Makaratzis v. Greece (Application No. 50385/99)

A selection of key paragraph(s) can be found below the document.

57. The first sentence of Article 2 § 1 enjoins the State not only to refrain from the intentional and unlawful taking of life, but also to take appropriate steps within its internal legal order to safeguard the lives of those within its jurisdiction (see Kılıç v. Turkey, no. 22492/93, § 62, ECHR 2000-III). This involves a primary duty on the State to secure the right to life by putting in place an appropriate legal and administrative framework to deter the commission of offences against the person, backed up by law-enforcement machinery for the prevention, suppression and punishment of breaches of such provisions.

58. As the text of Article 2 itself shows, the use of lethal force by police officers may be justified in certain circumstances. Nonetheless, Article 2 does not grant a carte blanche. Unregulated and arbitrary action by State agents is incompatible with effective respect for human rights. This means that, as well as being authorised under national law, policing operations must be sufficiently regulated by it, within the framework of a system of adequate and effective safeguards against arbitrariness and abuse of force (see, mutatis mutandis, Hilda Hafsteinsdóttir v. Iceland, no. 40905/98, § 56, 8 June 2004; see also Human Rights Committee, General Comment no. 6, Article 6, 16th Session (1982), § 3), and even against avoidable accident.

59. In view of the foregoing, in keeping with the importance of Article 2 in a democratic society, the Court must subject allegations of a breach of this provision to the most careful scrutiny, taking into consideration not only the actions of the agents of the State who actually administered the force but also all the surrounding circumstances, including such matters as the planning and control of the actions under examination (see McCann and Others, cited above, p. 46, § 150). In the latter connection, police officers should not be left in a vacuum when performing their duties, whether in the context of a prepared operation or a spontaneous chase of a person perceived to be dangerous: a legal and administrative framework should define the limited circumstances in which law-enforcement officials may use force and firearms, in the light of the international standards which have been developed in this respect (see, for example, the “United Nations Force and Firearms Principles” – paragraphs 30-32 above).