ECHR: Poland violated the right to life
The applicants' son was arrested by the police in February 2010 while he was going home with his friends. The police officers transported him to the police station. He did not hear any charges, and the police officers allegedly released him in the morning. Ms Olszewska called her son that morning. The conversation was short and she received only partial answers to her questions. She later admitted that she thought it had not been her son on the phone. It soon turned out that the applicants' son disappeared. When the applicants inquired about their son at the police station where he had been held, they were informed that their son had not been there the previous night. Only after a couple of days were the applicants informed that their son in fact had been in the police station that unfortunate night.
The search for the applicants' son lasted for almost three weeks. At the beginning of March, the body was found outside the city, and the police officers who had arrested the applicants’ son in February were the first ones at the scene.
"The investigation into the disappearance and death of the applicants’ son lasted for almost three years and, from the start, was full of mistakes – improperly secured evidence, unquestioned witnesses and finally unchecked traces," says advocate Mikołaj Pietrzak who together with advocate Urszula Podhalańska represented the applicants in the proceedings before ECHR.
The investigation was discontinued in January 2011, but the court order the case to be reexamined. For the second time, the investigation was discontinued in 2013. In the rationale for discontinuation, the prosecution stated that there was not enough evidence to unambiguously confirm the course of actions the night when the applicants' son was arrested. Four months later, in May 2013 the court upheld this decision.
When considering the application, ECHR stated that the lack of an effective investigation into the death of the applicants’ son violated art. 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights in its procedural aspect. ECHR emphasized that effectiveness of proceedings does not rely on their results, but on the efforts that are undertaken. “The authorities must take whatever reasonable steps they can to secure the evidence concerning the incident, including, inter alia, eyewitness testimony, forensic evidence and, where appropriate, an autopsy […] Any deficiency in the investigation which undermines its ability to establish the cause of death or the person responsible will risk falling foul of this standard [of effective investigation – editor’s note]”, wrote the judges in the judgement’s rationale.
„No judgement can return their son to the applicants,” says advocate Mikołaj Pietrzak. “But today’s ruling is at least a drop of justice which Mr Olszewski and Mrs Olszewska could not receive from Polish courts,” he adds.
This press information was prepared with consent of the applicants who were represented by the Pietrzak Sidor & Partners Law Firm.