Yesterday, the European Court of Human Rights held in the case of Gubacsi v. Hungary that Hungary had violated the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3 of the ECHR). The Strasbourg court awarded a just satisfaction of more than EUR 10,000 to the applicant who had been ill-treated by the police while in custody. The applicant was represented by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.
In August 2006, Mr. Gubacsi was involved in a minor car accident at a parking lot in the town of Siófok. Two patrolling police officers administered an alcohol test on him and since it clearly indicated that he was heavily drunk, he was taken to a medical centre for a blood and urine test. After the examination, he was driven back to the parking lot because the officers had to take photographs of the scene. When Mr. Gubacsi was informed that afterwards he would be taken to the police station to fill in certain papers, he attempted to escape. While running past the officers, he knocked over one of them, who suffered superficial abrasions. Mr. Gubacsi was finally caught and taken to the Siófok Police Station, where he was four police officers severely ill-treated him in the corridor of the custodial unit. He was kicked and/or hit all over his body and was made to stand up against the wall and was ordered to spread his legs, following which a police officer kicked him in the testicles. On the day following the ill-treatment Mr. Gubacsi was examined by a general practitioner, who established injuries on his whole body, some of them being rather serious. An investigation was launched, in the course of which he recognized two of the four police officers who were present during his ill-treatment in the custodial unit. However, even though the Prosecutor’s Office established that the injury to Mr. Gubacsi’s testicles was caused by ill-treatment that might have been inflicted during his detention, the investigation was terminated. The Prosecutor’s Office claimed that it was not possible to establish the identity of the perpetrators, since the police officers concerned all denied responsibility and corroborated each other’s statements.
Mr. Gubacsi – represented by the HHC’s attorney – turned to the European Court of Human Rights. In in its decision of June 2011, the ECtHR noted that in the prosecutor’s decision terminating the proceedings it was recognized that ill-treatment might have been inflicted on the applicant while he had been in detention. Moreover, the Government also acknowledged in its own observations that the investigation had established that ill-treatment had occurred. The ECtHR reiterated that where an individual is taken into police custody in good health but is found to be injured at the time of release, it is incumbent on the state to provide a plausible explanation of how those injuries were caused, but the Hungarian authorities were not able to provide that. Accordingly, the ECtHR concluded that the applicant had been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment and thus Hungary has violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The applicant was awarded a just satisfaction of EUR 10,500, along with EUR 3,750 for costs and expenses.
The full text of the decision is available here.