Vassis And Others v France (Legal Summary): ECHR 27 Jun 2013

ECHR Article 5-3
Brought promptly before judge or other officer
48 hours’ police custody following 18 days’ deprivation of liberty on board vessel arrested on high seas: violation
Facts – The applicants were crew-members of a ship that was intercepted by the French Navy off the African coast on suspicion of transporting drugs. The vessel was escorted to France, where it arrived eighteen days later. On the applicants’ arrival, a preliminary investigation was opened and they were taken into police custody. They were presented to a judge about forty-eight hours later.
Law – Article 5 – 3: The police custody had followed a period of eighteen days of deprivation of liberty within the meaning of Article 5 of the Convention, and the applicants had had to wait a further forty-eight hours to be brought for the first time before a ‘judge or other officer’ as provided in Article 5 – 3 with its autonomous meaning. The circumstances of the case did not justify such a delay. The interception had been planned in advance and the ship suspected of being used for international drug trafficking had been under close surveillance since January 2008. Moreover, there was no doubt that the eighteen days required for the applicants’ transfer had allowed their arrival on French soil to be prepared sufficiently. In view of the length of that period, without judicial supervision, there had been no justification for subsequently placing the applicants in police custody for the forty-eight hours in question; in addition, the existence of those specific circumstances made the promptness requirement of Article 5 – 3 even stricter than in the more usual situation where the deprivation of liberty started with the police custody itself. The applicants should thus have been brought, as soon as they arrived in France and without delay, before a ‘judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power’. The case-law allowing for the first appearance before a judge to take place after two or three days, without breaching the rule on promptness, did not mean that the authorities could freely dispose of such a period in order to complete the prosecution case file.
Conclusion: violation (unanimously).
Article 41: EUR 5,000 each in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

62736/09 – Legal Summary, [2013] ECHR 795
Bailii
European Convention on Human Rights
Human Rights
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Legal SummaryVassis And Others v France ECHR 27-Jun-2013
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Human Rights

Updated: 19 November 2021; Ref: scu.515128