Execution of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights
Taïs against France
(Application No. 39922/03, judgment of 1 June 2006, final on 1 September 2006)
The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 46, paragraph 2, of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which provides that the Committee supervises the execution of final judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter “the Convention” and “the Court”);
Having regard to the judgment in this case, transmitted to the Committee by the Court once it had become final;
Recalling that the violations of the Convention found by the Court in this case concern first, the lack of plausible explanation as to the cause of the injuries that resulted in the death of the applicants’ son, while he was detained, and the inertia of the police officers in the face of his physical and mental distress and lack of effective police and medical supervision (substantive violation of Article 2) and secondly, the lack of an effective – particularly a quick – investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death (procedural violation of Article 2) (see details in appendix);
Having invited the government of the respondent state to inform the Committee of the measures taken to comply with its obligation under Article 46, paragraph 1, of the Convention to abide by the judgment;
Having examined the information provided by the government and the other information provided (see Appendix) in accordance with the Committee’s Rules for the application of Article 46, paragraph 2, of the Convention;
Having satisfied itself that the respondent state paid the applicant the just satisfaction provided in the judgment (see details in Appendix),
Recalling that a finding of violations by the Court requires, over and above the payment of just satisfaction awarded by the Court in its judgments, the adoption by the respondent state, where appropriate:
- of individual measures to put an end to the violations and erase their consequences so as to achieve as far as possible restitutio in integrum; and
- of general measures, preventing similar violations;
DECLARES, having examined the measures taken by the respondent state (see Appendix) [that it has exercised its functions under Article 46, paragraph 2, of the Convention in this case and
DECIDES to close the examination of this case.
Appendix to Resolution CM/ResDH(2009)67
Information about the measures to comply with the judgment in the case of
Taïs against France
Introductory case summary
This case concerns the death of Mr Pascal Taïs, the applicants’ son, in 1993 while he was detained in a police cell in which he had been placed overnight to sober up.
The European Court found that the government had not been able to provide a plausible explanation for the discrepancy, or even contradiction, between the medical report drawn up when discharging the applicants’ son from hospital and the autopsy report, and regarding the cause of the injuries found on his body, given in particular that the injuries could in any event only have occurred during his detention (§ 95); furthermore, the inertia of the police officers confronted with physical and mental distress of the applicant’s son, and the lack of effective police and medical supervision, had constituted a violation of France’s obligation to protect the lives of persons in custody (violations of the substantive aspect of Article 2).
The European Court also found that the French authorities had not conducted an effective and particularly a quick investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of the applicants’ son (procedural violation of Article 2). To reach this conclusion, the Court first took account of the fact that the investigation had been too long and had failed to establish the actual cause of Pascal Taïs’s death, the uncertainty in this respect growing with the passing of time (the Court in particular underlined the fact that certain steps of the investigation had been taken too late). The Court also took into account the facts that no detailed evidence had been taken from the girlfriend of the deceased, who twice failed to respond to summonses issued by the judge, even though she had been at the police station on the night of the incident, that the investigating judge had refused to allow a reconstruction of the events, the conduct of a post-mortem psychological inquiry of dubious utility in establishing the truth and which was negative as regards the deceased, stressing inter alia the theory of a suicide and the importance given to it .
I. Payment of just satisfaction and individual measures
a) Details of just satisfaction
Costs and expenses
50 000 EUR
20 000 EUR
70 000 EUR
Paid on 21/12/20062
b) Individual measures
In its judgment, the Court itself “noted that it is impossible for the applicants to obtain an effective enquiry or adequate compensation” and granted them 50 000 EUR as just satisfaction in respect of the non-pecuniary damage sustained.
Following this judgment, the Public Prosecutor, in accordance with his competence under Article 190 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, examined and on 12 January 2007 rejected the applicants’ request for a new investigation. The Public Prosecutor held that he did not have enough new grounds to change the initial conclusion of the investigation, i.e. that there were no sufficient charges against anyone.
