On the evening of 22 October 2011, the applicant, 16 years-old Ukrainian citizen, was arrested in Kaunas after an attempted runaway. He was suspected of committing a robbery earlier that evening. During the time in custody, the applicant got serious bruises in his body and afterward he had problems walking. The applicant claims that those injuries were caused by an officer who hit him with truncheon and kicked him inside a police car.
Applicants claims were not concordant with the testimonies of the police officers who were witnessing the arrest (eventually there were 8 officers). According to officers statements, the applicant had, despite warnings, resisted the apprehending. Hence, the officers had to use physical coercion, mainly truncheon and handcuffs. According to the officers, who were using the police car where the applicant was placed, no physical coercion was used inside the police car.
The Division of Crimes against the Civil Service and Public Interest of the Criminal Investigation Unit of the Kaunas District Police Department launched an preminaliry inquiry on the applicants allegations. This unit concluded that no pre-trial investigation should be opened. However, due to applicant’s mother’s appeal, Kaunas City Prosecutor decided to open the investigation. On 12 December 2012 the Kaunas City Prosecutor discontinued the pre-trial investigation. The prosecutor held that physical force had been used against the applicant only to the extent that was strictly necessary to arrest him. Kaunas District Court upheld the prosecutor’s decision and later the Kaunas Regional Court upheld that judgment.
The applicant complained that that he had been ill-treated (inhuman treatment) by the police during his arrest on 22 October 2011 and that the authorities had failed to carry out an effective and objective investigation, which is a violation;
– Article 3 of the Convention.
- Court’s Rationale:
The court recalls its case law noting that allegations of ill-treatment contrary to Article 3 must be supported by evidence, which is proof “beyond reasonable doubt”. Where the events in issue lie wholly, or in large part, within the exclusive knowledge of the authorities strong presumptions of fact will arise in respect of injuries. 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 present case the court finds that the applicant was sixteen years old at the time of his arrest, he was alone against eight police officers. Therefore, even if the applicant had indeed been swearing at the officers, had fallen to the ground, and had attempted to kick or bite them, the Court is not convinced that it was strictly necessary for several trained police officers to resort to physical force of such severity as in the present case in order to make the applicant more cooperative.
When considering the investigations of the applicants allegations, the Court states that authorities must always make a serious attempt to find out what happened and should not rely on hasty or ill-founded conclusions to close their investigation or to use as the basis of their decisions. In this case, The Court notes that that the multiple injuries on the applicant’s body appeared to have been caused by blows from a truncheon. However, none of the police officers specified, nor were they ever asked to do so during the investigation, under what circumstances and how many times the truncheon had been used against the applicant. The investigation did not attempt to determine the exact origin of all of the applicant’s numerous bruises, nor did it assess whether the force used during the applicant’s arrest had been strictly necessary and proportionate.
The Court finds it particularly troubling that the decisions of the domestic authorities to discontinue the pre-trial investigation relied exclusively on the statements of the police officers, and their statements were assessed much less critically than those of the applicant. The Court also takes note that other persons were present in the vicinity of the railway station at the time of the incident but that none of them were identified and questioned.
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
Lithuania must pay for the applicant (1) EUR 15,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage; (2) EUR 1,872 in respect of costs and expenses.