SLAPPING BY LAW-ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS OF INDIVIDUALS UNDER THEIR CONTROL AMOUNTS TO DEGRADING TREATMENT
In today’s Grand Chamber judgment1 in the case of Bouyid v. Belgium (application no. 23380/09) the European Court of Human Rights:
held, by a majority, that the slap which the applicants had received from police officers while under their control at a police station had undermined their dignity and that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human
Rights in that they had been subjected to degrading treatment;
held, unanimously, that the applicants had not had the benefit of an effective investigation and that there had been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention on that account.
The case concerned an allegation by two brothers, one of whom was a minor at the time, that two police officers had slapped them in the face while they were under the officers’ control at their family’s local police station in the district of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode (Brussels).
The Court found in particular that the slapping had undermined their dignity. It also observed that the subsequent investigation had not been effective, that the investigating authorities had failed to devote the necessary attention to the applicants’ allegations and that the length of the investigation had been unreasonable.
The Court reiterated that even in the most difficult circumstances, the Convention imposed an absolute prohibition on torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, irrespective of the conduct of the person concerned. In a democratic society ill-treatment was never an appropriate response to problems facing the authorities.
Source: ECtHR press release