ECHR-Poland: Admission of evidence obtained through ill-treatment was in breach of the European Convention

The ECHR has ruled that evidence obtained via torture and ill-treatment inflicted by private individuals renders criminal proceedings unsafe, as is the case when it is inflicted by public officials.


Admission of evidence obtained through ill-treatment was in breach of the European Convention (ECHR press release, 5 November 2020, pdf)

"In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Ćwik v. Poland (application no. 31454/10) the European Court of Human Rights held, by five votes to two, that there had been: a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned Mr Ćwik’s complaint that proceedings against him for drug-trafficking had been unfair. He complained in particular that the courts had admitted in evidence statements by a third party which had been obtained through torture by members of a criminal gang.

The Court found in particular that the domestic courts dealing with the applicant’s case had left no room for doubt that the statements at issue had been obtained as a result of ill-treatment prohibited by Article 3. The courts had, however, accepted the use in evidence of such statements to convict the applicant, in breach of the absolute prohibition of ill-treatment guaranteed by Article 3 of the Convention, and without taking into account the implications from the point of view of his right to a fair trial under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.

The Court reiterated in particular its rule that admitting into evidence statements obtained as a result of torture or ill-treatment prohibited by Article 3 of the Convention rendered the proceedings as a whole unfair. This is the first case in which the Court has applied this rule in respect of evidence obtained as a result of ill-treatment inflicted by private individuals. All previous cases have concerned evidence obtained as a result of ill-treatment inflicted by public officials."

Judgment: CASE OF ĆWIK v. POLAND (Application no. 31454/10) (pdf)

 

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