Coercive interrogation in a timber theft case | Magyar Helsinki Bizottság
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TAX NUMBER: 19013983-1-42

Zsolt Csonka was taken to Sellye police station for questioning as witness in relation to timber theft in February 2013. According to the police record, he waived his right to counsel at the beginning of the questioning, and then immediately admitted his involvement in the offence and disclosed the identity of his accomplices. At the end of the questioning, he signed a declaration stating that he had not suffered any injuries and had no complaints about the procedure. On leaving the police station, he met his aunt and her son, who saw that his face was injured and had a wound on his mouth. His injuries were recorded by a practitioner.

Two days after his questioning, he initiated a proceeding against the police officers, stating that he was ill-treated by the police in order to extort a confession, and that he confessed to committing the offence due to that. He indicated his willingness to undergo a polygraph test. His aunt and cousin, who were heard as witnesses in the procedure, have correspondingly claimed that he left the police station injured.

The prosecutor discontinued the investigation claiming that the ill-treatment of Csonka could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt. Although Csonka provided detailed description on the officers who he claimed had ill-treated him, no confrontation was organized, the possible offenders were not identified, and the corresponding statements of family members as witnesses were disregarded.

Zsolt Csonka turned to the European Court of Human Rights with the assistance of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee. The Court noted that it has not been disputed by the Government that Zsolt Csonka was in good health before the questioning, yet, after his release, he had injuries. Since the Government failed to provide a satisfactory and convincing explanation of how the injuries were sustained, the Court unanimously concluded that Zsolt Csonka was subjected to degrading treatment, in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Furthermore, the Court was of the opinion that the applicant did not have the benefit of an effective investigation into his ill-treatment claim, which also amounted to a violation of Article 3 of the Convention.

The Court awarded 8,000 euros to the applicant in respect of non-pecuniary damage in the Csonka v. Hungary case.

The judgment is available in English here.

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