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Case studies


Case study of country X

Police abuse, misconduct and corruption have been rampant in Country X. The criminal justice and oversight system is largely ineffective resulting in impunity for violations of the law. One of the main promises of the Justice Party's election campaign is to reform the police complaints system. Following an election win of the Justice Party, the new Government has drafted a strategic concept for enhancing police accountability through reforming internal police complaints handling mechanism. The concept paper has the following proposals:

  • Complaints against police officers can be made at police stations in person or in writing, as well as online and via phone.
  • If the police officer in charge of receiving the complaints accepts the complaint of the victim, it will be officially recorded in the complaints system.
  • The victim can also lodge a complaint with the ombudsman institution, but the latter cannot investigate or review the case. It should immediately forward the complaint to the police.
  • The ombudsman institution can request information from the police throughout the investigation. The police are obliged to respond to the Ombudsman institutions request for information within ten work-days.
  • If the complaint concerns disciplinary misconduct, it will be investigated by the immediate superior of the police officer who is alleged with misconduct. During the disciplinary proceedings, if the superior establishes that there is no ground for investigation, the case is closed, and the decision is final. The victim is informed on the closure of the case.
  • During a disciplinary investigation, the accused police officer can consult with the Association of Police Officers.
  • During a disciplinary investigation, information may be provided only to the victim and to the victim's legal representative upon their written request.
  • Once the disciplinary investigation is complete, it is the Chief of Police who decides on the disciplinary sanction. The accused police officer can appeal the outcome of the disciplinary investigation at the Ministry of Interior's Police Inspectorate. The Police Inspectorate is a body operating under the hierarchy of the Ministry. The Chief Inspector is appointed by the Minister of Interior.
  • If the complaint concerns criminal offence, the case will be forwarded to the prosecution. The police provide official legal assistance to the accused police officer only in criminal cases (and not disciplinary investigations). Victims can appeal the outcome of the criminal proceedings at a higher court. The Media are not allowed in during the court hearings concerning criminal offences by police officers. They can, however, access case files once the court proceedings are over.
  • The Police Service is required to publish statistics on the number of complaints received, investigated and police officers sanctioned to inform the public. However, the Chief of Police has the power to classify information, including information concerning complaints against police officers, if the disclosure of the information poses a threat to the security and proper functioning of the state and its institutions. 
  • Once in every three years, the police will organize a multi-stakeholder meeting, with the participation of the Police Inspectorate, Chief Public Prosecutor, a member of the Ombudsman Institution, selected experts, NGOs and media representatives to review macro-trends in complaints against the police, with a view to identify potential systemic issues. The list of participants to the multi-stakeholder meeting will be drawn up by the National Police Service and approved by the Ministry of Interior.

Whistle-blowing - Guja v. Republic of Moldova   (No. 14277/04)

Mr Guja was dismissed from the Prosecutor General's Office for providing the press with two documents which disclosed interference by a high-ranking politician in pending criminal proceedings concerning police officers. The Court considered, in particular, that the public interest in being informed about undue pressure outweighed the interest in maintaining public confidence in the Prosecutor General's Office.


Gender and Police Accountability - Aydın v. Turkey   (No. 57/1996/676/866)

The case concerns the beating and rape of a Turkish girl of Kurdish origin (aged 17 at the time) by Turkish law enforcement agencies during detention. The applicant further claimed that the family was intimidated and harassed by the authorities to coerce them into withdrawing their complaint before the European Court of Human Rights.


Failure of the police to investigate SGBV - S.Z. v Bulgaria   (No. 29263/12)

The case concerns ineffective investigations for the false imprisonment, assault, rape and trafficking in human beings perpetrated against the applicant. The applicant complained of the lack of an investigation into the alleged involvement of two police officers and the failure to prosecute two of her assailants, and of the excessive length of time taken to investigate and try the case.


Domestic violence committed by a police officer, systemic failure to investigate - Eremia and Others v. the Republic of Moldova   (No. 3564/11)

The first applicant and her two daughters complained about the Moldovan authorities' failure to protect them from the violent and abusive behaviour of their husband and father, who was a police officer.


Police detention and accountability - M.S. v. the United Kingdom   (No. 24527/08)

The case concerns detention conditions in police custody and particularly the treatment of persons with mental health conditions.

Further case studies are included in the Exercises section of this Module.

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