EIT: Rauhanomaisiin kokoontumisiin on suhtauduttava jossain määrin sallivasti6.10.2020 | Oikeusuutiset
Rights breach of protestor left permanently injured after police intervened to disperse spontaneous gathering
In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Laguna Guzman v. Spain (application no. 41462/17) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
- a violation of Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The case concerned the applicant’s complaint that she had been left permanently injured after the police forcefully dispersed a spontaneous gathering that had taken place after an official demonstration. The Court found in particular that the spontaneous protest had been peaceful up until its dispersal and that the applicant herself had not been arrested or prosecuted for any violent actions. The use of force deployed by the police had not therefore been justified and had amounted to a disproportionate interference with the applicant’s rights.
The Court reiterated that while rules governing public assemblies, such as prior notification, were essential for the smooth conduct of public events, their enforcement could not become an end in itself. In particular, the public authorities had to show a certain degree of tolerance towards spontaneous demonstrations which remained peaceful.
The applicant, Montserrat Laguna Guzman, is a Spanish national who was born in 1967 and lives in Santovenia de Pisuerga (Spain). On 2 February 2014, the applicant took part in a demonstration in Valladolid against budgetary cutsand high unemployment rates. The authorities had been notified in advance of the demonstration as required by Spanish legislation and the necessary measures had been requested by the organisers to regulate road traffic.However, after the demonstration officially ended, a group of 50 to 60 protesters continued marching. They stopped at a square in front of a restaurant where some politicians were havinglunch, and displayed a placard reading “stop the criminalisation of social protest”.Ms Guzman, who was holding the placard, was injured when the police intervened to disperse theprotest. She was struck with a truncheon, and taken to hospital to be treated for injuries to her mouth, hand and head. In 2016, the Institute of Legal Medicine of Valladolid concluded that she was “permanently incapacitated” as a consequence of her injuries.The courts subsequently dismissed criminal proceedings brought against the policemen for causing bodily harm, finding that they had had to use force in the face of a situation of violence and disorder.The applicant’s amparoappeal against this decision was declared inadmissible by the Constitutional Court in 2017. Criminal proceedings were also brought against three of the protesters, but they were acquitted in 2018. The judge ruling on the case concluded that the protesters had been violently repressed without any prior warning, despite the fact that they had not blocked traffic or provoked the confrontation with the police.
The 2018 criminal judgment was taken into account by the Audiencia National in 2019 when ruling on Ms Guzman’s claim for compensation against the Ministry of the Interior for her injuries. She was awarded 10,000 euros. No criminal proceedings were ever initiated against Ms Guzman. Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court.
Relying on Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association), the applicant alleged that the police’s use of force against her and other protesters had been grossly disproportionate.
Nor had it been shown that the demonstration had posed a high level of disruption to public order. The authorities had not therefore provided relevant and sufficient reasons justifying the dispersal of the demonstration.