Olewnik-Cieplińska and Olewnik v. Poland (Application no. 20147/15)

A selection of key paragraphs can be found below the judgment.

119. Bearing in mind the difficulties in policing modern societies, the unpredictability of human conduct and the operational choices which must be made in terms of priorities and resources, the scope of the positive obligation must be interpreted in a way which does not impose an impossible or disproportionate burden on the authorities. Not every claimed risk to life, therefore, can entail for the authorities a Convention requirement to take operational measures to prevent that risk from materialising (see Fernandes de Oliveira v. Portugal [GC], no. 78103/14, § 111, 31 January 2019). (…)

121. The Court reiterates that since Osman, it must be established that the authorities knew or ought to have known at the time, of the existence of a real and immediate risk to the life of an identified individual or individuals from the criminal acts of a third party and that they failed to take measures within the scope of their powers which, judged reasonably, might have been expected to avoid that risk (see Osman, cited above, § 116).

122. The Court notes in this connection that the Government agreed that in cases of kidnapping for ransom it must be assumed that the life and health of the victim is at risk. (…)

130. The Court considers that the above facts, among others, clearly indicate that the domestic authorities failed to respond with the level of commitment required in a case of kidnapping and prolonged abduction.

145. To sum up, some seventeen years after the kidnapping of Mr Olewnik on 26 October 2001, the circumstances of the events have not been fully clarified. The applicants, who actively participated in all the proceedings, lodged appeals and instigated some of those procedures, still have questions and uncertainty. This, as noted by the Inquiry Committee, could “undermine people’s trust in the State” and shows the weakness of the State authorities “in their attitude to the perpetrators of crime” (see paragraph 94 above).

146. The foregoing considerations are sufficient to enable the Court to conclude that the domestic authorities failed to carry out an adequate and effective investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Olewnik. It accordingly holds that there has been a violation of Article 2 under its procedural limb.


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