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Stronger protections for detainees after police mistreat dental technician

Kummer v. the Czech Republic  | 2014

Stronger protections for detainees after police mistreat dental technician

 the shackling and stretching of the applicant must have caused him considerable pain

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, 25th July 2013 - © Photo Blesk

Background

Vladimir Kummer was a dental technician. One night in May 2010 he was walking home from a bar when he was stopped by police – allegedly for urinating in the street. The police asked for Mr Kummer’s identity card, which he said he could give them if they accompanied him to his house, which was 50 metres away.

Instead, Mr Kummer was taken to the local police station. He claimed that he was put in a cell, shackled, and punched in the back of the head and in the face. He was then left hanging from his outstretched arms, which were shackled to different walls. After 30 minutes in this agonising position, he was told to go home. As a result of his injuries, Mr Kummer was unable to work for 16 days. 

A criminal investigation concluded that the police officers involved had not done anything wrong. A later report by the Ombudsman found that a police officer had committed a disciplinary offencebut there was no finding that Mr Kummer had been physically ill-treated.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

Given the evidence before it, the European court could not rule on whether Mr Kummer had been beaten. However, due to the painful and unnecessary way in which he had been left hanging by his arms in the cell, the court concluded that he had been subjected to degrading treatment.

The court also found that the investigation into the incident had suffered from unnecessary delays and had not been properly independent. In the circumstances, Mr Kummer’s right to an effective investigation had also been breached.

Follow-up

Following this and another case, a series of reforms took place to ensure there are effective investigations into allegations of police ill-treatment.

In 2012 the independent General Inspection of the Security Forces (GISF) was set up to investigate crimes allegedly committed by police officers.

In 2013 the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic changed its case law. The courts must now consider in more detail whether allegations have been effectively investigated.

The European court judgment in Mr Rimmer’s case was translated into Czech and sent to the heads of the relevant public institutions. This and other international human rights standards on the treatment of detainees were included in police training sessions. The Police President ordered an inspection of all police cells in the Czech Republic to ensure that there were no iron rings installed in them.

In 2015 the Police President changed a binding instruction to police officers to specify that shackling a person to a fixed object should only be done if needed to prevent dangerous conduct. The use of such restrictions in cells is now only allowed in exceptional circumstances.  


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