Germany: Football fans awarded €17,000 after human rights complaint

Two football fans, who alleged they were beaten after a match by helmeted German police, have been awarded more than €17,000 by Strasbourg judges.

The complaint Hentschel and Stark v. Germany (application no. 47274/15) was brought by Ingo Hentschel and Matthias Stark, who were born in 1969 and 1989 and live in Illertissen and Harburg (Germany) respectively.

The case concerned the complaint by two football supporters of having been ill-treated by the police following a match and of the inadequacy of the ensuing investigation.

Both applicants attended a football match in Munich on 9 December 2007. Over 200 police officers were deployed during the match, including several riot control units, in view of an expected risk of clashes between rival football supporters.

After the end of the match the police cordoned off the supporters of one team, including the applicants, for about 15 minutes to prevent them from encountering supporters of the other team.

Hentschel submits that, on their way to the exit after the cordon had been lifted, spectators were approached by a group of police officers, some of whom started hitting them with their truncheons without any prior warning.

He alleges that he was hit on his head with a truncheon, resulting in a bleeding wound treated by a paramedic after he had exited the stadium and subsequently requiring further treatment in hospital.

According to Stark, before exiting the stadium he was grabbed by the shoulder by a police officer who used pepper spray on his face at close range. He alleges that, when subsequently lying down on the ground, he was struck on his arm with a truncheon.

According to the German government’s submissions, there was no credible evidence that the applicants were deliberately hit or harmed by police officers.

In its 9 November judgment, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously: that there had been no violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of the applicants’ treatment by the police; and that there had been a violation of Article 3 in respect of the investigation into their allegations.

The court was unable to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the events had happened as described by the applicants.

As regards the investigation, the Court observed in particular that the helmeted police officers of the riot control units had not worn any name tags or other individually identifying signs, but only identification numbers on the back of their helmets.

Therefore, other measures to establish the identities of the persons responsible for the alleged ill-treatment had become especially important.

However, the difficulties resulting from the lack of identifying insignia had not been sufficiently counter-balanced by other investigative measures.

Notably, only excerpts of the video material recorded by the riot units had been provided to the investigating unit and some potentially relevant witnesses had not been identified and questioned.

As just satisfaction (Article 41), the court held that Germany was to pay each applicant 2,000 euros (EUR) in respect of nonpecuniary damage and EUR 6,575.41 in respect of costs and expenses.


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