Case of European Court of Human Rights, September 06, 2016 (case CINDRIĆ AND BEŠLIĆ v. CROATIA)

Defense:CROATIA
Resolution Date:September 06, 2016
SUMMARY

No violation of Article 2 - Right to life (Article 2-1 - Effective investigation) (Procedural aspect);Violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 - Protection of property (Article 1 para. 1 of Protocol No. 1 - Peaceful enjoyment of possessions);Violation of Article 6 - Right to a fair trial (Article 6 - Civil proceedings;Article 6-1 - Access to court);Pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage - award (Artic... (see full summary)

 
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SECOND SECTION

CASE OF CINDRIĆ AND BEŠLIĆ v. CROATIA

(Application no. 72152/13)

JUDGMENT

STRASBOURG

6 September 2016

This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the

Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Cindrić and Bešlić v. Croatia,

The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:

Işıl Karakaş, President,Julia Laffranque,Paul Lemmens,Valeriu Griţco,Ksenija Turković,Stéphanie Mourou-Vikström,Georges Ravarani, judges,and Hasan Bakırcı, Deputy Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 5 July 2016,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

PROCEDURE

  1. The case originated in an application (no. 72152/13) against the Republic of Croatia lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by two Croatian nationals, Mr Alojz Cindrić and Ms Katarina Bešlić (“the applicants”), on 5 November 2013.

  2. The applicants were represented by Ms L. Kušan, a lawyer practising in Ivanić Grad and Ms Nataša Owens, a lawyer practising in Zagreb. The Croatian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Ms Š. Stažnik.

  3. The applicants alleged, in particular, that the procedural obligations under Articles 2 and 14 of the Convention had not been complied with; that, contrary to Article 13 of the Convention, they had no effective remedy in that respect; that they had been deprived of their right of access to a court contrary to Article 6 § 1 of the Convention; and that their right to peaceful enjoyment of their possessions protected under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention had also been violated.

  4. On 16 December 2013 the Government were given notice of the application.

  5. The President of the Chamber acceded to a request by the Government to grant confidentiality to the case (Rule 33 § 1 of the Rules of Court).

    THE FACTS

    1. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE

  6. The applicants were born in 1973 and 1975 respectively and live in P.

    1. Background to the case

  7. The applicants lived with their parents in A, Croatia. In August 1991 the first applicant joined the Croatian Army and left his home, and in November 1991 the second applicant went to live in Germany.

  8. In the second half of November 1991 the Yugoslav People’s Army, together with Serbian paramilitary forces, gained control of A, which thus became a part of the “Serbian Autonomous Region of Krajina” (hereinafter “the Krajina”).

  9. On 6 January 1992 two unknown men took the applicants’ parents, S.C. and P.C., from their home in A. On 7 January 1992 the bodies of the applicants’ parents were driven by municipal employees in a truck to the front of their house. The applicants’ uncle was called and he gave the municipal employees clothes for the burial of the applicants’ parents.

    1. Investigation carried out by the authorities of the “Serbian Autonomous Region of Krajina”

  10. On 7 January 1992 the A police carried out a search of a flat occupied by X in A and found an automatic gun, a hand gun and some bullets.

  11. On 7 January 1992 the A police interviewed police officers R.B., M.S., D.J., V.K., M.T., D.K. and M.M. The police officers, apart from R.B., had been on duty at a checkpoint in R. Street in A between 7 p.m. on 6 January 1992 and 7 a.m. on 7 January 1992.

  12. R.B. said that on 6 January 1992 at about 7 p.m. police officer X had asked him, R.B., as his hierarchical superior, for permission to take a short leave of absence. He, R.B., had granted the request. R.B. did not know when X had returned to duty at the police station, but thought that he had seen him between 11 p.m. and midnight that same evening.

  13. M.S. said that at about 8 p.m. on 6 January 1992 a vehicle had approached the checkpoint and D.J. had stopped it. At that time he, M.S., had been in the barracks. D.J. and D.K. had entered and asked him if he knew a police officer with a birthmark on his face or a Volkswagen vehicle with the number 44 as the last digits on its registration plates, which he did not. At about 10 p.m. the same day, however, he stopped a Volkswagen vehicle which had 44 as the last two digits on its registration plates. The vehicle was driven by police officer X, who was known personally to M.S., D.J. and D.K. confirmed that it was the same vehicle which had passed from the opposite direction at about 8 p.m.

