Slaps and kicks in temporary prisoners. The burden of proof for injuries lies solely with the state.
Csonka v. Hungary 16.04.2019 (no. 48455/14)
Slaps in the face and kicks on the chest and stomach of the applicant by police officers during his interrogation. Rejection by the national authorities of the applicant’s complaint of ill-treatment on reasonable grounds that he has been self injured during that interrogation. The Court stressed that in the case of a person in temporary custody who is in good physical condition but then when he is released and he is found to have suffered injuries, the State bears the burden of proof to provide reasonable explanation of how these injuries happened. Insufficient investigation of complaints. Violation of the substantive and procedural aspects of Article 3 of the ECHR (prohibition of degrading or inhuman treatment).
The applicant, Zsolt Csonka, is a Hungarian national who was born in 1988 and lives in
According to the police record, Mr Csonka waived his right to counsel and immediately confessed to
the theft during his questioning on 4 February 2013.
A few days later, however, he initiated proceedings alleging that he had been ill-treated in order to
make him confess. He testified to the investigating authorities that police officers had slapped him in
the face, kicked him in the chest and punched him in the stomach. The police officer in charge of the
questioning denied the allegations, and suggested that an accomplice in the theft had hit Mr Csonka
when they had argued shortly after his release the same day.
The prosecuting authorities discontinued the investigation in November 2013 because they could
not conclude beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Csonka had been injured while in police custody.
They also pointed out that his claim that he had received several blows was contradicted by a
medical report confirming just one blunt blow to his mouth.
He lodged a complaint against this decision, arguing that the authorities had failed to question
witnesses, namely his aunt and cousin, who had seen him with a bleeding mouth just after his
release. Nor had they organised an identification parade or confrontation between him and the
accused police officers. The courts rejected his complaint, finding that there was no need for further
The investigation against Mr Csonka for theft was discontinued in December 2013 because he had
withdrawn his confession and his brother had provided him with an alibi.
THE DECISION OF THE COURT
The Court observed that Mr Csonka had been in good health before being taken into custody, but
that he had had at least one injury after his release, as corroborated by the medical report.
It found that the Government had failed to provide a satisfactory and convincing explanation for that
injury. The fact that Mr Csonka had signed a waiver before his release without mentioning his
ill-treatment carried no weight, as he had still been at the police station and under the influence of
police officers. There was no evidence to support the suggestion that he had been hit by an
acquaintance shortly after his release.
It therefore held the State responsible for Mr Csonka’s injury and concluded that he had been
subjected to degrading treatment, in violation of Article 3.
It also held that there had been a procedural violation of Article 3, finding that the authorities’
reluctance to question certain witnesses and to organise an identification parade or a confrontation
between Mr Csonka and the police officers had undermined the effectiveness of the investigation.
Just satisfaction (Article 41)
The Court held that Hungary was to pay Mr Csonka 8,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary
damage and EUR 2,400 in respect of costs and expenses(echrcaselaw.com editing).