after a while, when checking a suspicious person, the security forces will discover the similarity of his handprints with those in the register, a former law enforcement officer and now a lawyer of the Law Office Konstantin Mishakin explains this method. This is how the murderer of a pensioner was found two years ago in the Altai Territory. He was seeked out for 15 years.

Complex and high-profile crimes of the past are not investigated without the participation of experienced forensic investigators.

One of these criminal cases is the case of the disappearance in 1998 in the settlement of Pereyaslovka of the Lazo District, Khabarovsk Territory, of a minor – Tatyana Patrekeeva, born in 1990. The last time the minor was seen near the art workshop, where the artist Zyryanov A.G. worked, previously convicted under Part 3 of Art. 132 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Zyryanov denied any involvement in the disappearance of the minor. Investigators took samples of Zyryanov’s blood and sperm for the appointment of expert examinations. Then, in 1998, police officers refused to initiate a criminal case for lack of corpus delicti. 10 years later, in 2008, at an abandoned landfill in the settlement of Pereyaslovka of the Lazo district, an old metal barrel with a volume of 200 liters, which they could not lift due to its weight, was found. After examining the bone remains found in the barrel, forensic experts concluded that the bone remains belonged to a person whose biological age at the time of death was 7-9 years. On this fact, in 2008, a criminal case was initiated on the grounds of a crime under Part 1 of Art. 105 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The cause of death and gender of the remains could not be established. Meanwhile, examination of material evidence (clothes and shoes) taken from the barrel made it possible to conclude that there was a girl in the barrel. A check on the Centralized Registration of Missing Persons, Unidentified Corpses (Information Center, Main Information and Analytical Center) found that the only child missing in the Lazo District of the Khabarovsk Territory is 8-year-old Patrekeeva, whose whereabouts have not been established since 1998. In the criminal case, in the period from 2008-2011, 5 inspections of the scene, 17 forensic examinations were carried out, 78 witnesses were interrogated, but the investigation did not manage to reliably establish the identity of the victim, the cause of her death and the person who committed it. In 2016, the case was reopened. A repeated examination of the scene (premises of Zyryanov’s art workshop), using modern forensic techniques, the discovery and seizure of new material evidence using the latest technologies, the conclusion of numerous examinations, allowed investigators and forensic investigators to establish that the body of T. Patrekeeva was in the barrel, and prove the involvement of A.G. Zyryanov in the commission of rape and murder of a minor. In 2017, based on the verdict of the Khabarovsk Regional Court, the accused was sentenced to imprisonment for a period of 19 years.

The Investigative Committee of Russia will continue to identify crimes of the past, including the crimes of the Nazis, which are not subject to the statute of limitations.

Kryuchkova Valentina Feliksovna

Associate Professor of the Department of Criminal Law, criminology and criminal procedure

Khabarovsk branch of the Federal State Educational Institution of Higher Education

” Moscow Academy of the Investigation Committee of Russia “

Candidate of legal sciences

Lieutenant colonel of justice

Source: Вестник ЦИМО в АТР. № 6. 2021

Translated by Maria Medvedeva, APIR Center

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