Mocanu & Ors v Romania

Legal Case - Third Party Intervention

This case was brought on behalf of four applicants who were affected by measures taken in June 1990 by the Romanian Government to end the several-week-long occupation of University Square by demonstrators protesting against the regime then in place.

The second applicant in the case, Mr Marin Stoica, was walking to work on the morning of 13 June 1990 when he was arrested near the premises of the public television station, taken away, then bound and beaten. As a result, he lost consciousness during the night and woke up the following day in hospital. A criminal investigation into the repression began in 1990.  Mr Stoica complained to the authorities about his treatment in 2001, but after an investigation proceedings were closed because of the limitation period applicable to the crime of assault.

By a judgment of 13 November 2012 a Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held that there had not been a violation of the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment as Mr Stoica had not submitted his complaint to the relevant authorities until eleven years after the events. On 29 April 2013 the case was referred to the Grand Chamber at Mr Stoica's request.

In July 2013 the Grand Chamber granted REDRESS permission to intervene in the case as a third party.  REDRESS filed its comments in the case on 13 August 2013, setting out international standards and comparative jurisprudence on criminalisation of torture and other ill-treatment, the psychological effects of such treatment and how they can impact on the ability to make a complaint, and statutes of limitation in relation to such crimes. 

On 2 October 2013 the Grand Chamber heard oral argument in the case.

The Grand Chamber handed down its judgment on 17 September 2014, finding that Romania had committed procedural violations of Article 2(the right to life) against the first applicant, and Article 3 against Mr Stoica, and awarding both substantial compensation.  In its judgment, the Grand Chamber recognised that there may be a number of factors to explain a delay in complaining of torture and ill-treatment.  Referring to REDRESS's submissions, the Grand Chamber said:

"Like the United Nations Committee against Torture, quoted by the third-party intervener, the Court acknowledges that the psychological effects of ill-treatment inflicted by State agents may also undermine victims’ capacity to complain about treatment inflicted on them, and may thus constitute a significant impediment to the right to redress of victims of torture and other ill-treatment (see General Comment no. 3, 2012, § 38, at paragraph 190 above). Such factors may have the effect of rendering the victim incapable of taking the necessary steps to bring proceedings against the perpetrator without delay. Accordingly, as the third-party intervener pointed out, these factors are increasingly taken into account at national level, leading to a certain flexibility with regard to the limitation periods applicable to claims for reparation in respect of claims for compensation for personal injury...". 

The Court overturned the Chamber's decision, finding that Mr Stoica's delay in complaining could be explained and did not bar his complaint.  It went on to find that the investigation into his treatment had been ineffective, and should not have been discontinued because of the statute of limitation.

 


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