Bouyid v Belgium (third party intervention)
The two applicants in this case, Saïd Bouyid (aged 17 at the time of the incidents) and Mohamed Bouyid, filed complaints in Belgium after they were both slapped by police officers while in custody on two separate occasions, the first after being arrested for failure to provide identification and the second while interviewed regarding an altercation with a third party.
The applicants filed domestic complaints seeking prosecution of the two police officers who slapped them. After the Belgian government failed to prosecute the two police officers, the applicants lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), claiming the slap was ill-treatment in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention.
The ECtHR held that the slaps would not amount to ill-treatment because they did not rise to the minimum amount of severity required to fall under the scope of Article 3.
The case was then referred to the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR.
REDRESS intervened in this case on 18 July 2014.
The intervention argued that, according to international and regional standards, the use of force by state agents is only allowed where strictly necessary. In custody specifically, because of the power imbalance between a detained person and a state agent, any use of force is likely to be a violation of Article 3 and a threat to human dignity, no matter how severe.
The intervention also addressed additional considerations such as the increased vulnerability of children in detention, particularly those belonging to a minority group.
ECtHR (Grand Chamber), 28 September 2015.
The Grand Chamber agreed with REDRESS’s analysis that severity is irrelevant if the use of force in detention is not strictly necessary. The Grand Chamber held that both applicants had had their dignity undermined in violation of Article 3. The element of severity was only relevant in finding that the slap amounted to ill-treatment rather than torture. The Grand Chamber acknowledged the double vulnerability of children members of minority groups, as highlighted by REDRESS, noting specifically that the first applicant was 17 years old at the time of the incident.
The Grand Chamber also emphasised the exacerbated affront on dignity due to the injury being on the face, the importance of the non-derogability of the prohibition of torture, and the lack of promptness and effectiveness of the domestic investigation, points on which REDRESS had not intervened.
Case name: Bouyid v Belgium (Application no. 23380/09)
Court/Body: European Court of Human Rights (Grand Chamber)
Date intervention filed: 18 July 2014
Current status: Decision reached
Date of final decision: 28 September 2015
Non-derogable: A non-derogable right is a right that cannot be taken away.