ECHR Decisions in Torture Cases (Article 3) : July 2011

Cases compiled by IJRC contributor Carmi Lecker

1. Huseyn and Others v. Azerbaijan: Criminal proceedings against four opposition activists for allegedly inciting demonstrators to violence were unfair

In Huseyn and Others v. Azerbaijan (application nos. 35485/05, 45553/05, 35680/05 and 36085/05), the European Court of Human Rights found the application inadmissible on the merits where the applicants’ allegations of torture and poor conditions of detention were manifestly unfounded, but held, unanimously, that there had been:

A violation of Article 6 § 1 taken together with Article 6 § 3 (b), (c) and (d) (right to a fair trial/right to adequate time and facilities for preparation of defence/right to legal assistance of own choosing/right to obtain attendance and examination of witnesses) and a violation of Article 6 § 2 (presumption of innocence) of the European Convention on Human Rights, with regard to the criminal proceedings brought against the activists in the context of clashes between protesters and police.

 

2. Korobov v. Ukraine:  torture by Ukrainian police not investigated properly

In  Korobov v. Ukraine (application no. 39598/03), the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: two violations of Article 3 (prohibition of torture) and one violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The applicant alleged that police officers had beat and tortured him, including through the use of electrical shocks, in custody.  Despite the fact that a medical examination showed he had suffered physical injury, and a complaint filed by the applicant’s mother, the prosecutor refused to open criminal proceedings for five years and the courts eventually upheld the decision to terminate those proceedings, finding he had been injured while resisting arrest.

 

 3. Shiskin v. Russia: torture by police to extract confession violated articles 3 and 6

In Shishkin v. Russia (application no. 18280/04),  the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: three violations of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment), one violation of Article 6 § 3 (c) (right to legal assistance) and one violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The applicant alleged he had been severely beaten in custody by police officers who, inter alia, applied electrical shocks to him, suspended him by his arms behind his back, and made him wear a gas mask filled with smoke.  The applicant then confessed to the crimes he was suspected of committing and waived his right to a lawyer.  Although ten police officers were eventually charged and sentenced for the abuse they inflicted on the applicant, he was nonetheless convicted on the basis of his coerced confession.  The courts also did not credit the applicant’s complaints that he was being held in inadequate conditions in pre-trial detention (mice and rat infestation, poor ventilation and lighting, and in-cell toilet).

 

4. Velkhiyev and Others v. Russia: torture in custody violated articles 2, 3, and 5

In Velkhiyev and Others v. Russia (application no. 34085/06), which is not final1, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: two violations of Article 2 (right to life), two violations of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) and a violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned the detention and torture of two brothers, the death of one of them, and the failure to effectively investigate.  The applicants alleged that the victims, their relatives, had been taken by state agents who searched their house at gunpoint without a warrant and stole several thousand U.S. dollars from them in 2004.  The victims, brothers, were then beaten and otherwise mistreated in custody; one died as a result and the other was released.  Although some steps were taken immediately to investigate the complaint of torture, the investigation was suspended a number of times and the responsible officers were not identified.

 

5. Musiałek and Baczyński v. Poland: conditions in Polish prison due to overcrowding led to serious medical problem

In Musiałek and Baczyński v. Poland (application no. 32798/02), the Court found a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) with respect to the detention of one of the applicants.

 The applicants, complained of inadequate conditions in prisons in Wołów and Wrocław due to overcrowding.  One applicant suffered from a serious medical problem which could lead to immobility in his fingers and toes and complained of inadequate medical care.

 

6. Yavuz Çelik v. Turkey: brutality by police officer and inadequate investigation

In Yavuz Çelik v. Turkey (no. 34461/07), the Court found two violations of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) with respect to the applicant’s physical abuse by a police officer.

The applicant alleged that a police officer punched him in the face and squeezed his throat outside the police station after his arrest, and that the subsequent investigationwas inadequate.

 

7. Đurđević v. Croatia: complaints of bullying due to Roma origin were insufficiently specific to make out violation

In Đurđević v. Croatia (application no. 52442/09), the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: a violation of Article 3 (lack of effective investigation into allegations of ill treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights, as regards the failure to effectively investigate the mother’s complaint of police assault; and that the complaint concerning bullying at the son’s school was inadmissible.

The applicants, parents and their son, alleged that police officers roughly treated and punched the mother and son at the police station after a fight between the son and a group of men.  Their complaints were rejected.  Later, the parents repeatedly complained that their son was being insulted and beaten at school due to his Roma origin; the school responded by issuing two reports finding that the son often argued with other students and that the family had been warned about his behavior.  The Court found the son’s claim regarding inadequate investigation of the fight he was involved in was inadmissible because the participants had been prosecuted.  The Court also found there was no evidence that the mother and son had been mistreated by police, but that the investigation of their complaints was inadequate because it was carried out by the same police officers accused of the abuse.  With regard to the school bullying, the Court found the applicants’ allegations were not sufficiently specific on the timing, nature or circumstances; therefore, it could not hold the State responsible for an inadequate response.

