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Court: Judges set for judgements on sex assault human rights complaints against Poland and Romania

Tomorrow, judges will deliver their judgements on human rights complaints against Poland and Romania, arising from sexual assaults on young girls.

The European Court of Human Rights will announce its decision on Tuesday 24 May 2016 in the case Przydział v. Poland (no. 15487/08) and I.C. v. Romania (no. 36934/08).

Przydział v. Poland (no. 15487/08)

The applicant, Radoslaw Przydział, is a Polish national who was born in 1984 and lives in Olawa (Poland).

The case concerns Przydział’s conviction for the rape of a minor and his inability to have questions put to the victim, whose statements, he claims, constituted the main evidence on which his conviction was based.

In March 2004, Przydział and two other individuals were arrested on suspicion of rape. An investigation had been launched after the alarm was raised by a secondary school teacher in whom the girl had confided.

The alleged incident occurred in July 2002. The girl, then aged 14, was allegedly taken by Przydział and two other individuals (M.K. and P.H.) to a house, where they took it in turns to rape her, in the presence of an eyewitness (W.H.), the brother of P.H. and a minor at the relevant time.

On 12 March 2004, the girl gave evidence to a judge in the presence of the public prosecutor and a psychologist. She recognised Przydział from a photograph and identified him as one of her attackers.

In a report of 18 March 2004, the psychologist who had attended the interview found the girl’s account to be highly credible; she also observed that it would be preferable, in view of the girl’s psychological state and in particular her suicidal tendencies, to exempt her from attending the trial and to admit her to hospital.

On 23 March 2004, the girl took part in the inspection of the crime scene. On 18 May 2004 she was admitted to a psychiatric clinic following a suicide attempt. In a report of 28 May 2004, the psychologist stated that, in view of the girl’s condition, she was not fit to participate in the trial; this finding was confirmed by the senior doctor.

On 26 May 2004, the girl was questioned at the clinic by a judge with the prosecutor and the psychologist in attendance.

In a judgment of 23 December 2005 Przydział and two co-defendants were found guilty as charged.

Przydział was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment.

Taking into consideration the fact that the girl’s psychological state prevented her from attending the trial, the court read out her statements at the hearing and found that those statements, taken in conjunction with the other items of evidence, confirmed the case against the applicant.

The court considered, in particular, that the girl’s testimony was corroborated by W.H.’s statements and by the confession of the applicant’s co-defendant P.H., who had admitted the offence during the preliminary investigation and had provided the investigators with a detailed description of the offence, the victim and the role of each of the co-defendants.

The court rejected the allegations of ill-treatment made by P.H. and W.H. – who had subsequently retracted their confessions and statements – finding that the allegations were not credible or substantiated. On appeal, the Wroclaw Regional Court upheld the main findings of the first-instance judgment and reduced Przydział’s sentence to five years’ imprisonment.

It observed, among other findings, that Przydział’s conviction had not been based solely on the girl’s testimony, but had been borne out by other items of evidence, in particular by P.H.’s confession and the statements of the eyewitness W.H. On 28 September 2007 the Supreme Court dismissed a cassation appeal by the applicant as being manifestly unfounded.

Relying on Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (d) (right to a fair trial/right to question witnesses) of the European Convention on Human Rights, Przydział complains that the proceedings were unfair, alleging that the authorities made it impossible for him to question the victim, whose statements, he claims, formed the main evidence on which his conviction was based.

I.C. v. Romania (no. 36934/08)

The case concerns a complaint about the inadequacy of the investigation into a 14-year old girl’s allegation of rape.

The applicant, Ms I.C., is a Romanian national who was born in 1992 and lives in Cotiglet (Romania).

Ms I.C., 14 years old at the time, alleges that she was raped on 13 January 2007. Attending a funeral wake, she claims that she was grabbed by three teenage boys in the road and taken to a man, M.C., who was waiting for her in the garden of a deserted building and raped.

Two other men were also present; one, A.C.L., attempted to rape her and the other, although intending to have intercourse with her, finally decided to help her and take her back to the house where the wake was taking place. I.C.’s father, on learning that his daughter had been raped, immediately alerted the police and the next day they lodged a formal complaint.

During the subsequent investigation, the six men involved in the incident claimed that the young girl had consented to having sexual intercourse. The prosecutor, accepting this explanation, indicted M.C. for the crime of sexual intercourse with a minor and A.C.L. for attempting to commit the same crime.

Furthermore, the prosecutor considered that the three teenage boys involved could not have known M.C.’s intentions and therefore found that they had no criminal responsibility in the case.
The criminal proceedings against the remaining man were discontinued as he had not had sexual intercourse with the girl.

The national courts, in a judgment of October 2007, found M.C. and A.C.L. guilty as charged and gave them suspended sentences, subsequently increased on appeal to three years’ and 18 months’ imprisonment, respectively.

The prosecutor and the courts essentially based their conclusions on the statements by the alleged rapists, who claimed that they had not forced the girl in any way, taken together with the fact that I.C.’s body showed no signs of violence, as attested to by a medical certificate, and that she had not called for help or immediately told her girlfriends about the alleged abuse on returning to the wake.

The authorities did not address the extensive medical evidence submitted with regard to the trauma suffered by I.C., who was admitted to a psychiatric hospital on three occasions since the incident with stress-related anxiety, a sleep disorder, headaches and depression and, in February 2007, diagnosed with a slight intellectual disability (IQ of 68).

Nor did they address her requests for the incident to be examined as rape.

I.C. complains that, there having been no physical evidence of assault, the criminal justice system in Romania had been more inclined to believe the men involved in the abuse, rather than her.

Furthermore, the authorities, refusing to take into consideration her young age and physical/psychological vulnerability, showed no concern for the need to protect her as a minor. The case will be examined under Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention.

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