Article 15 of the UNCAT
According to Article 15 of the UN Convention against Torture (a) statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made. The European Court of Human Rights cannot directly rely upon this provision, but looking at Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ban of torture) and Article 6(1) of the Convention (right to a fair trial) the Court has repeatedly ruled that statements extracted under torture may not be used as evidence against a defendant.
The following cases that the European Court of Human Rights terminated in 2008 can be seen in this category (the summary of the first cases is in German).
Der Fall Kemal Kahraman (KK) wurde unter der Nummer 39857/03 behandelt und am 22.07.2008 entschieden. Eine zusammenfassende Übersetzung von Teilen des Urteils in Englisch ist:
KK wurde am 10.06.1999 in Istanbul festgenommen und wegen Gewaltakten für eine radikale islamische Organisation angeklagt. In seiner Wohnung soll die Polizei Anleitungen zum Herstellen von Bomben und ein Foto des Beschuldigten mit Maschinengewehr in der Hand, eingehüllt in die Flagge der Organisation gefunden haben. In Polizeihaft sei er mit verbundenen Augen verhört worden und dabei mit den Händen auf dem Rücken aufgehängt und geschlagen worden.
Als der Staatsanwalt ihn am 14.06.1999 vernahm, widerrief KK sein Geständnis mit Hinweis auf Folter. Die Gerichtsmedizin bescheinigte ihm Verletzungen vor allem an den Armen. KK kam in U-Haft. Der Staatsanwalt forderte die Todesstrafe. In der Hauptverhandlung machte KK darauf aufmerksam, dass sein Geständnis und die Unterschrift unter das Protokoll der Hausdurchsuchung unter Folter erpresst worden seien und die Gegenstände, die angeblich gefunden wurden, ihm nicht gehörten.
Am 21.05.2002 forderte sein Anwalt Freispruch aus Mangel an Beweisen. Das Staatssicherheitsgericht verurteilte ihn am 01.10.2002 und stützte sich dabei auf die Hausdurchsuchung und Aussagen von Mitangeklagten. In der Revision machte der Anwalt erneut auf die erfolterte Aussage aufmerksam und monierte, dass die Vorwürfe nicht untersucht worden waren. Er beantragte die Aufhebung des Urteils durch den Kassationshof. Der Antrag wurde am 23.09.2003 abgelehnt.
Der Rest der Entscheidung des EGMR beschäftigt sich mit Argumenten für und gegen die Zulassung des Verfahrens, liefert aber keine Begründung, warum die Argumente des Beschwerdeführers unter Artikel 6 EMRK (faires Verfahren) nicht behandelt wurden.
Der Fall von Neytullah Getiren (NG) wurde ebenfalls am 22.07.2008 entschieden. In diesem Fall sah der EGMR eine Verletzung von Artikel 6(1) EMRK, obwohl der Gefolterte kein Geständnis ablegte. Auch hier erfolgt in Übersetzung eine Wiedergabe der wichtigsten Fakten:
NG wurde am 14.03.1999 in einer Operation gegen die PKK in Istanbul festgenommen. Neben NG sollen weitere 6 Personen in einer Wohnung (so genannte organisatorische Zelle) festgenommen worden sein. Am Tage der Festnahme zeigte eine Untersuchung keine Verletzungen von NG. NG sprach von Todesdrohungen und Schlägen in der Haft. Zwei Polizisten notierten am 20.03.1999, dass er sich weigere, auszusagen. Er sei nur der PKK Rechenschaft schuldig und werde der Polizei, dem Gericht und dem türkischen Staat nichts sagen. BG unterzeichnete das Protokoll nicht.
Am Folgetage führten Untersuchungen zu dem Resultat, dass NG gesundheitliche Probleme einschließlich sichtbarer Wunden hatte. Gegenüber dem Staatsanwalt wies NG die Beschuldigungen von sich und verwies auf Schläge bei der Polizei. NG kam in U-Haft. Am 24. und 28.03.1999 erschienen Artikel in der Presse, die NG für das Bombenattentat auf ein Einkaufszentrum verantwortlich machten.
