Lenient sentences to police officers for shooting and seriously injuring a citizen violate the right to life
Hasan Köse v. Turkey 18.12.2018 (no. 15014/11)
Right to life. Lenient sentence to a police officer. Suspension of the sentence. A policeman, who got aggitated at c because the applicant and his brother asked for his identity card, shot the applicant three times in the abdomen. His serious injury left him disabled. Turkish courts sentenced the police officer to a 5-month prison sentence with suspension. The European Court of Human Rights has held that it has the right to exercise its power of review in cases of obvious imbalance between the gravity of the act and the penalty imposed. In accordance with the Court, for such a serious offense, the sentence imposed on the police officer was extremely lenient and its suspension deprived of the punishment of the accused and did not ensure the effective prevention of such illegal acts. Violation of the right to protection of life.
The applicant, Hasan Köse, is a Turkish national who was born in 1972 and lives in İzmir (Turkey).
The case concerned his complaint that a police officer had shot and seriously injured him without
subsequently being punished.
Mr Köse alleges that he was shot in January 2007 by one of a number of police officers who had
stopped him and his brother while they were driving their van to work. According to him, the police
officers became agitated when the brothers asked to see the officers’ identity papers. They started
hitting his brother and sprayed the applicant with tear gas. When the applicant grabbed a wooden
stick to defend himself, one of the officers fired three shots at him, hitting him in the abdomen.
Mr Köse was taken to hospital and had surgery. The hospital doctors considered his injury to be lifethreatening. In 2008 he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression as a result of being shot, while a 2010 report issued by a hospital in İzmir declared that his ability to work had been reduced by 27%.
In the course of the ensuing investigation and trial, the police officer maintained that he had
accidentally shot the applicant during a scuffle.
However, the trial court found the police officer guilty of using excessive force and causing a lifethreatening injury. The court sentenced the officer to five months’ imprisonment, but suspended pronouncement of the judgment, as permitted under domestic law (namely Article 231 of the Criminal Code of Procedure).
Mr Köse’s objection to suspending the conviction was rejected in 2010.
Proceedings against the Ministry of the Interior for compensation are still pending.
Relying in particular on Article 2 (right to life), Mr Köse complained that the police officer who had
shot and injured him had been given a very light sentence, which, in any event, had never been enforced. He emphasised that the officer had not been punished despite the fact that he had been found guilty by a criminal court
THE DECISION OF THE COURT
The Court reiterates that the State’s positive obligation under Article 2 of the Convention to protect life by law requires the domestic legal system to demonstrate its capacity to enforce the criminal law against those who have unlawfully taken the life of another. In order to examine whether that obligation has been satisfied, it is for the Court to review whether and to what extent the national courts, in reaching their conclusions, may be deemed to have submitted the case to the careful scrutiny required by Article 2 of the Convention, so that the deterrent effect of the judicial system that is in place and the significance of the role it is required to play in preventing violations of the right to life are not undermined.
Although the Court should grant substantial deference to the national courts in the choice of appropriate sanctions for ill-treatment and homicide by State agents, it must exercise a certain power of review and intervene in cases of manifest disproportion between the gravity of the act and the punishment imposed.
The Court reiterates that it has already found that the procedure of suspension of judgments was one of the three main practices adopted by the national judicial authorities in Turkey that have enabled the perpetrators of similar offences to escape punishment. That is because the application of that provision deprives the judgment of all its legal consequences, including the sentence, provided that the offender abides by the supervision order.
In conclusion, the Court considers that the criminal-law system, as applied in the present case, proved to be far from rigorous and had little deterrent effect capable of ensuring the effective prevention of unlawful acts, such as those complained of by the applicant.
In the light of the foregoing, the Court finds that there has been a violation of Article 2 of the Convention
Violation of Article 2
Just satisfaction: EUR 28,000 (pecuniary damage) and EUR 40,000 (non-pecuniary damage)(echrcaselaw.com editing).