Case of European Court of Human Rights, June 01, 2010 (case Gäfgen v. Germany [GC])

Resolution Date:June 01, 2010

Preliminary objection dismissed (non-exhaustion of domestic remedies) Violation of Art. 3 (substantive aspect) No violation of Art. 6-1 and 6-3


Information Note on the Court’s case-law No. 131

June 2010

Gäfgen v. Germany [GC] - 22978/05

Judgment 1.6.2010 [GC]

Article 34


Acknowledgment by national authorities of inhuman treatment but without compensation or adequate punishment of offenders: victime status upheld

Article 3

Inhuman treatment

Threats of physical harm by police to establish whereabouts of missing child: violation

Article 6

Criminal proceedings

Article 6-1

Fair hearing

Use in trial of evidence obtained under duress: no violation

Facts – In 2002 the applicant suffocated an eleven-year-old boy to death and hid his corpse near a pond. Meanwhile, he sought a ransom from the boy’s parents and was arrested shortly after having collected the money. He was taken to a police station where he was questioned about the victim’s whereabouts. The next day the deputy chief police officer ordered one of his subordinate officers to threaten the applicant with physical pain and, if necessary, to subject him to such pain in order to make him reveal the boy’s location. Following these orders, the police officer threatened the applicant that he would be subjected to considerable pain by a person specially trained for such purposes. Some ten minutes later, for fear of being exposed to such treatment, the applicant disclosed where he had hid the victim’s body. He was then accompanied by the police to the location, where they found the corpse and further evidence against the applicant, such as the tyre tracks of his car. In the subsequent criminal proceedings, a regional court decided that none of his confessions made during the investigation could be used as evidence since they had been obtained under duress contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention. At the trial, the applicant again confessed to murder. The court’s findings were based on that confession and on other evidence, including evidence secured as a result of the statements extracted from the applicant during the investigation. The applicant was ultimately convicted to life imprisonment and his subsequent appeals were dismissed, the Federal Constitutional Court having nonetheless acknowledged that extracting his confession during the investigation constituted a prohibited method of interrogation both under the domestic law and the Convention. In 2004 the two police officers involved in threatening the applicant were convicted of coercion and incitement to coercion while on duty and were given suspended fines of EUR 60...

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