Ermittlungen gegen führende Polizeibeamte, die den Namen von NG an die Presse weitergegeben haben sollte, wurden eingestellt (Informant innerhalb der Polizei unbekannt). Es gab auch Ermittlungen wegen der Foltervorwürfe. Zwei Beamte wurden angeklagt. Erst am 27.11.2000 wurde der Beschwerdeführer aus dem Gefängnis zur Verhandlung gegen die Polizeibeamten gebracht.
Am 03.05.2001 identifizierte NG einen Beamten. Am 25.04.2002 wurden die Beamten freigesprochen, da angeblich nicht festgestellt werden konnte, ob die Verletzungen zum Zeitpunkt der Festnahme oder in der Haft entstanden waren. Der Kassationshof bestätigte das Urteil am 02.12.2004.
Das Verfahren gegen NG begann, bevor die Militärrichter an den SSG "ersetzt" wurden, aber keiner der insgesamt drei Angeklagten (keiner von ihnen wurde wegen des Bombenattentats angeklagt) wurde im Beisein des Militärrichters in der Hauptverhandlung gehört. Das geschah erst am 22.09.1999. Alle Angeklagten zogen die Protokolle zur Festnahme, Hausdurchsuchung und Beschlagnahmungen in Zweifel. Das SSG Istanbul Nr. 4 beschloss, die Beamten zu hören, die die Festnahme vorgenommen hatten.
Nach mehrfachen Sitzungen erschien am 04.09.2000 ein Polizeibeamter. Am 19.03.2001 gab das Gericht die Suche nach den Polizeibeamten auf und wollte nur noch über das wegen Folter initiierte Verfahren informiert werden. Bis zum 18.09.2002 wurde auf diese Information gewartet. Mittlerweile hielt der Staatsanwalt und die Verteidigung ihre Plädoyers (Verteidigung am 10.04.2002).
Anträge auf Beendigung der U-Haft wurden mit stereotypen Begründungen immer wieder abgelehnt. Am 18.09.2002 verurteilte das SSG Istanbul Nr. 4 NG wegen Mitgliedschaft in der PKK zu 12,5 Jahren Haft. Dabei stellte es fest, dass er sich wie ein Mitglied verhalten habe, als er sich weigerte, Angaben bei der Polizei zu machen. Zudem sollte erwiesen sein, dass NG an einer Reihe von Demonstrationen für die PKK beteiligt war. Fingerabdrücke seien auf Zeitungspapier gewesen, in das Molotow-Cocktails eingewickelt waren, die auf das Einkaufszentrum geworfen wurden. Zudem habe der Mitangeklagte V.I. der Polizei gegenüber angegeben, dass NG ihm befohlen habe, eine "organisatorische Zelle" anzumieten. Im Hinblick auf die Revision wurde NG jedoch aus der U-Haft entlassen, da er ein Student mit festem Wohnsitz war. Am 21.01.2004 bestätigte der Kassationshof das Urteil, so dass NG die Reststrafe hätte verbüßen müssen, wenn er mittlerweile nicht verstorben wäre (23.01.2003).
In der Entscheidung des EGMR wird auch auf die Mängel bei der strafrechtlichen Verfolgung der Foltervorwürfe hingewiesen. So seien die Polizeibeamten für die Dauer des Verfahrens nicht vom Dienst suspendiert worden. Offensichtliche Widersprüche in ihren Aussagen seien vom Gericht nicht aufgeklärt worden.
Allerdings lehnte der EGMR es ab, sich mit der Dauer der Polizeihaft zu befassen, da eine solche Beschwerde innerhalb von 6 Monaten nach Ende der Polizeihaft hätte eingereicht werden müssen. Demgegenüber wurde festgestellt, dass die Dauer der Untersuchungshaft von 3,5 Jahren, die jeweils mit stereotypen Begründungen verlängert wurde, einen Verstoß nach Artikel 5(3) EMRK darstellt.
