[You might like to read again the summary of this case, published here on Saturday.]
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The facts of the case
- A British subject is victim of gross criminal medical homicide in Florence, Italy. This is not disputed.
- Indeed the Italian judicial authorities in Florence conduct a criminal investigation into the killing, lasting 4 years.
- During the investigation, the two main doctors involved make statements to the investigators that are manifestly proven by official documents and other evidence, to be untrue. Yet the authorities deliberately refuse to verify whether these untrue statements are, or are not, deliberate lies told to cover up guilt. They also refuse even to consider, to examine, or to take any notice whatsoever, of these untrue statements, and shelve the case as being “insoluble”. There is no possibility of appeal against this decision.
- The bereaved son of the victim, having exhausted all possibilities within the Italian judicial system, applies for redress to the European Court of Human Rights, under article 2 of the Convention, alleging that a State that refuses to investigate a case of homicide with due and necessary diligence is a State that fails to protect the Right to Life.
- The ECHR puts the applicant under a gagging order (“duty of confidentiality”) for the duration of its deliberations. During its deliberations, which last over two years, its internal rules are changed so there is no longer any legal basis at all for this gagging order. This is in any case is a violation of his rights under article 10 – Freedom of Speech, Yet the applicant is not informed of this and is left gagged illegally for the remaining year of the proceedings. The impossibility of discussing the case with anybody obviously hampers his ability to conduct it effectively.
- The Italian State Advocate, appearing against the applicant on behalf of the Republic of Italy, makes an untrue statement to the court that the applicant had not exhausted all avenues within the Italian system (necessary to be able to apply to the ECHR).
- The panel of 7 judges includes a Swede, a Dutchwoman, an Andorran, a Turk, a Moldavian, and two Italian judges, one of whom is officially there as a “San Marino” judge, although he is Italian born and bred, and he had previously worked for the Italian State Advocate’s office. The presence of two judges from the country that is being accused, one of whom is a colleague from the office appearing for that country, means that the court does not have even the appearance of impartiality in a case between a non-Italian and the Italian State. This is a violation of the applicant’s Human Right to an “impartial tribunal” under article 6 of the Convention. The applicant cannot object to this since he is not informed of the names or nationalities of the judges until after their final decision. These Italian judges appear to have failed to inform their non-Italian colleagues that the Italian State Advocate made an untrue statement to them about Italian law, although the panel cautiously decides not to use this statement as grounds for its rejection of the application.
- The panel rejects the application, saying that it could see “no indication that the prosecuting authorities arbitrarily assessed the evidence before them”.
- Now several pages of the application gave documentary evidence of the untruth of the statements made to the prosecuting-investigating authorities by the doctors involved, during the investigation. These pages showed that the Florentine prosecuting/investigating authorities quite arbitrarily refused to even look at or consider these untrue statements, giving no reasons for this refusal. The facts and arguments produced are not examined and refuted, they are simply and wilfully ignored by the panel of ECHR judges, as they had been previously ignored by the Italian authorities.
- The line of reasoning put forward by the applicant was that, by refusing to conduct an investigation with due diligence into a case of culpable homicide, the authorities were in effect affording those responsible an undeserved immunity and impunity for their misdeeds, thus leaving the road open to future violations of the Right to Life, supposedly safeguarded by article 2 of the European Convention. This line of reasoning was not considered, examined, and refuted by the European Court; it was simply ignored.
- The applicant writes to Mrs Elizabeth Palm, the Swedish president of the panel that decided the case, complaining that he had been unfairly treated, in that the court had violated his own human rights supposedly protected by the European Convention (art. 10 – freedom of speech, and art. 6 – right to an impartial tribunal). His letter is unanswered.
- The applicant writes to Baroness Patricia Scotland of Asthall, Minister at the British Foreign Office (for which the victim had actually worked as a volunteer in the British Legation in Stockholm throughout World War II), to request that they should ask Mrs Palm to reply to his letter. This request is rejected by the Foreign Office, in the name of “the importance we attach to the independence of the ECHR”.
- A previous request to the Foreign Office to join the applicant in bringing the case against the Republic of Italy, was rejected, on the apparent grounds that the victim had not been… deliberately tortured by the Italian authorities. The victim’s death was however particularly painful and protracted. It was a consequence of a deliberate breach of medical laws by the two doctors, as indicated by the untrue statements they made to the investigators, which were however deliberately not followed up, but ignored.
- The last word from the Foreign Office is a letter from its “Human Rights Unit” which says that “unfortunately there is no route of appeal against this decision” (they had not been asked for a “route of appeal”, merely to contact Mrs Palm asking her to reply to the letter of complaint from the applicant, a British citizen), “so there is nothing more we can do to help you”. The “nothing more” rubs salt into the wound, since they had never at any stage lifted a finger to give any assistance in any way, though assistance had been requested from the British Ambassador in Rome.
- The applicant was also relying on the proclamation in all British passports “Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State Requests and requires, in the name of Her Majesty, all those whom it may concern, to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.” Evidently these words are a dead letter if the problem is with a European institution. As “European citizens” we are supposed to just go through the official “European” channels
- A British member of the Council of Europe (the inter-parliamentary body to which the ECHR is attached), who is also a CBE, an MP and a QC, on reading the dossier of papers on this case, states that in his view the applicant was “not treated properly, and perhaps that is an understatement” and has had “some pretty shoddy treatment dished out” to him.
- A retired British diplomat, former Ambassador, told the applicant that he was ashamed to have belonged to a service that treated a British citizen in this way.
Alongside other cases, this case provides further evidence of the pointlessness of the UK continuing to be a signatory of the ECHR and to accept the jurisdiction of this Court. For if a case of homicide is not investigated with reasonably necessary thoroughness, indeed if the investigation is stopped and shelved just as the trail is getting warm, then the right to life is not safeguarded, and the Convention’s article 2 is a dead letter.
If we leave, this will not put us on a par with Belorussia, but with Australia, Canada and New Zealand, which not being European are not subject to the ECHR’s jurisdiction, and yet provide a better safeguard of what we consider to be fundamental human rights.
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[To be continued in tomorrow’s next instalment: details of the victim, her life and work, how the homicide was discovered, and the steps taken by her son in his vain attempts to obtain justice.]