Murderer Takes Case to Human Rights Court | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 12.07.2005
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Murderer Takes Case to Human Rights Court

The convicted murderer of a prominent banker's son has lodged a complaint at the European Court of Human Rights over his treatment while in custody. A former top policeman threatened him with torture during questioning.


Gäfgen said his human rights had been violated while in custody

Magnus Gäfgen, who kidnapped and murdered the young heir to a banking family in 2002, has taken legal action against Germany at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

In his 220-page complaint, Gäfgen, 30, accused Germany of violating articles three and six of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Article three stipulates that no one should be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment. Article six states that everyone has the right to a fair trial.

Gäfgen was sentenced to life in prison in 2003 for kidnapping and killing 11-year-old Jakob von Metzler. During his questioning, Frankfurt's former deputy police chief Wolfgang Daschner had ordered officers to threaten Gäfgen with "intense pain" if he didn't reveal where Metzler was being held. Gäfgen then told the police where he had hidden the child, who was already dead at the time.

Gäfgen faces a long wait

A spokeswoman for the court in Strasbourg confirmed a report in the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel that Gäfgen had moved the European Court of Human Rights. However, Gäfgen will have to wait several months before he can expect an initial response from Strasbourg.

Europäischer Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte in Straßburg

The European Court of Human Rights could take months to decide whether to accept Gäfgen's case

"It can certainly take months before the court deals with the complaint and decides whether it's admissible," the spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

If the court accepts the case, legal proceedings can take on average up to four years at the court before a verdict is expected. Gäfgen's complaint was filed in mid-June.

Case could shape proceedings in the future

According to Gäfgen's attorney, Michael Heuchemer, the legal action was primarily aimed at setting a precedent against forcing a confession through torture.

"This would shape case law and the reality of criminal prosecution for decades to come," Der Tagesspiegel quoted Heuchemer. In the long-term, Gäfgen was not interested in compensation but rather in securing a ruling against Germany, which could lead to a retrial, he said.

According to Heuchemer, the case represented "the best-known and most easily proven violation of human rights and ban on torture in post-war German history."

Wolfgang Daschner

Wolfgang Daschner said he had hoped to find Jakob von Metzler alive

The disclosure that Daschner had threatened to manhandle Gäfgen sparked a public debate about police employing torture, which is illegal in Germany and can be punished with up to ten years in prison.

Last December, a Frankfurt court found Daschner guilty of incitement to coercion and misuse of his office. But, he was given a lenient sentence and has since been transferred to a different division of Hesse's police.

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