Bezüglich Artikel 6(1) EMRK wies das Gericht die Einwände der türkischen Regierung, die diesen Punkt für unzulässig hielt, zurück. Das Recht auf Aussageverweigerung wurde als "Herzstück" von fairen Verfahren bezeichnet. Danach stellte der EGMR fest, dass gefolgert werden müsse, dass der Verdächtige zu einer sich selbst belastenden Aussage gezwungen werden sollte, da die Anwendung der Folter manifest sei. Das SSG Istanbul wurde kritisiert, die Aussageverweigerung als Indiz für die Mitgliedschaft des Angeklagten in einer illegalen Organisation zu nehmen und damit das "Herzstück" von "fair trial" verletzt zu haben. Nach geltender Rechtsprechung (Artikel 135 TSPO) hätte das Gericht das Dokument gar nicht verwerten dürfen, da der Angeklagte es nicht unterschrieben hatte. Mit weiteren Beschwerden bezüglich der Unabhängigkeit des Gerichts, fehlendem Rechtsbeistand und der Unschuldsvermutung befasste sich der EGMR nicht, da er schon einen Verstoß nach Artikel 6(1) EMRK festgestellt hatte.
The third case decided on 22 July 2008 was that of Osman Karademir (application number 30009/03). The complete judgement can be found on the homepage of the Court. The Court ruled at length on the question of torture but did not deal with Article 6 (fair trial), although in paragraph 3 it is said:
- The applicant alleged that he had been subjected to ill-treatment during his detention in police custody and that the authorities had failed to conduct an effective investigation into his allegations. He also complained that he had been denied a fair hearing by the Üsküdar Criminal Court, which tried and convicted him. He alleged a violation of Articles 3, 6 and 13 of the Convention.
The case of Önder Dağdelen, Sami Özbil, Ergül Çiçekler and Murat Telli (application 1767/03) was decided on 25 November 2008. The judgment is available only in French. Parts of it (in translation) read:
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
On 29 April 1996, two individuals were arrested during an attempted bombing. The same day, police conducted a search of the apartment of the applicants Önder Dagdelen and Sami Özbil. It found firearms, ammunition, bombs ready for use of explosive material and documents relating to the illegal organization TKEP-L, and arrested the two claimants.
In total, police arrested fifteen people in this operation. Ergül Çiçekler was detained on 3 May 1996 and Murat Telli on 4 May 1996.
During their custody, the applicants confessed, with the exception of Sami Özbil who refused to testify. They described in detail their activities within the organization and how they carried out armed actions.
During this period, police conducted raids which resulted in the seizure of numerous firearms, ammunition, explosives, false identity documents, seals and public documents relating to the organization.
On 7 May 1996 a witness recognized the applicants and Sami Özbil and Önder Dagdelen as the perpetrators of an armed robbery.
On 11 May 1996, police held a meeting on presentation of identification photographs with the participation of the applicant Ergül Çiçekler. According to the minutes of identification, he acknowledged during his interrogation by the police, having participated in actions on behalf of the organization.
On 12 May 1996, police conducted a comparison of applicants Önder Dagdelen and Sami Özbil with another suspect. According to the minutes prepared after this confrontation, Önder Dagdelen acknowledged that he had participated with the two other suspects in numerous armed actions.
On 4 May 1996 the applicants were examined in the emergency department of a hospital between 20 am and 21 am. The reports mentioned on this occasion that:
- Önder Dagdelen: no trace of assault;
- Sami Özbil presence of a bruise to his left eye;
- Ergül Çiçekler: sensitivity to arm and the left forearm;
- Murat Telli presence of coagulated blood in the left nostril.
Further examinations are skipped
On 13 May 1996 the applicants were heard by the prosecutor at the Court of State Security (the prosecutor). Before him, they rejected the accusations made against them and challenged their testimony given to the police and the minutes prepared during their custody because they had been extracted under torture.
On 14 May 1996 the applicants were brought before the Judge at the Court of State Security (the Judge) who ordered their remand in custody. At the trial, they contested their confessions in the same terms as before the prosecutor.
On 12 August 1996, the prosecutor indicted fourteen people, including the complainants, of belonging to an illegal organization. The defendants were suspected of involvement in thirty-seven cases.
During the first two hearings held on October 17 and November 22 1996, the Court of State Security heard thirteen accused, including the complainants. Before the security court had heard the complainant Önder Dagdelen, his representative said that his client had been tortured during his detention and asked the judges not to read the testimony gathered by police. The court rejected this request.
