Euroopa Inimõiguste Kohus
01.06.2010

Facts

The applicant, Mr. Gafgen, killed an eleven-year-old boy and hid his corpse. The applicant was brought in police station for questioning where he was threatened with considerable pain if he did not disclose the location of the victim. As a result the applicant disclosed the location of the victim’s body. At the location the police obtained additional evidence such as tyre tracks of his car. In the subsequent criminal proceedings, the German courts excluded his confessions made during the investigation from the evidence since they had been obtained under duress in violation of Article 3 of the Convention. The conviction was based on applicant’s confession made during the trial supported by the evidence from the crime scene. 

Complaint

Mr.Gafgen argued that the admission and use of evidence obtained as a result of his earlier confession violated his right to a fair trial.

Court's ruling

The Court reiterated that while Article 6 guarantees the right to a fair hearing, it does not lay down any rules on the admissibility of evidence as such, which is primarily a matter for regulation under national law. The Court’s task is to determine whether the proceedings as a whole are fair. In this regard the Court has to establish whether the rights of the defence have been respected, in particular whether the applicant was given an opportunity to challenge the authenticity of the evidence and to oppose its use. The quality of the evidence must also be taken into consideration. 

Particular considerations apply in respect of the use in criminal proceedings of evidence obtained in breach of Article 3. The use of evidence, secured as a result of a violation of one of the core and absolute rights guaranteed by the Convention, always raises serious issues as to the fairness of the proceedings, even if the admission of such evidence was not decisive in securing a conviction. As a rule, Article 6 requires that real evidence obtained indirectly from use of methods in breach of Article 3, are excluded from trial. However, the Court considered that both a criminal trial’s fairness and the effective protection of the absolute prohibition under Article 3 in that context are only at stake if it has been shown that the breach of Article 3 had an impact on the defendant’s conviction or sentence. 

In the case at hand the national courts had excluded the applicant’s earlier confession from the evidence clearly informing the applicant that they will not be used against him. The confession made during the trial was made freely and out of remorse. In addition the real evidence obtained at the crime site had not been used to prove the applicant’s guilt, but to corroborate his confession made during the trial. Therefore the Court found no violation of the applicant’s right to a fair trial.