(Application no. 1926/03)
23 June 2009
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Stojnšek v. Slovenia,
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Boštjan M. Zupančič,
Luis López Guerra, judges,
and Stanley Naismith, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 2 June 2009,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
A. The criminal proceedings against the applicant
B. Summons to prison and warrant for the applicant's arrest
C. The applicant's arrest
22. According to the applicant, the police had not shown him an arrest warrant and he thus refused to be arrested. According to the statements the applicant made in the domestic proceedings, one of the officers then punched him in the face and the applicant started to run. The officer caught him and knocked him down. The officer jumped on the applicant and strangled him using an unidentified object. In his observations to the Court, the applicant maintained that after handcuffing him the officers had beaten him up while he was lying on the ground, despite the presence of his wife and neighbours. The applicant was then left on the ground until his wife helped him to stand up. The applicant was weak and asked for water. The police refused to give him water. They also refused to give him water when asked for it by the applicant at the police station.
D. The proceedings against the police officers
“on 14 June 2006 , at 9:45 p.m.,... in the presence of his wife... (they) severely beat and tortured him, threw him on to the ground, pushed his head into the soil ..., and at the same time suppressed his breathing by squeezing his neck, trod on him while he was lying on the ground, stepped on his neck, and then, wearing torn and dirty clothes and barefoot ..., he was arrested and taken to the prison in Maribor.”
“When he was brought to the police station, we noticed that he had a bruise (praska) on his nose, but I do not know where he got it, maybe in the police van, but that was a small bruise, which did not bleed, it looked more like a rash (odrgnina). In any case, when he was brought to the Maribor prison, it was established that he had no injuries.
“On the road to Zahenberc I was stopped at the junction by a police officer. A car with the other police officer was hidden in the bushes. (...). After I stopped the car, a police officer asked me to show the car's documents, which were all in order; after he had checked everything he asked me to open the boot, now I do not know why, but I got out of the car and opened the boot. Next, I closed the boot and the officer told me that I was under arrest. I asked 'why' and told him that I did not have a warrant, which I really did not have. He told me to follow him, but I told him that I was not going anywhere as there was no warrant. Then, the officer hit me on the right side of my forehead. Right now, I do not know what he hit me with, perhaps with a racket or with his hand. I had a red spot there afterwards. As I was hit I started to run in the direction of the hunters' house, through a field. ... One officer ran after me while the other stayed in the car. While he was running the officer hit me on the right leg, so that I fell face down and stayed in that position. The officer jumped on me and started treading on me. Then the officer lay on top of me and started strangling me with a rubber or metallic object. He continued until the second officer came. Then they handcuffed me. Subsequently, while I was lying face down, the officer who had thrown me to the ground and hit me started kicking me in the back and kidney area until my wife arrived and then he stopped. When my wife ran to the hunters' house the [same] officer started strangling me again (...) by pushing my head into the grass. (...) It took about 30 minutes from the time the officers stopped my car until I was taken away in the police van. While the officer was strangling me he was shouting “'the pig should die'” and other ugly words (...) until the neighbours came.(...) I was lifted up by my wife. When the police van arrived, I was taken to the police station. I was dirty, barefoot and muddy (...) I asked for water, which they refused to give me. (...) When I arrived at the Maribor Prison, they said they had never seen anything like it and gave me water.”
“During my arrest the police officers called somebody by phone, I suspect that was A.V. I heard that this person told the officers to beat me up and arrest me.
After I had closed the boot, the officer and I stood facing each other and he hit me. [According to the records, the applicant showed the area above the right eyebrow as the place where the officer had allegedly hit him].
The officer threw me to the ground and kicked me about ten times in the back and kidney area. Then he put the handcuffs on so tightly that the circulation was stopped. (...) The officer trod on my back and on the handcuffs (...). I have had a quarrel with officer A.V. for about twenty years. At the police station they did not show me the warrant.
“My husband was extremely terrified and was in shock. At that point, after the officer had jumped (planil) on him, my husband started to run. The officers ran after him and as I was also terrified I started to run too. The other policemen also ran after them. Once I arrived at the spot I was shocked to see my husband handcuffed and lying face down on the ground, with an officer holding him by the neck and pushing his head into the ground. I have to stress that the other officer was not violent. (...) As I got no reply to my question [concerning the reasons for the applicant's arrest] I ran to the neighbours. [After she and the neighbours came to the scene], my husband was still on the ground totally dizzy (omamljen). Both officers were standing next to him [further to request for clarification by B.P.'s representative she said that they, the officers, were doing nothing at that point]. My husband asked to be lifted up and said “please lift me up and give me some water” but nobody wanted to help him, so I lifted him up.
As regards the summons to the prison, we had not received it at home.
“My husband was very scared, but I do not remember why (....). The officer jumped on my husband, who was standing very close to him. (As regards the exact manner of the officer's reaction) I do not remember as I was in shock. (...) I did not observe the officer touching my husband physically or hitting him. (...) I cannot tell or show the way the officer jumped on my husband as I do not remember.”
“When I came to the scene where my husband was lying on the ground, I saw that he was barefoot, but I do not know where he lost his shoes (...).”
“... the applicant resisted the officers, started to run away and by doing so prevented them from carrying out their official duty. Due to his resistance, the officers, in accordance with Section 51 of the Police Act, employed force leading to the least severe consequences, which is demonstrated by the fact that the applicant did not sustain bodily injuries (poškodbe).”
E. The civil proceedings against the applicant
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW
A. The Constitution
“No one may be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment. ...”
B. Proceedings in the Administrative Court
C. Penal Code
“An official exercising his office who, by abuse of his office or official duties, treats another person badly, insults him, inflicts minor bodily harm upon him or otherwise treats him in such a way as to affect his human dignity, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than three years.”
D. The Criminal Procedure Act
E. Enforcement of penal sanctions
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 3 OF THE CONVENTION
“No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
1. The parties' submissions
2. The Court's assessment
1. The alleged ill-treatment by police
(a) The parties' submissions
(b) The Court's assessment
2. Alleged inadequacy of the investigation
(a) The parties' submissions
(b) The Court's assessment
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 5 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
“1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:
(a) the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court;
III. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 OF THE CONVENTION
The relevant part of Article 6 reads as follow:
“1. In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. ...
2. Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.
3. Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:
(d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him.”
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
Done in English, and notified in writing on 23 June 2009, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Stanley Naismith Josep Casadevall
Deputy Registrar President