Before the court of state security, the applicants Önder Dagdelen and Ergül Çiçekler denied their involvement in acts which they were accused of. The complainant Önder Dagdelen recognized only membership of the illegal organization. The applicants challenged their testimony given to the police as well as acts of inquiry conducted in police custody on the grounds that the information had been obtained under torture.
After the hearing on 22 November 1996, the Court of State Security decided to call five witnesses and police officers signatories of the minutes drawn up during the custody of the applicants.
Between 4 February 1997 and 8 July 1997, the Court of State Security held four hearings during which she heard three witnesses and six police officers signed the minutes of proceedings of investigations established in police custody sight. Among police officers, four were prosecuted before the Assize Court of Istanbul on the grounds of ill-treatment of persons' claims. Police rejected the allegations of abuse and confirmed the contents of the minutes.
At the hearing on 28 April 1998, the Court of State Security heard six accused, including the complainants Önder Dagdelen, Sami Ozgul and Ergül Çiçekler in their defense.
Four hearings were held between 30 June 1998 and 28 January 1999. The prosecutor presented his submissions on 8 April 1999.
The five hearings held between June 10 1999 and 12 November 1999 were devoted to the presentation of the defense.
During the proceedings before the Court of State Security, the applicants Önder Dagdelen and Ergül Çiçekler refused to appear at five hearings and other claimants to two audiences.
On 12 November 1999, the Security Court sentenced the applicants Önder Dagdelen, Sami Özbil and Ergül Çiçekler to death commuted to life imprisonment for attempting to undermine the constitutional order, pursuant to Article 146 § 1 the former penal code. It sentenced Murat Telli to a prison term of two years and six months for aiding and assisting an illegal organization under Article 169 of the former penal code.
The verdict was based, inter alia, on the testimony of petitioners gathered by the police, in which they recognized the facts and accused each other. After taking note of the action brought before the Assize Court against the police, the Court of State Security noted that evidence allegedly obtained were corroborated by other evidence and that police officers who had participated interrogation came to testify before it and had denied allegations of abuse. In addition the testimonies of victims and confrontations that had placed the applicants in question.
On 15 November 1999, the applicants appealed against the verdict. They did observe that their conviction was based on testimony and investigative documents obtained under torture.
On 26 March 2001, the Court of Cassation overturned the verdict for failure to examine the question of applicability of the repentance law on a co-defendant.
Called to review the case, the Court of State Security held its first hearing on 24 July 2001. On 19 February 2002, the Court of State Security decided to learn the outcome of criminal proceedings initiated against the officers. At the hearing on 7 May 2002, it noted that criminal proceedings before the Assize Court were still pending. It passed the same verdict as before.
On 1 December 2003, the Court of Cassation confirmed the second verdict.
Findings of the Court
Taken from the summary in the press release
The applicants complained, in particular, of torture by police officers while in police custody, of the outcome of the criminal proceedings brought against the police officers concerned and of the length of those proceedings. Önder Dağdelen and Ergül Çiçekler also complained of the use by the court during their trials of confessions that had been extracted from them using torture while they were in police custody, when they had had no access to a lawyer, and of the length of the criminal proceedings against them. The applicants relied, in particular, on Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment), Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial within a reasonable time), Article 6 § 3 (c) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy).
The Court considered that the report drawn up at the end of the applicants’ period in police custody, without providing a final conclusion on the matter, nevertheless tended to lend credibility to their allegations that they had been suspended by their arms. The Government had given no explanation as to the cause of the injuries found on the applicants, who had been detained for between seven and 14 days without access to a lawyer. In the light of the evidence submitted to it and the lack of a plausible explanation on the part of the Government, the Court found it established that the injuries described in the medical reports had been caused by treatment for which the Turkish Government bore responsibility, in breach of Article 3.
As to the criminal proceedings against the police officers, the Court observed that they had lasted for more than five years without any decision being taken on the merits. For the Court, it was regrettable that the domestic court had failed to ensure a speedy trial for the State agents charged with ill-treatment and that, as a result of that failure, the prosecution had become time-barred. In view of the significant delay in the conducting of the proceedings before the Assize Court, the Court considered that the Turkish authorities had not acted with due promptness or with reasonable diligence, such that the presumed perpetrators of acts of violence had enjoyed virtual impunity, thus rendering the criminal remedy ineffective, in further breach of Article 3.
