2018 | 16 | 97-114
Article title

Należyta staranność w kontekście użycia siły śmiercionośnej w porządku prawnym Europejskiej Konwencji Praw Człowieka

Title variants
The due diligence related to the use of lethal force in the law of the European Convention of Human Rights
Languages of publication
In the light of Article 2(2) of the Convention, the threat to the right to life posed by the use of lethal force by State agents (lethal force) should be taken seriously in particular. It provides that deprivation of life shall not be considered contrary to this article if it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary to achieve the three objectives set out therein. However, in the Court's view, those provisions do not, in any event, entitle the State to use force with the intention of killing. This means that Article 2 of the Convention requires a State to refrain from intentional and unlawful taking of life. The Court established the conditions for the use of lethal force in the case of McCann and Others v. the United Kingdom of 1995. In view of the criterion of absolute necessity, the circumstances in which the use of lethal force may occur must be interpreted restrictively and evaluated with the utmost rigour, taking account of all the circumstances surrounding the use of that force. The Court therefore combined a new premise with the criterion of absolute necessity of the use of lethal force. A review of the case-law shows that it is of major importance and that it de facto leads to a redefinition of the criterion of absolute necessity. The Court has neither defined its substance precisely nor indicated in an exhaustive manner the situations which it regards as "all the circumstances surrounding". However, it pointed out the initial assumption that in a democratic society, law-enforcement officials should be "somewhat cautious in the use of firearms". Subsequently, it translated into concrete duties, including the obligation to prepare a plan of action using lethal force, next the obligation to exercise appropriate supervision over its course, the obligation to take the care of the right to life sufficiently into account in the instructions given to officers regarding the use of lethal force, in particular the exclusion of shoot to kill instruction and the obligation to train or instruct officers accordingly in order to be able to assess whether there is an absolute need for the use of firearms in a particular situation. The Court is progressively developing the scope and content of these obligations. This is shown, for example, by the 2010 Wasilewska and Kalucka v. Poland case, which requires police officers who take action using lethal force to carry a clear identification mark, so that there is no doubt that they are police officers. In addition, the authorities were obliged to provide an ambulance at the site of the action. In the Andronicou and Constantinou v. Cyprus case of 1997, the Court drew attention for the first time to the obligation planning and control of the rescue operation. The fulfilment of these duties requires a number of concrete actions which serve a preventive function. It is not just crime prevention sensu stricto. In fact, it involves a whole range of different organisational, technical and tactical measures, including tactics and techniques for prevention and intervention by a broad range of police and preventive services, secret services and the military. The multidimensional protective function of these measures is important. The Court optimises the requirements for the performance of the duties mentioned above, taking into account their specific circumstances and their operational aspect and stresses that they must not result in disproportionate and unrealistic burdens on the authorities. An infringement of Article 2 of the Convention therefore arises where a State Party has not taken all the possible measures which the specific circumstances of the case required to be taken and which could have been taken. As a result of the above optimisation, the level of performance of the indicated duties may vary, although it must be the highest possible. The Court has required States to take requisite care to "minimise to the greatest extent possible recourse to lethal force or incidental loss of life". Thus, an important criterion for these obligations is the criterion of due diligence, which has traditionally been linked to progressive obligations linked to economic, social and cultural rights. In conclusion, without altering the nature and subject-matter of the prohibition on intentional or unlawful deprivation of life, the Court has "surrounded" it with the duties of diligent action. It thus the general obligation of the States Parties to the Convention to protect the right to life (Article of the Convention) has been substantially strengthened.
  • Wydział Prawa i Administracji Uniwersytetu Kardynała Stefana Wyszyńskiego
Document Type
Publication order reference
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