EU court slams Germany for ill-treating suspect

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The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday condemned Germany for ill-treating a child abduction suspect while in custody by threatening him with intolerable pain to extract a confession.

The Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg-based court ruled that police officers had used "inhumane treatment" when questioning Magnus Gafgen as they tried to make him disclose the location of a missing child.

In 2002, Gafgen had kidnapped an 11-year-old boy. He was arrested by police after collecting a ransom of one million euros (1.2 million dollars).

While in custody police threatened Gafgen with considerable suffering if he did not disclose the child's whereabouts.

Gafgen subsequently told officers he had killed the boy and where he had hidden the body, and in his trial again confessed to kidnapping and killing the boy.

The plaintiff later appealed, claiming officers had used torture to extract his confession and thereby violated his right to a fair trial.

The Grand Chamber ruled that the threats by the investigating officers, while motivated by the attempt to save a child's life, "were sufficiently serious to be qualified as inhuman treatment."

However, it ruled out the use of torture and judged that the plaintiff had received a fair trial, given he had made a second confession in court.

© 2010 AFP

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