The Court observed that the applicants Önder Dağdelen and Ergül Çiçekler were interrogated during their period in police custody, which lasted between ten and 14 days. In that time, without the assistance of counsel, they gave statements by which they incriminated themselves and they took part in numerous investigative measures. The results of those measures during their police custody were used in evidence against them in the reasoning of the judgments convicting them. These two applicants were unsuccessful in their attempt to appeal against the investigative measures in question. The Court did not find it necessary to ascertain whether the conviction was decisively based on those investigative measures. It was sufficient to note that the facts were established by the criminal courts partly on the basis of acts involving recourse to ill-treatment and without allowing access to counsel, and that the Court of Cassation had provided no redress for those shortcomings. The Court found unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 in respect of these applicants.
The Court awarded, in respect of non-pecuniary damage, EUR 8,000 each to Sami Özbil and Murat Telli, and EUR 11,000 each to Önder Dağdelen and Ergül Çiçekler, and in respect of costs and expenses, EUR 2,000 to Sami Özbil and Murat Telli, jointly, and EUR 3,000 to Önder Dağdelen and Ergül Çiçekler jointly. The Court considered that there was no need to examine separately the complaints under Article 6 § 1 and Article 13, and declared inadmissible the complaint concerning the length of the criminal proceedings against Önder Dağdelen and Ergül Çiçekler. (The judgment is available only in French.)
Note: The Court of Cassation confirmed the verdict on 1 December 2003.
Verdict of 2 December 2008 is available only in French. Therefore, the summary of the press release is presented here:
Mr Aslan was arrested on 29 April 1996 in the context of a police operation concerning a bomb plot attributed to the TKEP/L (Communist Party of the Workers of Turkey/Leninist), an illegal armed organisation. He was held in police custody until 14 May 1996, then placed in pre-trial detention. A forensic report prepared on 13 May 1996 concluded that the applicant required three days’ sick leave on account of partially blood-filled injuries to the soles of his feet and his toes. The applicant was convicted at final instance on 6 May 2003, and sentenced to life imprisonment for armed activities aimed at overturning the constitutional order.
Relying on Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), the applicant alleged that he had been subjected to ill-treatment during his detention in police custody and complained about the lack of an effective investigation into his allegations, since the criminal proceedings against the accused police officers had become time-barred. He also relied on Articles 5 (right to liberty and security), 6 (right to a fair hearing), 13 (right to an effective remedy) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination).
The Court noted that the Turkish Government had not provided plausible explanations as to the origin of the injuries in question. It therefore considered that the injuries found on the applicant’s body had originated in the treatment sustained during his period in police custody, for which the State was responsible. As that treatment could only have been inflicted intentionally, in order to obtain a confession or information, it amounted to “torture”. The Court therefore concluded that there had been a violation of Article 3.
In addition, the Court considered that the national authorities had not shown the diligence and decisiveness required in view of the seriousness of the circumstances, in order to prevent any appearance of tolerance for the illegal acts committed by State agents and to complete the proceedings before they became time-barred, in further violation of Article 3.
The Court noted that during his detention in police custody the applicant had been deprived of the assistance of a lawyer, and that he had given a detailed confession and provided self-incriminating evidence. The disputed confessions had been used, at least in part, as the basis for his conviction, although they had been obtained in violation of Article 3, and thus in violation of the right not to incriminate oneself. Consequently, the Court concluded that there had been a violation of Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (c)).
Furthermore, noting that the overall duration of the pre-trial detention to which the applicant was subjected – more than five years and seven months – was excessive, the Court concluded that there had been a violation of Article 5 § 3. It also concluded that there had been a violation of Article 5 § 4 on account of the absence of an effective remedy that would have enabled the lawfulness of the deprivation of liberty imposed on the applicant to be verified.
Finally, the Court held that it was unnecessary to examine the remainder of the complaints under Articles 5, 6, 13 and 14 and awarded Mr Aslan EUR 20,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage. (The judgment is available only in French.)