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On March 10th 1999, Mr Portmann was arrested in a house in Urnäsch as a suspect in an investigation on a bank robbery. Unnamed Swiss police officers handcuffed his hands in his back, shackled his feet, and placed a hood on his entire head.
The suspect was transported, handcuffed, shackled and hooded to the police station of Herisau where he was interrogated in the same condition by an investigative judge. He exercised his right to remain silent during the interrogation and the investigative judge ordered his detention. Then masked police officers removed his hood and requested him to sign a transcript of the interrogation. Upon his refusal, they placed the hood again on his head. He was detained in a basement cell before being transported to the police station of Trugen. There police officers removed his handcuff, shackle and hood.
On April 4th 2006, the applicant press charges by filing a complain to an investigative judge. On May 3rd 2006, the investigative judge closed the investigation on the ground that hooding was “standard police protocol” for suspects considered “dangerous” by police. No witness were interviewed in the investigation. On July 24th 2006, the prosecutor rejected the appeal of the applicant on the ground that hooding was necessary to keep “the anonymity of the police officers“. He refused to examine the allegation of violation of article 3 of the Convention and to award legal aid to the applicant.
On September 19th 2006, Mr. Portmann filed pro se an application to the ECHR on the ground that the condition of his arrest and his detention were a violation of article 3. He added that lack of access to a tribunal and the lack of effective remedy were both a violation of articles 6-1 and 13. On November 3rd 2009, the application was communicated to the agent of the Swiss government.
On October 11th 2011, Judge Jočienė (Lithuania), Judge Björgvinsson (Iceland), Judge Malinverni (Switzerland), Judge Sajó (Hungary), Judge Karakaş (Turkey) and Judge Tulkens (Belgium) of the Court found no violation of article 3 on the surprising grounds that “the applicant could breathe through the hood“, “that he didn’t try to remove it” and that a “police officer was watching him almost at all time“.
In his dissenting opinion, Judge Pinto de Albuquerque (Portugal) found a violation of article 3 of the Convention based on the case-law of human rights courts and bodies (ECHR, CIDH, CAT, CPT, CCPR), on findings of the ICRC, ICRT and U.N special rapporteur on torture and on the facts of the case. He concluded that the hooding of the applicant was “unlawful“, “disproportionate”, “useless“, “objectively degrading” and an “inhumane and degrading treatment“.
On October 15th 2009, Mr. Michel Duval was detained pending investigation. On February 3rd 2000, he was handcuffed and shackled during an ultrasound test at the hospital of Laon. Prison guards and police officers were present in the room during the test. On October 1st 2004, he was again handcuffed and shackled for a cardiac test at the hospital of Amiens. On May 14th, 15th, 18th 2005, he was detained under the same security measures for a cardiac test at the hospital of Laon and on June 14th 2005 for an ultrasound test.
On September 28th 2005, handcuffed and shackled, he had a digital rectal exam in front of 2 prison guards in the hospital of Laon. These security measures were taken under an executive order JUSK0440155C of the minister of Justice of November 18th 2004.
On October 15th 2007, the administrative supreme court (conseil d’etat) rejected the motion of the applicant to have the executive order JUSK0440155C annulled.
On April 15th 2008, the applicant submitted his case to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that to be shackled and handcuffed during medical exams in front of police officers and prison guards was a violation of articles 3 and 8 of the Convention. He added that the condition of detention during the transfers to the hospital were in violation of article 3. On September 14th 2009, the application was communicated to the agent of the French government with questions to be answered within 16 weeks.
On May 26th 2011, the Court found a violation of article 3 of the Convention on the ground that the security measures and the presence of guards during the medical exams were a degrading treatment.
The applicant was represented by Me Patrice Spinosi (Paris) who was not available for comments.