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Judgments on: death of a man after restraint by police; sharing of classified military information; pre-trial detention standards
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Recent judgments from the European Court of Human Rights on a number of issues of interest: the death of a man after he was restrained by the French police, in which the court found that the authorities were negligent; a ruling that the Romanian courts violated a journalist's freedom of expression when fining him for sharing classified military information; and a ruling against Hungary for holding a man in pre-trial detention for three years despite there being no reasonable suspicion against him.

Death of man after restraint by police: authorities found negligent (press release, pdf):

"In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Semache v. France (application no. 36083/16) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, in its substantive aspect, and

no violation of Article 2 in its procedural aspect.

The case concerned the death of the applicant’s father, Mr Ziri, following his arrest by the police and his detention in Argenteuil police station.

The Court found in particular that the restraining of Mr Ziri by a “double-seated embrace” technique, during his transfer by car to the police station, had been justified and strictly proportionate to the aim pursued. However, Mr Ziri’s situation at the Argenteuil police station had been dealt with negligently by the authorities, which had not done what could have been reasonably expected of them to prevent the risk of death.

While there had been certain deficiencies – failure to hold a reconstruction of events and the total length of the proceedings – the Court found that having regard to the measures taken, and in particular the medical assessments, the effectiveness of the investigation could not be called into question."

See the judgment: Semache v France (application no. 36083/16, pdf, French only)

Arresting and fining a journalist who shared classified military information without publishing it was disproportionate (press release, pdf):

"In today’s Chamber judgment1 in the case of Gîrleanu v. Romania (application no. 50376/09) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights

The case concerned the arrest and conviction of a journalist for possessing and trying to verify classified information on national security, namely documents belonging to a Romanian military unit based in Afghanistan.

The Court found in particular that Mr Gîrleanu had been arrested, a criminal investigation brought against him and a fine imposed on him, without him ever actually having published the secret information.

It was not convinced that Mr Gîrleanu, in trying to verify the information he had been given on a CD and then sharing it with other people, had risked causing considerable damage to national security. The documents in question had been de-classified just before the investigation against him had come to an end and, as observed by the prosecuting authorities in their decision not to indict Mr Gîrleanu but fine him, the information was in any case outdated and not likely to endanger national security.

The Court found that the domestic courts should have weighed those elements along with the fact that Mr Gîrleanu had not obtained the information unlawfully and had been carrying out a journalistic investigation in the public interest."

See the judgment: Gîrleanu v. Romania (application no. 50376/09, pdf)

Courts failed to justify remand period of over three years; Hungary should pursue efforts on pre-trial detention issues (press release, pdf):

"In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Lakatos v. Hungary (application no. 21786/15) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 5 § 3 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights

The case concerned the applicant’s complaint about being held in pre-trial detention for more than three years without any reasonable suspicion against him.

The Court found in particular that the courts’ decisions on Mr Lakatos’s detention had been lacking as they had failed to make a proper assessment of the reasons for continuing to hold him. They had also failed to give due consideration to alternative measures, such as house arrest.

Despite a large number of people being held in pre-trial detention in Hungary, the Court decided not to launch a pilot-judgment procedure, which is used to address structural problems raising concerns under the European Convention.

The Government had taken steps to resolve issues related to the use of pre-trial detention and the Court urged the State to continue along those lines. If such efforts proved to be insufficient, it would again reassess the need for the pilot-judgment procedure."

See the judgment: Lakatos v. Hungary (application no. 21786/15, pdf)

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