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Police beating case closed before ECtHR

The proceedings before ECtHR concerning the case of two men beaten by police officers have now been closed. The government filed a unilateral declaration statement wherein the government admitted that the applicants’ rights under Article 3 of the European Convention, that is prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, had been violated.

In its declaration statement, the government admitted that the applicants fell victim to police brutality and that the pre-trial proceedings aimed at punishing the perpetrators of the beating were ineffective. At the same time, the government agreed to pay EUR 7,500 to each applicant (EUR 15,000 in total). The applicants agreed to those conditions, hence the Court concluded that the case was settled on an amicable basis.

Let us recall the facts of the case: While interrogated at the District Police Headquarters in Lidzbark Warmiński K.J. and K.W. were beaten by police officers who tried to force their testimonies. The police officers forced the aggrieved parties to kneel with their faces to a wall and beat them with batons on the bare soles of their feet. K.J. also testified that he had been repeatedly slapped by a police officer in the face.

Both victims reported the crime, but in 2012 the District Prosecutor’s Office in Bartoszyce discontinued the investigation into the abuse of authority by police officers (an offence under article 231§1 of the Polish Criminal Code) and into the case of failure to assist the applicants who had been ill-treated (article 162§1 of the Polish Criminal Cide). The Prosecutor’s Office grounded its decision on the failure to identify the perpetrators, even though it confirmed that the applicants had indeed been beaten. K.J. and K.W. then filed a complaint against the decision to discontinue the investigation with the District Court in Bartoszyce. The District Court admitted the complaint. The case was re-opened by the prosecution service, but then the prosecutor’s office once again discontinued the proceedings, quoting the same reasons as before.

HFHR prepared an application on that matter stating that the effects of the police officers’ behaviour should be considered severe and significant, and that it should be considered not only in violation of the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment but also in violation of the prohibition of torture. “This is yet another case where police officers abused their authority,” says Katarzyna Wiśniewska, a lawyer of HFHR. “The described actions of the Police contravened the rights and freedom of the individual. We hope that the government’s declaration statement will not be the end of the case and of the measures taken in order to prevent police violence”, adds Katarzyna Wiśniewska.

The application was prepared by the Strategic Litigation Programme. In the proceedings before the ECtHR the applicants were represented by Dr Adam Bodnar until September 2015, and then by Dr Piotr Kładoczny.

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