Erdal Aslan v. Turkey (1705/03)

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Date 20081202
Article 3, 5, 6(1)
Decision violation

The applicant, Erdal Aslan, is a Turkish national who was born in 1977 and at the relevant time was imprisoned in Bartın (Turkey).

Mr Aslan was arrested on 29 April 1996 in the context of a police operation concerning a bomb plot attributed to the TKEP/P (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.)