In March 2009, the Tatabánya City Court ordered the pre-trial detention of Mrs Ferenc Kovács, an ill, 83 year-old lady in her absence in the course of a criminal investigation that had been ongoing for almost eight years. Her pre-trial detention was ordered despite the fact that the provision of the Code of Criminal Procedure, that allowed arrest in the absence of the accused, had been found to be unconstitutional and was nullified with immediate effect by the Constitutional Court of Hungary, in accordance with the practice of the ECtHR and international standards. Thus the arrest of Mrs Kovács – who had been transported to the penitentiary from a hospital – should not even have been ordered in the first place. The pre-trial detention order was appealed, but the second instance court rejected the appeal. The client was apprehended on 17 March 2009, although according to medical reports, she suffered from a serious heart condition, and was released only on 17 April 2009 following a motion by the HHC’s lawyer aimed at the revoking the pre-trial detention order.
The clients, represented by the HHC’s attorney, filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights concerning the decision ordering her pre-trial detention. The ECtHR concluded that the Code of Criminal Procedure, as in force at the material time, did not provide a legal basis for ordering the applicant’s pre-trial detention in absentia, thus there had accordingly been a violation of Article 5(1) of the Convention in the case. The applicant was awarded a just satisfaction of EUR 5,000, along with EUR 1,500 for costs and expenses.
The decision of the Europan Court of Human Rights is available here.