The European Court of Human Rights today partially upheld the application of a Turkish asylum-seeker about his ill-treatment by Czech police during his detention at Prague airport. In the judgment B. Ü. v. Czech Republic, the Strasbourg court held that the Czech General Inspectorate of Security Forces (GISF) had failed to adequately investigate his complaint of ill-treatment and had not allowed the applicant to participate effectively in the investigation. According to the court, the GISF had not failed to investigate the complaint on its own and instead relied on the results of an internal audit, which was not independent. The Court held: “GISF relied heavily on the findings made by the department of internal inspection of the Aliens Police Directorate which (…) lacked the requisite hierarchical and institutional independence“ (para. 97).
The Court further reproached the Czech authorities for not even attempting to interview the applicant about his complaint, for not informing him of the results of the investigation and of his rights, and for ignoring his requests to take evidence. Moreover, they refused to give him access to the file. The applicant was therefore unable to participate effectively in the investigation and defend his interests. Consequently, the Court finds that the Czech Republic violated the applicant’s right to an effective investigation into suspected ill-treatment under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
On the other hand, the ECtHR found that the police officers did not violate the prohibition of ill-treatment when detaining the applicant. According to the Strasbourg Court, the coercive measures used by the police were not disproportionate, despite the fact that the complainant had sustained numerous injuries requiring hospital treatment. Because there had been no effective investigation into the case, the Court had not have sufficient information to properly assess the case.
“We are pleased that Strasbourg has taken note of the passive attitude of the General Inspectorate to complaints about ill-treatment by the police. In the case of the applicant, the GISF had done virtually nothing and had uncritically relied on the conclusions of the internal police control. This should not be the case. When a detainee ends up in hospital, there should be a particularly thorough investigation to dispel any doubts that the police used excessive force. Another positive aspect of the judgment is the emphasis on the participation of foreign victims in the investigation. The rights arising from the European Convention apply to everyone, and the investigation must be accessible to foreign nationals, who are often disadvantaged because they are unfamiliar with the local legal system. We hope that today’s judgment will contribute to a change in the approach of investigating authorities to complaints about police violence, with an emphasis on the participatory rights of victims,” said Alexandra Dubová, lawyer and Chair of the Forum for Human Rights.
“We welcome the ECtHR’s judgment, which is an important confirmation of the right to an effective investigation into suspected ill-treatment by the police. In our experience, this is not an isolated case and the disproportionate use of coercive measures by the Czech foreign police is unfortunately frequent. Some of the procedures with foreigners at Prague Airport, including the denial of entry to the territory, go completely unsupervised. We hope that this judgment will contribute to the training of police officers in this area and to the dignified treatment of refugees on Czech territory,” said Hana Franková, head of the legal department of the Organisation for Aid Refugees.
The complainant from Turkey was provided with legal assistance by lawyers from the Forum for Human Rights in cooperation with the Organisation for Aid to Refugees. Both organisations provide assistance to victims of torture and ill-treatment under a project supported by the UN Fund for Victims of Torture.
The full text of the judgment can be found here: https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-219779 .
For more information contact:
Alexandra Dubova, Forum for Human Rights, tel. +420 725 548 872, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hana Franková, Organisation for Aid to Refugees, email@example.com