 

8. Rupa v. Romania: inadequate investigation and remedy regarding complaint of custodial brutality, though Article 3 claim unsubstantiated

In Rupa v. Romania (no. 2) (no. 37971/02), the Court held there had been no violation of Article 3 with regard to the alleged ill treatment, a violation of Article 3 for the inadequate investigation, no violation of Article 6 with regard to inadequate legal assistance, and a violation of Article 13 for the inadequate remedy.

The applicant, refused to comply with an identity check, hit a police officer and damaged his vehicle. Criminal charges were brought against him. The applicant alleged he was beaten during questioning, that his complaint was not adequately investigated, and that he did not have access to an effective remedy.  He also claimed that he had been denied a lawyer of his choosing and the State-appointed lawyer was inadequate.

 

 9. Kondratisho and Others v. Russia: overcrowding and beatings in custody violated Article 3

In Kondratishko and Others v. Russia (no. 3937/03), the Court found violations of Articles 3 and 6 in relation to the ill treatment and conditions of detention the applicants endured in custody, as well as the excessive length of the criminal proceedings against them.

The applicants were convicted of various offenses and received sentences of six to twenty-three years in prison. They alleged that the criminal proceedings against them were excessively long, that one of them had been beaten and threatened by police in custody to compel a confession, and another complained of poor conditions of detention due to overcrowding.

 

10. Ianos v. Romania: police officer’s conviction for assault against civilian should not have been quashed on extraordinary appeal by prosecutor

In Ianos v. Romania (application no. 8258/05), the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) and a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The applicant alleged that police officers stopped his car, violently dragged him from the car and hit him before bringing him to the police station.  He was required to undergo an operation to remove his ruptured spleen because of the assault.  Following his complaint, an investigation was opened and the responsible officer was convicted.  However, the prosecutor’s extraordinary appeal was granted and the conviction was quashed.  A new investigation by the High Court found that the conviction had been based mostly on the civilian witnesses’ statements, rather than the police version, and the officer was finally acquitted.

 

11. Antochi v. Romania: ill treatment by prisoners with complicity of guards violated Article 3

In Antochi v. Romania (no. 36632/04), the Court found a violation of Article 3 based on the applicant’s ill treatment in custody by other prisoners, with the complicity of the guards, and the lack of an effective investigation.

 

12. Fyodorov and Fyodorova v. Ukraine: police broke jaw of man resisting psychiatric institutionalization and hurt his wife, in violation of articles 3, 6 and 8

In Fyodorov and Fyodorova v. Ukraine (application no. 39229/03), the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: violations of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the excessive force used by the police against both applicants when the police came to detain Mr. Fyodorov following complaints from neighbors, and the ineffective investigation of their complaints; a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) with regard to the impromptu psychiatric examination of Mr. Fyodorov in his back yard, without his consent; and, a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) because he did not receive adequate notice of an appeal hearing in the case he brought against the medical authorities. concerning the lack of notification of an appeal hearing of the case Mr Fyodorov had brought against the medical authorities in which he complained about the unlawfulness of his impromptu psychiatric examination and diagnosis.

 

13. Hellig v. Germany: keeping prisoner naked in security cell for seven days was unjustified

In Hellig v. Germany (application no. 20999/05), the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned the applicant’s complaint about being placed naked in a security cell in prison for seven days.

As regards his complaint about his placement and detention in the security cell [which was 8 square meters and contained only a mattress and squat toilet], the Court considered that the very basic facilities found in that cell had not been suitable for long-term accommodation. However, his placement there had not been intended as a long-term measure, which was demonstrated by the fact that the prison authorities and the psychological service tried to convince him to vacate that cell and eventually moved him to the prison hospital as apparently no other single cell had been available at the time.

[…]

The Court considered that to deprive an inmate of clothing was capable of arousing feelings of fear, anguish and inferiority capable of humiliating and debasing him. It took note of the fact that the practice of placing inmates in the security cell without clothes pursued the aim of preventing them from inflicting harm on themselves. However, the regional court had not established for certain whether there had been a serious danger of self-injury or suicide during the time of his placement in the cell, and there was no indication that the prison authorities had considered the use of less intrusive means, such as providing him with tear-proof clothing, a practice recommended by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

The Court held that, while placement in the security could have been justified by the circumstances, the additional hardships he endured – specifically, the deprivation of clothing – were not justified.

 

14. Saçilik and Others v. Turkey: security forces used excessive force to quell Burdur prison riot

In Saçilik and Others v. Turkey (application no. 43044/05), the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment and lack of effective investigation) of the European Convention on Human Rights

The applicants, former detainees of Burdur Prison, alleged that officials used excessive and unnecessary force against them in response to their protest against beatings and ill-treatment.  The prisoners had barricaded themselves in, set fire to some facilities and used weapons against the officials.  Soldiers set fire to their cells, used chemical gases against them, tore off the arm of one when using a digger to open a hole in the prison wall, sexually assaulted two of the women applicants, and systematically beat them while handcuffed.  The subsequent criminal investigation was carried out by the military and concluded that the soldiers had not used unnecessary force.

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