Moreover, the government underlined that several other elements make it objectively impossible to rectify the shortcomings of the original investigation. By definition, it is not possible to change the fact that the investigation has been too long, nor that the investigating judge went too late to the scene to examine it (he went there but, even at that time, it did not help in understanding the reasons for the victim’s death), nor finally that the post-mortem psychological inquiry had been carried out. Furthermore, a reconstitution of the events would be objectively impossible, as the cell in which the events occurred does no longer exists as it was at the material time, works having been carried out between 1997 and 1998, i.e. since the material time. As to Mr. Pascal Taïs’ girlfriend, she has no known address.
In this context, the Ombudsman (“Médiateur de la République”, an independent authority which does not accept instructions from any other authority according to Law 73-6 of 3 January 1973) and the National Human Rights Advisory Board (“Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’Homme”, another independent authority, giving advice and making proposals to the government, in particular in the field of Human Rights) made a joint communication to the Committee of Ministers under Rule 9 of the Rules of the Committee of Ministers for the supervision of the execution of judgments of the terms of friendly settlements.
On 20 May 2009, Mr. Taïs informed the Committee of Ministers that following the decision of the Prosecutor, he ordered a private investigation (recorded in a report of 10 January 2009), which could according to him “facilitate a new judicial investigation”. In this respect, the government underlines that if he so wishes, of course the applicant could bring the results of such an investigation to the attention of the competent magistrates. In that case, they would have to reach a decision again. If new charges appear, it would still be possible to reopen the investigation, until the facts at issue are time-barred.
II. General measures
Measures have been taken to make the European Court’s findings public so as to avoid new, similar violations.
The judgment has been brought to the attention of competent judges. It was sent to the First President of the Court of Cassation and to the Public Prosecutor before the same Court (as well as to the Public Prosecutor before the Court of Appeal of Bordeaux, which was concerned in this case). It was also presented in the Bulletin d’information de la cour de cassation (BICC) No. 643 of 1 July 2006 and in La Cour européenne des Droits de l’Homme – 2006 – Arrêts concernant la France et leurs commentaires, a publication of the Observatoire du droit européen (Cour de cassation, July 2007). Finally, several articles have been published on this judgment in widely distributed law journals.
The attention of the police has also been drawn to this judgment, which is commented upon during police officers’ training, to draw the consequences of this judgment in their work and to avoid new, similar violations. The judgment was also published and commented in the September/October 2006 issue of the Legal Bulletin of the Ministry of Interior. This bulletin is available on the intranet site of the Ministry, to which all the Ministry (including police) and Préfecture officials have access.
More generally speaking, the French government recalled first, that it has maintained considerable efforts for several years, taking into account the CPT’s recommendations, to improve conditions of detention on remand. For example, a Circular which was issued on 11 March 2003 sets out measures to “modernise professional practice and the means devoted to detention on remand (...) in order to guarantee respect for the dignity of detainees”. Second, the government recalls that Law 2000-494 of 6 June 2000 created the National Commission for Policing Ethics (Commission Nationale de Déontologie de la Sécurité, www.cnds.fr), an independent authority entrusted with the mission of supervising respect of ethics by all those working in the field of security within the French republic, including the police.
Finally, it may be noted that the Director General of the Police requested the National Police General Inspectorate (Inspection Générale de la Police Nationale) in December 2006, together with the ministries concerned and the medical doctors’ professional body, to carry out a study on placement in cells for sobering up. It was requested that this study “evaluate how the police take account of the rules on handling persons in a state of inebriation, to analyse the shortcomings and the difficulties encountered and to make proposals for reform.
III. Conclusions of the respondent state
The government considers that in the present case, all possible individual measures have been taken, that the general measures will prevent new, similar violations and that France has thus complied with its obligations under Article 46, paragraph 1 of the Convention.
1 Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 19 June 2009at the 1059th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies
2 The applicants gave up part of the default interest.