Petri PIHONI against Albania
STATEMENT OF FACTS
The applicant, Mr Petri Pihoni, is an Albanian national, who was born in 1983 and lives in Pogradec. He is represented before the Court by Mr N. Marku, a lawyer, practising in Tirana (Albanian Rehabilitation Centre for trauma and torture).
A. The circumstances of the case
The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be summarised as follows.
On 6 August 2012 the applicant witnessed a forceful verbal exchange between N.P., a family relative of his, and A.S in one of the main streets of Pogradec. The applicant’s intervention to calm down N.P. and A.S. was unsuccessful. The verbal exchange became increasingly heated and ended in the use of physical violence.
After the eruption of the physical violence, a special police unit of the Rapid Reaction Force (“RRF”) arrived at the site and intervened to put an end to the violence. As a result, the applicant and the other two individuals were detained. On the way to the police station, he alleges that he was offended, threatened and ill-treated by RRF police officers. His requests to be taken to the hospital to receive medical treatment went unanswered.
On 7 August 2012 the applicant was released from detention. He went to a medical centre, because he was feeling unwell. The medical examination found that the applicant had been injured by a hard, blunt object, which had caused him a wound that had to be sutured, three scratches (dërrmishje), an oedema and an ecchymosis. The above injuries resulted in the applicant’s incapacity to work for nine days.
On the same date the applicant, relying on the medical examination, lodged a criminal complaint against the RRF police officers with the Pogradec prosecutor’s office for having committed arbitrary actions in breach of Article 250 of the Criminal Code.
Having not received any response from the Pogradec prosecutor’s office about the progress of the investigation, on 27 December 2012 the applicant sought the assistance of the Albanian Centre for the Rehabilitation of Trauma and Torture (“the Centre”). On the same date the Centre unsuccessfully requested the prosecutor’s office to provide them information about the applicant’s case.
On 11 May 2013 the Centre repeated its request to the Pogradec prosecutor’s office. It also complained to the General Prosecutor’s office that no information had been provided to the applicant about the progress of the investigation eight months after the incident.
On 7 June 2013 the Pogradec prosecutor’s office informed the applicant that on 13 May 2013 it had stayed the investigation. According to the decision, the prosecutor had questioned eye witnesses, identified RRF police officers and questioned them, examined the register logs of the police station, obtained and examined the footage of the closed circuit video cameras of two nearby banks and conducted another forensic report. Despite the above investigative actions, it could not be determined the object that had caused the applicant’s injuries. The prosecutor concluded that the applicant had been involved in the verbal exchange between N.P. and A.S., which had escalated into violence as a result of which the applicant and A.S. had exchanged blows with each other. It could not therefore be established that police officers had acted in breach of Article 250 of the CC. However, the decision also stated as follows:
“As regards the complaint about the use of physical violence by RRF police officers during Petrit Pihoni’s escorting to the police station, it is suspected that the criminal offence of the abuse of duty under Article 248 of the Criminal Code has been carried out.
Injuries, which may have been caused during his escorting by RRF police officers, have been inflicted on Petri Pihoni in breach of the (...) law.
During the investigation Petri Pihoni was questioned several times about whether he could identify the RRF police officer(s) who had punched him. He stated that he was unable to identify the person, because the blow came from behind and he could not see which officer had administered it.
Neither has it been possible, on the basis of other evidence obtained during the investigation, to clarify this moment. Having regard to the fact that the criminal responsibility is individual and not collective, I consider that the investigation into this complaint should be stayed.”
B. Relevant domestic law and practice
1. Criminal Code (“CC”)
Article 250 of the CC prohibits arbitrary actions committed by a person vested with public powers in the exercise of his duty and punishes those actions with a fine or a term of imprisonment of seven years.
2. Code of Criminal Procedure
Article 105 of the CCP provides for the right of any interested party to request copies and extracts of or separate acts of the criminal investigation file, at that party’s expense.
Article 326 of the CCP, which provides for the prosecutor’s right to stay the criminal investigation, reads as follows:
“1. When the author of the offence is unknown (...), the prosecutor may decide to stay the criminal investigation.
2. The stay of the criminal investigation is decided after all possible actions have been carried out.
3. The stayed criminal investigation can re-start by a decision of the prosecutor.”
There is no specific provision in the CCP providing for a right to appeal against the prosecutor’s decision staying a criminal investigation.
By decision no. 4 of 18 January 2013 the Constitutional Court stated that there existed no remedy under domestic law against a prosecutor’s decision staying the criminal investigation.
Albanian Rehabilitation for Trauma and Torture has accomplished a program supported by the US Embassy, Albania dedicated to the fight against corruption in detention.
ARCT in close cooperation with Assist Impact have developed standard operating procedures, engaged structures in the campaign, and collected data and information of the type of corruption in places of deprivation of liberties.
ARCT has prepared a fact finding report and an analysis of the factors that "feed" corruption in detention. the findings, and recommendations will be launched during the Closing Conference, which will be held in September 2016.
Why we mark 26 June - International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
The UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June marks the moment in 1987 when the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into effect.
The use of torture at any time and under any circumstances is absolutely prohibited under international law. Article 14 of the Convention, ratified to date by 159 countries, says that States must ensure that victims obtain redress. This includes the means for as full rehabilitation as possible for all victims, whether adults or children.
Article 39 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that States shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of child victims of torture.
The use of torture is still widespread - Thousands of victims and their families are in need of specialized assistance that States often fail to provide.The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture fills this gap by financially assisting organizations which in turn give direct medical, psychological, humanitarian, social and legal assistance to victims of torture and their family members.
We’ve been helping torture victims for 25 years. 26 June is a day for renewed and increased support to this vital mechanism. It is also a reminder of the ongoing plight of tens of thousands of victims who urgently need help.
In the lead up to 26 June, the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, please share Jorge's message widely on your social networks. Visit our 26 June campaign page to read about and download key messages and other tools that are being uploaded.
Regional Conference:PREVENTION OF TORTURE IN THE BALKAN REGION-SHARING BEST PRACTICES AND EXPERIENCE 23 – 24 June 2016
PREVENTION OF TORTURE IN THE BALKAN REGION-SHARING BEST PRACTICES AND EXPERIENCE
23. – 24. June 2016
Today, almost all European (including the Western Balkans) countries have ratified the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT). There is greater awareness of the need to enact laws, policies and regulations to monitor places of detention and thus prevent torture. However there is still much more that can be done. Montenegro, Serbia and Albania have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and have now in place national preventive mechanisms which operate for the preventive approach of the OPCAT. However, there are concerns that domestic laws may require significant improvement and consolidated case law to be consistent with the Convention and other European instruments. Further work may also be needed to ensure the full implementation of laws that should protect against mistreatment and violence within places of detention.
This Closing Conference, held in partnership with international expertise from YIHR Montenegro, ARCT, YIHR Serbia and IRCT Denmark will provide a neutral space for candid discussion, on a non-attributable basis, about the key challenges to the full implementation of the international principles embodied in the Convention against Torture, best practices on the law enforcement and cooperation with civil society actors with a focus on eliminating torture in places of deprivation of liberties. Through plenary sessions and discussions, participants will share best practices, innovative approaches, challenges and opportunities and seek ways in which to enhance future co-operation at both domestic and regional levels.
The event will provide a forum, on the basis of the provisions of the Convention against Torture, to:
- Explore options for viable solutions to prevent torture within places of detention
- Exchange best practice and lessons learned in the implementation of torture-prevention policies and programs
- Strengthen informal dialogue between key actors in the Balkan region
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