Germany police torture threats did not violate right to fair trial: ECHR

[JURIST] A German man's right to a fair trial was not violated by police torture threats, the European Court of Human Rights [official website] ruled [text; press release] Monday. In 2003, Magnus Gaefgen was convicted of kidnapping and killing a six-year-old child after German police threatened Gaefgen with torture to get him to reveal the location of the body. Gaefgen argued that the threats violated the Article 3 prohibitions against torture and the Article 6 right to a fair trial enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights [text]. Although the ECHR ruled that torture was "inhuman," it found that the German trial court had already excluded the coerced confession from evidence:

The Regional Court decided at the outset of the trial hearing that, on account of the threats against him, all confessions and statements made by the applicant in the entire investigation proceedings could not be used as evidence at trial. The court argued that the applicant had not been previously instructed by the prosecution authorities that the use as evidence of the statements he had made as a result of the threats against him was excluded (see paragraphs 24-26 above). The Court considers that this exclusion of statements made under threat or in view of incriminating statements extracted previously is an effective method of redressing disadvantages the defendant suffered on that account in the criminal proceedings against him. By restoring him to the status quo ante in this respect, it serves to discourage the extraction of statements by methods prohibited by Article 3.
The court ruled that excluding the resulting evidence would not have been enough to avoid violating the convention if actual torture, rather than just the threat, had taken place. The police officer who ordered the torture threats was later convicted of coercion for his actions. DPA has more.

In the past, the ECHR has upheld an absolute ban on torture. Earlier this year, it ruled against the deportation [judgment; JURIST report] of former Tunisian terror suspect Nassim Saadi, finding that evidence provided by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch showed that he would likely be subjected to torture in violation of Article 3 of the convention if returned to Tunisia. The court rejected arguments by the Italian government that Saadi posed a serious danger to society, ruling that those concerns did not have any bearing on the risk of torture that Saadi faced if deported from Italy. Amnesty praised the court's decision [press release], saying it would remind states that the ban on torture also extended to deporting people to countries where they would likely face mistreatment.


 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.