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Justice after authorities failed to investigate allegations of police brutality

Mihhailov v. Estonia  | 2016

Justice after authorities failed to investigate allegations of police brutality

Any investigation of serious allegations of ill-treatment must be thorough.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, August 2016 - © Photo Postimees

Background

Aleksandr Mihhailov was stopped by police officers on evening in the city of Narva. According to Mr Mihhailov, the officers attacked him because they did not like his behavior. They beat him all over his body and head, making him lose consciousness. After he woke up in the police station, officers allegedly beat him again. He was later taken to hospital. 

The authorities initially refused to open an investigation and only started one after serious delay. The investigation then failed to collect the evidence: such as witness testimony from people who had seen what had happened, or the video recordings from the police station. Despite failing to obtain or examine the relevant evidence, the investigation rejected Mr Mihhailov’s complaint.  

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The Strasbourg court ruled that the investigating authorities had not been independent as the the police officer in charge was a police investigator from the same regional substructure of the police force as the police officers implicated in the events. The investigation had also failed to gather crucial evidence or properly justify their conclusions.

The investigation into the alleged ill-treatment had therefore not been effective – in violation of Mr Mihhailov’s basic rights.

Follow-up

Training on police ill-treatment and the need for proportionality of use of force is now provided to investigators, prosecutors and judges. The separation of the relevant investigative and prosecuting bodies between the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice helps to guarantee the independence of investigations.

The European court’s judgment was also translated and distributed to relevant professionals in Estonia.