European court rules against Denmark in human rights case

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found that Denmark infringed the human rights of a convicted criminal.

European court rules against Denmark in human rights case
A file photo of judges in the ECHR courtroom in Strasbourg. Photo: Vincent Kessler / Reuters / Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark acted incorrectly by refusing to allow an independent assessment of whether the man in question can still be considered dangerous to others, the ECHR found.

The case represents a rare human rights judgement against the Scandinavian country.

The individual in question was sentenced in 1996 to safe custody (forvaring in Danish), a type of sentence which keeps him imprisoned with no time limit for as long as he is deemed dangerous.

He was given the sentence for attempting to sexually assault a ten-year-old child.

In the intervening years, the Herstedvester Fængsel prison, where he is held, has on repeated assessments found him too dangerous to be released on parole.

But not allowing an independent assessment is in breach of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the ECHR found.

The Strasbourg court agreed in 2018 to review the case against Denmark, an unusual instance in itself, Ritzau writes.

Even rarer is an outcome in favour of the claimant.

“It is rare for Denmark to be given a mark on its human rights record,” said lawyer Tobias Stadarfeld of Aarhus-based firm Bonnez and Ziebe, who presented the case against Denmark at the ECHR.

“On a practical level, this means that the court agreed with us that a (human rights) infringement occurred, and that the process did not live up to the conditions of the convention,” Stadarfeld added.

The ruling means Denmark is now obliged to correct the issue by allowing an independent assessment of the prisoner.

The case can also be appealed with the ECHR’s highest court, the Grand Chamber.

READ ALSO: European Court of Human Rights upholds Danish deportation of former citizen who incited terror

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Germany charges two Syrians with crimes against humanity

Germany charged two alleged former Syrian secret service officers with participating in crimes against humanity, in what rights activists said Tuesday would be the first trial worldwide over state-sponsored torture in Syria.

Germany charges two Syrians with crimes against humanity
Photo: DPA

The two men were arrested in February together with a third suspect in France in a coordinated operation by German and French police, the federal prosecutor's office in the German city of Karlsruhe said.

The suspects, Anwar Raslan and Eyad al-Gharib, both left Syria in 2012.

Raslan, who allegedly led an investigative unit with its own prison in the Damascus area targeting members of the Syrian opposition, is “suspected of complicity in crimes against humanity” in charges filed on October 22nd, the prosecutors said in a statement.

“In this context he is also accused of murder in 58 cases, rape and aggravated sexual assault” in the jail where more than 4,000 prisoners suffered “brutal and massive torture” from April 2011 to September 2012.

Gharib, a former officer who had manned checkpoints and allegedly hunted protesters, had allegedly aided and abetted two killings and the physical abuse of at least 30 people in the autumn of 2011, prosecutors said.

Mass protests

In the town of Douma at the time, security authorities used force to break up an anti-government rally. Gharib is believed to have helped capture fleeing demonstrators and detained them in the prison headed by Raslan.

The same day that the two suspects were arrested in February, another Syrian was detained in the Paris region for “acts of torture, crimes against humanity and complicity in these crimes”, the Paris prosecutor's office said
at the time.

READ ALSO: German Interior Ministry rules out deportations to Syria

The Syria conflict began in March 2011 with a series of mass protests demanding civil liberties, prompting a harsh crackdown by the regime which quickly began using brutal force against anti-government protesters.

Several other legal cases are now pending in Germany against the Assad regime.

Last year, German prosecutors issued an international arrest warrant for Jamil Hassan, a top Syrian official who headed the notorious airforce intelligence directorate and is accused of overseeing the torture and murder of hundreds of detainees.

Although the alleged abuses did not happen in Germany, the case has been filed under the legal principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows any country to pursue perpetrators regardless of where the crime was committed.

The Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights has also joined with torture survivors to file criminal complaints against 10 high-ranking Syrian officials, accusing them of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Welcoming Tuesday's charges, the ECCHR said: “The first trial worldwide about state torture in Syria is expected to start in Germany in early 2020 – an important step in the fight against impunity.”