A selection of key paragraphs can be found below the judgment.
123.TheCourt notes that the authorities placed the applicants under protection as soon as a risk was identified (see paragraph 6 above). The parties disagree as to the nature of the initial protection order, the applicants arguing that it was meant to be a temporary measure and the Government pointing to the different nature of the two protection schemes (see, respectively, paragraphs 10 and 113 above). Be that as it may, it is to be noted that, in practice, that order gave rise to a series of measures being taken to protect the applicants: an action plan was adopted the same day (see paragraph 8 above), the parties concerned entered into negotiations to set the details of that protection (see paragraphs 7-11 above), and two teams were assigned to protect the applicants (see paragraph 7 in fine above).
127.That said, the applicants were not left without protection during this time, even if that protection was at least in the beginning mostly improvised, in the absence of regulations, which only became applicable on 1 July 2016 (see paragraphs 13, 17 and 46 above). The inevitable deficiencies were, however, corrected by the authorities (see paragraphs 56‑58 and 60 in fine above). Moreover, no direct attack against the applicants took place during this time.
128.TheCourt observes that the applicants complained of inexperience and a lack of preparation on the part of the police officers assigned to protect them (see paragraphs 40 and 111 above). However, it cannot but note that, according to the information provided by the Government (see notably paragraph 114 above), the officers had received comparable, high‑risk assignments in the past; their experience in the field cannot therefore be disputed.
129.Admittedly, the police officers’ past experience cannot make up for the absence of clear instructions from their superiors concerning the scope and aim of the mission in question. The Court cannot but note that several incidents point to a lack of adequate preparation on the part of the police officers on duty. They were sometimes found to be unarmed or without uniforms, had left the post before the next team arrived, had failed to report, or had simply lost the liaison file which contained sensitive data concerning the applicants (see paragraph 66 above). These omissions risked compromising the applicants’ protection. However, they were taken seriously by the authorities, who investigated and when necessary reprimanded those responsible (see paragraphs 65 to 67 above).
130.Notwithstanding the authorities’ prompt response to correct the failures identified, the Court accepts that they must have contributed to the escalation of the conflicts and mistrust between the applicants and the police (see notably paragraph 20 and 111 above). They do not, however, justify the applicants’ provocative behaviour and repeated disregard of their own responsibilities towards their protection.
131.In this connection, the Court must note that domestic law imposes on protected witnesses a duty to cooperate with the authorities and abstain from any action that might compromise the safety of the mission. Those duties were clearly set out in the protection protocols to which the applicants eventually gave their consent (see paragraphs 15 and 30 above). Failure to comply with the obligations undertaken by signing the protocols may result in exclusion from the programme (see, in particular, Article 17 of the WPA, cited in paragraph 85 above). It can therefore be accepted that the applicants were fully aware of their duty to cooperate with the authorities.
134.TheCourt commends the authorities for their efforts to continue the protection despite the applicants’ lack of cooperation instead of withdrawing them from the witness protection programme, an option provided for by law (see Article 17 of the WPA, cited in paragraph 85 above, as well as paragraph 131 above). Their willingness to ensure the applicants’ protection and find alternative solutions did not weaken despite the applicants’ lack of cooperation, breach of the rules and provocative behaviour.
135. In the light of the above findings, the Court considers that the authorities did what could reasonably be expected of them to protect the applicants from the alleged risk to their lives. They thus complied with the requirements of Article 2 of the Convention. There has accordingly been no violation of that provision.