Recent Legal Developments

Published date01 December 2009
Date01 December 2009
Subject MatterArticles
Recent Legal Developments
Redress of Human Rights Abuses in
Criminal Justice in International
Human Rights Jurisprudence for 2008
Donald Wallace
University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, Missouri
This overview highlights the jurisprudence for the calendar year 2008 of international
legal norms for the accountability of human rights violations involving criminal justice
systems. The jurisprudence for the three major sources of legal norms for international
human rights is highlighted.
The international treaty that has global reach is the Interna-
tional Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). To monitor compliance, the ICCPR
established the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), which under the First Optional Pro-
tocol may examine individual petitions. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)
was established by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fun-
damental Freedoms (ECHR) with the task of monitoring compliance with this treaty
through the examination of individual petitions. The Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights (IAC) receives, analyzes, and investigates individual petitions that allege
human rights violations of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and
the American Convention on Human Rights. These human rights documents share a similar
language in the specific guarantees affecting criminal justice systems.
In this review, the criminal justice-related cases decided by the ECtHR derive from the
1,881 judgments delivered in 2008. Of these, the ECtHR listed 78 cases available in Eng-
lish, as being of high importance.
From these cases, those that deal with criminal justice
issues were identified. The HRC decided 42 views in 2008 in its 93rd and 94thSessions from
which to select criminal justice-related cases. Furthermore, in 2008 there were three criminal
justice cases decided on the merits by the IAC. The discussion of this case law is roughly
organized by the order of the processes of a criminal justice system, beginning with efforts
to ensure the predominance of the rule of law followed by issues in criminal investigation
and pretrial and trial rights, and culminating in jurisprudence examining life sentences and
the rightsof prisoners. This overviewconcludes with somecomparisons to U.S. jurisprudence.
Accountability of Government Actors
In Dodov v. Bulgaria (2008), the ECtHR underscored the basic rule of law prin-
ciples of the need to hold accountable individuals at fault in failing to uphold legal
Author’s Note: Please address correspondence to Donald Wallace, Department of Criminal Justice, University
of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, MO 64093; e-mail:
International Criminal
Justice Review
Volume 19 Number 4
December 2009 507-523
#2009 Georgia State University
Research Foundation, Inc.
hosted at
obligations. Dodov’s complaint dealt with the disappearance of his mother from a nur-
sing home, now presumed dead. The ECtHR found that the mother’s life had been put at
risk through inexcusable negligence on the part of nursing home staff and deficient reg-
ulations. The ensuing investigation had not resulted in criminal or disciplinary sanctions
and the applicant’s attempt to obtain compensation in civil proceedings had been fru-
strated by the dilatory approach of the State authorities and courts. The ECtHR found
that the relevant criminal law remedies did not secure the accountability of those respon-
sible, where the authorities did not ensure an effective opportunity for establishing the
facts surrounding the disappearance of the mother. The State failed to take appropriate
steps to uphold its positive obligation to take preventive operational measures to protect
an individual whose life is at risk from self-harm. However, the ECtHR found that since
the nursing home staff, which—unlike the police—knew the mother’s physical appear-
ance well, and had searched this area of the large city in vain, it was not unreasonable to
not deploy police forces for an immediate search.
Two ECtHR decisions arose from attempts by individuals enabling public scrutiny of
government officials for their improprieties. These individuals sought protection under
Article 10 of the ECHR, which makes some qualifications for its guarantee of freedom
of expression that include the interests of public safety, the prevention of disorder or crime,
the protection of health or morals, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the
judiciary. In Guja v. Moldova (2008), at the material time, Guja was the Head of the Press
Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office. In January 2003, the President of Moldova
visited the Center for Fighting Economic Crime and Corruption for a widely reported dis-
cussion on the problem of public officials placing pressure on law-enforcement bodies
about pending criminal proceedings. A few days later, the applicant gave a national news-
paper two letters received by the Prosecutor General’s Office, neither of which bore any
sign of being confidential. These letters disclosed interference by a high-ranking politician
in pending criminal proceedings of police officers. Guja was dismissed from the Prosecutor
General’s Office for divulging the documents. The ECtHR considered that, in the circum-
stances of the applicant’s case, external reporting, even to a newspaper, could be justified.
The ECtHR noted that neither the Moldovan legislation nor the internal regulations of
the Prosecutor General’s Office contained any provision concerning the reporting of irre-
gularities by employees. Given the importance of the right of civil servants and other
employees to report wrongdoings at their place of work, the ECtHR concluded that the
interference with the applicant’s right to freedom of expression, in particular his right to
impart information, was not necessary in a democratic society, resulting in the violation
of Article 10.
In July v. France (2008), the publication director of the French daily newspaper Libe
tion and its parent company challenged their convictions for the defamation of judges
investigating the case of another judge found dead in suspicious circumstances. The defa-
matory remark in the newspaper article, which reported on a press conference regarding the
investigation of the case, was the accusation made by one of the participants that the inves-
tigation was being conducted in a bizarre fashion. There was a breach of Article 10 because
the limits of acceptable criticism are wider where civil servants act in an official capacity.
In particular, the investigating judges here could legitimately be the subjects of criticism.
The remark in question could not be considered manifestly insulting to these judges.
Criminal liability for such language conflicted with the watchdog role of the press.
508 International Criminal Justice Review

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