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Failure to investigate alleged brutality against man trying to help the police

Trajkoski v. “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”  | 2008

Failure to investigate alleged brutality against man trying to help the police

The Court concludes that the investigation into the applicant’s claim that he had sustained injuries at the hands of the police was not thorough and effective

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, February 2008

Background

Cvetan Trajkoski knew about a possible fire and explosion at a petrol station. He went with his wife to report it at the police station in Prilep.

At the station, there was a dispute about where he had parked his car. According to Mr Trajkoski, a police officer pointed a gun at his head. Seven or eight officers then arrived and allegedly threw him against a stairway, before beating him all over his body whilst using offensive language.

The public prosecutor refused to bring charges against the officers. He had based his decision purely on the testimony of the police officers, without taking any other evidence into account: such as testimony from Mr Trajkoski, his wife and the doctors who examined his injuries after the incident.

Mr Trajkoski brought the case to court himself, identifying one of his attackers by name. However, the court refused to consider the case on the grounds that Mr Trajkoski could not identify every single one of the officers involved by name. The court refused to help Mr Trajkoski identify his assailants, or hear any other evidence about the incident.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court ruled that there had been a failure to properly investigate. The public prosecutor had failed to take into account the evidence supporting Mr Trajkoski’s allegations. The trial court had been wrong to reject Mr Trajkoski’s complaint simply because he could not identify every single one of the officers involved – especially since he was not given any help to do this by the authorities.

Follow-up

As a result of this case and a series of similar findings by the European court, various steps were taken to make sure that allegations of police brutality are properly investigated in the country.

  • In 2010 a new Public Prosecution Law was introduced, containing legal reforms specifically designed to address the shortcomings identified by the European court. It included a requirement that public prosecutors must come to a decision on a criminal complaint within three months of receiving it. If a public prosecutor fails to do this, they will be obliged to inform the complainant and a superior prosecutor;
  • A binding instruction issued in 2013 specified that all cases of alleged ill-treatment or torture by the authorities should be reported to the Prosecutor General;
  • Training was organised for judges, prosecutors and police officers, explaining the European court’s standards for properly investigating allegations of police brutality.