‘Abduction of Europa’ (Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Amsterdam - 1632 - fragment)

Thursday, 12 May 2016

This week in Strasbourg - A roundup of the European Court of Human Rights' case law - 2016 - weeks 18/19

Criminal conviction for drug trafficking of truck driver was not unfair - case of Poletan and Azirovik v. “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” - no violation of Article 6 §§ 1 and 2 (right to a fair trial / presumption of innocence) of the European Convention on Human Rights
The case concerned the complaint of two persons convicted of drug trafficking that the criminal proceedings against them had been unfair. They notably alleged: that the trial court’s decision had lacked reasoning; that one of the applicants had been unable to consult the case file and that she had had no opportunity to examine two witnesses; and that the expert examination of the substance in question had been biased. The Court – underlining that its role was essentially subsidiary to that of the national authorities which were better placed to assess the credibility of evidence with a view to establishing the facts – saw no reason to depart from the domestic courts’ conclusion to the effect that one of the applicants, who had driven the truck in which the drugs were found, had been aware that he was transporting drugs. The Court further declared inadmissible for being manifestly ill-founded the remainder of the complaints. It noted in particular that while two witnesses had been unable to attend the trial their statements – which had been read out instead – had constituted neither the sole, nor the decisive evidence on which the domestic courts had relied.

An eleven-month wait to obtain a judicial decision on preventive detention did not comply with the “speediness” requirement - case of Derungs v. Switzerland - violation of Article 5 § 4 (right to a speedy decision on the lawfulness of detention) of the European Convention on Human Rights; and no violation of Article 5 § 4 of the Convention with regard to the requirement to hold a hearing.
The case concerned the length and conduct of the judicial proceedings brought by a Swiss national to end his preventive detention, which had been imposed by a judge for psychiatric reasons. The Court found in particular that, in the absence of any exceptional reason justifying the delay in ruling on the case, a judicial decision issued almost 11 months after Mr Derung’s application for release and the court’s decision could not be considered as having been rendered “speedily”. With regard to the administrative court’s refusal to hold a new hearing on the ground that Mr Derung’s situation had not changed for more than five years, and given that he had been heard in person by the prison authorities in the presence of his lawyer, the Court considered that the principle of equality of arms had been observed. Since Mr Derungs had not provided any relevant information or any evidence concerning his personality that was such as to render a new hearing necessary, the administrative court had not been obliged to hold one.

Texts are based on the press releases of the European Court of Human Rights. 

This selection covers categories 1 and 2 judgments. 

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