12 July 2016
- Violation of Article 3 (inhuman treatment) (procedural limb)
The applicant, Aleksandras Gedrimas, is a Lithuanian national who was born in 1950 and lives in Jonava (Lithuania). The case concerned his complaint of having been ill-treated by the police. Mr Gedrimas, who worked as a guard in a garage complex, was on duty during the early morning hours of 23 April 2008, when several police officers arrived at the complex. The officers had been tipped off about a break-in and robbery of a jewellery store nearby and had followed traces from the store to the complex with the help of a police dog.
According to Mr Gedrimas, he had explained to the officers that the garage complex was his workplace and that he had not left it that night. However, the officers had accused him of drunk driving, handcuffed him, pushed him to the floor, and, holding him down, twisted his arms and kicked him in the stomach repeatedly. According to the officers, Mr Gedrimas had refused to comply with their orders to introduce himself, shouted at them and jostled them, obliging them to handcuff him and take him to the police station, where he was identified as the guard of the complex. Mr Gedrimas was released from detention on the same morning.
On the day of Mr Gedrimas’ arrest, the prosecutor opened a pre-trial investigation into his allegations of ill-treatment. Following a number of investigative steps, the prosecutor discontinued the investigation in November 2008, holding that Mr Gedrimas had obstructed the police officers in the performance of their duties, had resisted them and had attempted to punch one of them. On Mr Gedrimas’ appeal, a senior prosecutor reopened the investigation in March 2009. The investigation was subsequently closed and reopened on several occasions. It was discontinued by a court’s decision upheld by a higher court in September 2011.
Relying on Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), Mr Gedrimas complained that he had been subjected to inhuman treatment by the police and that the authorities had failed to carry out an effective and objective investigation.
The Court reiterates that where the events in issue lie wholly, or in large part, within the exclusive knowledge of the authorities, as in the case of persons within their control in custody, strong presumptions of fact will arise in respect of injuries occurring during such detention. The burden of proof is then on the Government to provide a satisfactory and convincing explanation by producing evidence which cast doubt on the account of events given by the victim. In the absence of such explanation, the Court can draw inferences which may be unfavourable for the Government. After examining the case, the Court finds that the domestic investigation was not thorough and it was not capable of establishing the circumstances of the applicant’s injuries and the responsibility of the police officers involved.
The Court to concludes that the pre-trial investigation into the applicant’s allegations of ill‑treatment by police officers was not in line with the requirements of Article 3 of the Convention. There has accordingly been a violation of that provision under its procedural limb.
Just satisfaction: EUR 10,000 (non-pecuniary damage) and EUR 237.80 (costs and expenses).