European Court of Human Rights Finds that Czech Government Violated Right to Fair Trial

On 1 March 2006 the European Court of Human Rights found the Czech Government in violation of the right to a fair trial (Article 6 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) in the case of Krasniki v. the Czech Republic. The European Roma Rights Centre along with Czech attorney David Strupek filed an action to the court on behalf of Hasan Krasniki on 2 September 1999. Krasniki was found guilty of production and possession of narcotics in 1997 through the testimony of two anonymous witnesses who did not use their true names and who testified behind a curtain, one of whom did not testify at the final hearing, and one of whom claimed fear of violence. Czech authorities based their approval of these tactics on Czech law which has since been changed. The Czech court ignored the fact that the defendant was not even in the Czech Republic much of the time claimed.

The Court found that while anonymous witnesses may be compatible with the Convention, in this case they were not. Any such use of anonymous witnesses must be counterbalanced to test the witnesses' reliability and no conviction should be based solely or decisively on anonymous statements. Since this was the case, the Court found a violation of Article 6.1 and 6.3(d) (right to a fair trial) and awarded the applicant 2,500 EUR.

(ERRC)

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