Trocin v. The Republic of Moldova (Application no. 23847/19)
A selection of key paragraphs can be found below the judgment.CASE-OF-TROCIN-v.-THE-REPUBLIC-OF-MOLDOVA
(a) Concerning the alleged ill-treatment
53. In spite of the above divergence between the applicant and the accused police officers and of the great importance of the matter, the Court notes with concern that the prosecutor in charge of the case did not appear interested at all in questioning the soundness of the police officers’ allegation that the applicant had been cuffed by the ankles on 7 August 2014. The prosecutor’s actions seem all the more worrisome since the domestic legislation in force at the material time did not provide for such a form of restraint as ankle cuffing. Not only was ankle cuffing not authorised under the law in force, but even the use of handcuffs was subjected to strict regulation and every time handcuffs were applied, those applying them were obliged to draw up a special document (proces verbal) about it (see paragraph 38 above). It is noted that no such document was advanced by the accused police officers in support of their allegation that they had used ankle cuffs on the applicant.
54. Moreover, the Court cannot but observe another very serious flaw in the defence of the police officers and in that of the Government. Namely, it notes that according to the version of the events as submitted by police officer V.B., after having brought the applicant to the Prosecutor General’s Office and having learned that the questioning was to be adjourned, the police officers took him back to the detention facility. According to him, the applicant was in his and his colleague’s custody for a period of no more than forty to fifty minutes before being brought back to the detention facility (see paragraph 20 above). If that version of the facts is to be accepted, then, bearing in mind that the applicant was taken out of the detention facility at 3.50 p.m., he should have been brought back not later than approximately 4.40 p.m. However, it is noted that the applicant was not back at the detention facility before 7.40 p.m. (see paragraph 21 above). It is also noted that according to the journal from the institute of forensic medicine, the applicant was brought there at 5.15 p.m. In such circumstances, it would appear that police officer V.B. did not tell the truth when saying that, after leaving the Prosecutor General’s Office, the applicant had been taken to the detention facility. It would appear that the applicant remained in the custody of police officers V.B. and S.T. for a certain period of time between 4 and 5 p.m., a period of time for which they have not accounted.
55. In view of the foregoing, the Court considers that there is no convincing evidence supporting the Government’s contention that the injuries found on the applicant’s wrists and ankles had been caused bythe cuffs and shackles used by the accused police officers. Nor has it been convincingly shown that the recourse to physical force by the police officers was made strictly necessary by the applicant’s own conduct. Although the findings in the medical reports do not fully confirm or infirm the applicant’s description of the forms of ill-treatment allegedly suffered by him, the Court cannot but conclude that the Government failed to provide a plausible explanation of how the injuries to the applicant’s ankles were caused.
56. This being so, the Court finds it established that the applicant was subjected to treatment contrary to Article 3 of the Convention. There has therefore been a substantive violation of that provision.
(b) Concerning the alleged inadequacy of the investigation
60. In the first place, despite the applicant’s complaint about torture on 7 August 2014 and the medical evidence consistent with his allegations, after repeated quashing of the prosecutor’s decisions (see paragraphs 11‑16 above) the authorities initiated criminal proceedings only in respect of the injuries on the applicant’s face on 6 February 2015. That investigation was limited in scope and did not concern the other injuries on the applicant’s body (see paragraph 17 above). It was only on 20 July 2016 that the prosecutors initiated criminal proceedings concerning the other injuries on the applicant body and the accused police officers were heard for the first time only in September and December 2016 (see paragraph 19 above), i.e. after more than two years. Due to the unexplained delays, the prosecutors were unable to obtain such important evidence as video footage of the applicant on the day of the alleged ill-treatment (see paragraph 22 above) which could have shed light on the dispute about the applicant’s alleged wearing of ankle cuffs on that day.
61. Next, the Court notes that the prosecutor in charge of the case accepted without any reservation and without verification the accused police officers’ version of the events which were disputed by the applicant and according to which the applicant had been shackled (see paragraph 53 above). The prosecutors also failed to reconcile the accused police officers’ account of the events with the records of the entry and exit times in the journal of the detention facility where the applicant was detained (see paragraph 55 above). They also failed to verify the exact time at which the applicant was taken out of the building of the Prosecutor General’s Office in order to determine the period of time during which the applicant was in the custody of officers V.B. and S.T. between his leaving the building and being brought to the central police station where he met Prosecutor D.R. and his lawyer (see paragraph 7 avove).
62. The manner in which the investigation was conducted allows the Court to conclude that the prosecutor’s office did not make any genuine efforts to investigate the case and discover the truth.
63. In the light of the serious deficiencies referred to above, the Court considers that the domestic authorities did not fulfil their obligation to investigate the applicant’s complaints of ill-treatment. Accordingly, there has also been a procedural violation of Article 3 of the Convention.