Human rights judges say French police used excessive force when they shot dead a youth in an escaping car.
In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Toubache v. France (application no. 19510/15) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
a violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
As Just satisfaction (Article 41), the court held that France was to pay the applicants 60,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage (EUR 30,000 each), and EUR 9,784 in respect of costs and expenses.
The applicants, Mohammed Toubache and Sikina Toubache, are French nationals who were born in 1951 and 1958 respectively and live in Montataire (France). They are the parents of N.T., born in 1987.
On the night of 27 November 2008, following a burglary and the theft of some fuel, a vehicle carrying three men, including N.T., was chased by a gendarmerie patrol. The vehicle refused to stop despite being chased and despite rounds of Flash-balls being fired. After issuing two warnings and almost being struck twice, a gendarme, O.G., fired six times in the direction of the fleeing vehicle.
A judicial investigation was instituted against the gendarme on a charge of manslaughter. It emerged from the investigation that N.T. had died following the fifth or sixth shot fired by O.G.
The European court confirmed in its judgement that it did not wish to impose an impossible burden on the authorities.
It noted that the gendarmes had earlier used alternative methods to try to stop the car and that the death of the applicants’ son had occurred during an unplanned operation during which the gendarmes had had to react without prior preparation.
Nevertheless, in view of the fact that the driver had not posed an immediate threat and that stopping the vehicle had not been a matter of urgency, the use of a firearm by the gendarme O.G. had not been absolutely necessary in order to carry out a lawful arrest for the purposes of Article 2 § 2 (b) of the convention.
The court noted that after the events in this case France had passed a law on 28 February 2017 incorporating the principles laid down in the Court’s case-law, according to which law-enforcement officials may use weapons only in cases of absolute necessity and in a strictly proportionate manner.