  14. D.J. said that at about 8.10 p.m. on 6 January 1992 a vehicle of Volkswagen make had approached the checkpoint and that he had stopped it. The driver had been dressed in the uniform of the civil police. D.J.’s attention had been diverted by a vehicle which had come from the opposite direction and he had stopped it. At that moment the Volkswagen had suddenly started up and left in the direction of K. D.K. told him that he had not had the time to fully examine the vehicle but that he had seen that the driver and the person in the front passenger seat were dressed in the uniforms of the civil police. He had also seen two civilians in the back seat, a man and a woman. D.K. noted down the registration number of that vehicle. At about 11 p.m. the same day police officer M.S. stopped a vehicle which had arrived from the direction of K and asked the other police officers on duty whether it was the same vehicle they had stopped at about 8 p.m., which D.J. confirmed. The only occupants were the driver and the person in the front passenger seat. D.J. asked them who the other passengers had been and where they had taken them. The driver said that the passengers had been S.C. and P.C. and that they had left them in a village.

  15. M.T. and D.K. confirmed the above events.

  16. On 8 January 1992 the A police interviewed X and Y, two police officers. They both admitted that on 6 January 1992 they had taken S.C. and P.C. in X’s vehicle. On the outskirts of A the police had stopped them. However, the attention of the police had been diverted by another vehicle and X and Y had quickly driven away. They had taken S.C. and P.C. to the village of J. X said that there they had taken S.C. and P.C. out of the vehicle and started walking. He had been carrying an automatic gun and at one point S.C. had attempted to take it from him, resulting in a commotion in which the weapon had fired and killed S.C. After that Y had shot and killed P.C. Y said that X had killed S.C. when they had arrived in J and then forced him, Y, to kill P.C.

  17. On 9 January 1992 the A police lodged a criminal complaint with the B public prosecutor against X and Y, alleging that on 6 January 1992 at 10.30 p.m. in J, a village near the town of A, they had killed S.C. and P.C. They had first driven the victims in X’s vehicle to J and taken them out of the vehicle. X had then killed S.C. with an automatic gun and Y had killed P.C. with a hand gun.

  18. On 28 January 1992 the B County Court opened an investigation in respect of X and Y on suspicion of killing S.C. and P.C.

  19. On 13 April 1992 an investigating judge of the B County Court commissioned a ballistics report.

    1. Investigation carried out by the Croatian authorities

  20. In August 1995 the Croatian authorities regained control of the town of A. In 1996 the United Nations Security Council established the United Nations Transitional Administration in Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (“UNTAES”). On 15 January 1998 the UNTAES mandate came to an end and the transfer of power to the Croatian authorities began.

  21. On 16 April 1996 the A police interviewed M.C., the brother of the late S.C., who told them that his brother and his brother’s wife had been killed on 6 January 1992. Their bodies had been given to him by the police of the “Serbian Autonomous Region of Krajina” and he had been allowed to bury them.

  22. On 19 September 2000 the C police interviewed M.M., who said that on 6 January 1992 he had been on duty, together with M.B., at the entrance to village J. At about 9 p.m. he and M.M. had been walking towards a ramp by the barracks where all patrols had their meeting point and had heard a vehicle being driven, followed by several gun shots and then a vehicle starting up again. When they arrived at the meeting point they found Lj.Č., D.J. and M.P. there, who told them that “two fools [had] just brought two people in a car and killed them by the road.” None of the officers on patrol dared go to the crime scene. Soon they all went home. In the morning of 7 January 1992 the police from A came to M.M.’s house and took him to A police station, where they interviewed him and told him that X and his friend had killed S.C. and his wife. He had heard that X had moved to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  23. On 21 September 2000 the C police interviewed the applicants, who had learned from B.Ž., who lived with their parents during the relevant period, that X and Y had been charged with the killing of the applicants’ parents.

  24. On 4 January 2001 an investigating judge of the C County Court (Županijski sud u C) ordered an investigation concerning X and Y, who were not available to the Croatian authorities, on suspicion of killing S.C. and P.C. An international arrest warrant was also issued against the suspects, who had absconded.

    1. Extradition proceedings concerning Y

  25. On 8 February 2002 the Ministry of the Interior asked the Ministry of Justice whether extradition proceedings would be instituted against the suspects.

  26. On 14 January 2005 Interpol in Washington informed the Croatian authorities that the Department of Homeland Security in Cleveland, Ohio, had a valid location for Y. On 19 January 2005 the Ministry of the Interior informed the Ministry of Justice, asking the latter to institute proceedings for Y’s extradition. On 20 January 2004 the Ministry of Justice asked the C County Court for the relevant documents with a view to seeking Y’s extradition from the United States authorities. All the evidence from the case file was translated into English and on...

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