Greece: European Court of Human Rights - finds against police handling of shooting

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The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in the case of Makaratzis v. Greece found againsr Greece for a violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of the respondent State's obligation to protect the applicant's right to life by law; and found unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 2 of the Convention in respect of the respondent State's obligation to conduct an effective investigation into the circumstances of the incident which had put the applicant's life at risk.

The court concluded that:

"... irrespective of whether or not the police had actually intended to kill him, the applicant had been the victim of conduct which, by its very nature, had put his life at risk, even though, in the event, he had survived. Article 2 was thus applicable."

and that:

"the Court was struck by the chaotic way in which the firearms had actually been used by the police and serious questions arose as to the conduct and the organisation of the operation."

On the adequacy of the investigation the court is scathing.

"Even though an administrative investigation had been carried out following the incident the Court observed that there had been striking omissions in its conduct. In particular, the Court attached significant weight to the fact that the domestic authorities had failed to identify all the policemen who had taken part in the chase. Some policemen had left the spot without identifying themselves and without handing over their weapons so that some of the firearms which were used had never been reported. It also appeared that nothing had been done to identify the policemen who had been on duty in the area when the incident had taken place. Moreover, it was remarkable that only three bullets had been collected and that other, than the bullet which had been removed from Mr Makaratzis's foot and the one which was still in his buttock, the police had never found or identified the other bullets which had injured the applicant.

Those omissions had prevented the Greek court from making as full a finding of fact as it might otherwise have done and had resulted in the acquittal of the police officers on the ground that it had not been shown beyond reasonable doubt that it was they who had injured the applicant, since many other shots had been fired from unidentified weapons.

In those circumstances the Court concluded that the authorities had failed to carry out an effective investigation into the incident. The incomplete and inadequate character of the investigation was highlighted by the fact that, even before the Court, the Government had been unable to identify all the officers who had been involved in the shooting and wounding of the applicant. The Court concluded that there had accordingly been a violation of Article 2 of the Convention in that respect."

ECHR press release (pdf)
ECHR judgement in full (pdf)

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