Death of a demonstrator at the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa: no violation
No. 257 of 24 March 2011
Decision of the Court
Article 2 (right to life)
Use of lethal force
The Court – which had had the opportunity to view video footage and photographs of the incident giving rise to the case – noted that the officer who had fired the shots had been confronted with a group of demonstrators conducting an unlawful and very violent attack on the vehicle in which he was stranded. In the Court’s view, he had acted in the honest belief that his own life and physical integrity and those of his colleagues were in danger from the attack to which they were being subjected. Moreover, it was clear from the evidence at the Court’s disposal that the carabiniere had given a warning while holding his weapon in a clearly visible manner, and that he had fired the shots only when the attack had not ceased. In those circumstances, the use of a potentially lethal means of defence such as the firing of shots had been justified.
It was not necessary for the Court to examine the well-foundedness of the theory – disputed by the applicants – that the bullet had been deflected. The Court simply observed (on the basis of the conclusions of the Genoa investigating judge and the images viewed by it) that the officer could only fire, in order to defend himself, into the narrow space between the spare wheel and the roof of the jeep. The fact that a shot fired into that space risked causing injury to one of the assailants, or even killing him, as had sadly been the case, did not in itself mean that the defensive action had been excessive or disproportionate.
The Court therefore concluded that the use of force by the carabiniere concerned had been absolutely necessary within the meaning of the Convention and that there had been no violation of Article 2 in that regard.
Whether Italy had taken the necessary legislative, administrative and regulatory measures to reduce as far as possible the adverse consequences of the use of force
The Court noted first of all that the wording of the provisions governing the use of force in the applicants’ case (Articles 52 and 53 of the Criminal Code), although not identical to that of Article 2 of the Convention, nevertheless echoed it, and that the difference in wording could be overcome by the interpretation of the domestic courts (the Court referred in that connection to the relevant domestic case-law).
It went on to examine the argument that the law-enforcement agencies should have been issued with non-lethal weapons, but found that such discussions were not relevant in the applicants’ case, in which the death had occurred during a sudden and violent attack which posed an imminent and serious threat to the lives of three carabinieri. There was no basis in the Convention for concluding that law-enforcement officers should not be entitled to have lethal weapons at their disposal to counter such attacks.
Lastly, the Court noted the applicants’ allegation that some carabinieri had used non-regulation weapons (metal batons) against the rioters, but saw no connection with the death of Carlo Giuliani.
Accordingly, there had been no violation of Article 2 with regard to that complaint.
Organisation of the public-order operations
The Court observed that the attack on the jeep had taken place at a time of relative calm following a long day of clashes, when the detachment of carabinieri had withdrawn in order to rest, regroup and allow the injured officers to board the jeeps: it could not have been predicted that an attack of such violence would take place in that precise location and in those circumstances. Furthermore, the Government had deployed 18,000 officers, who either belonged to specialised units or (like the carabiniere who fired the shot which struck Carlo Giuliani) had received special training. Likewise, the Court did not criticise the decisions taken by the carabinieri immediately prior to the attack on the jeep (such as allowing the injured officers to take cover in non-armoured vehicles). Finally, there was no evidence that the assistance rendered to Carlo Giuliani had been inadequate or delayed or that the jeep had driven over his body intentionally; in any event, as was clear from the autopsy report, the damage to the brain had been so severe that it resulted in death within a few minutes.
Accordingly, the Italian authorities had not failed in their obligation to do all that could reasonably be expected of them to provide the level of safeguards required during operations potentially involving the use of lethal force. The Court found that there had been no violation of Article 2 in this respect either.
Alleged lack of an effective investigation into the death
The information obtained by the domestic investigation had provided the Court with sufficient evidence to satisfy it that Italy’s responsibility could not be engaged in any respect in connection with the death of Carlo Giuliani (see above). The investigation had therefore been sufficiently effective to enable it to be determined whether the use of lethal force had been justified and whether the organisation and planning of the policing operations had been compatible with the obligation to protect life.
The Court nevertheless had to examine three questions.
Firstly, it had to determine whether the applicants had had sufficient access to the investigation to “safeguard their legitimate interests”. In that connection it noted in particular that, although the applicants had not been able to apply to join the proceedings as civil parties, Italian law had afforded them, in their capacity as injured parties, rights and powers which they had exercised during the investigation. While it was true that they had been unable to appoint an expert of their choosing and secure the latter’s attendance at the forensic examinations, Article 2 did not require that the victim’s relatives be afforded that possibility. Furthermore, the applicants had not furnished evidence of serious failings in the autopsy and, in any case, the cause of Carlo Giuliani’s death (the bullet fired by the carabiniere) was clear. Admittedly, the parties disagreed as to whether the bullet had been deflected by another object. However, the Court pointed out that this issue was not crucial as the use of force would have been justified even if that theory had been dismissed. The Court further observed that the authorisation to cremate Carlo Giuliani’s body, which made any further forensic tests impossible, had been granted at the applicants’ request.
Secondly, the Court had to be satisfied that those in charge of the investigation had been independent from those implicated in the events. The main issue in that regard concerned the appointment in the course of the domestic investigation of an expert who had preconceived ideas, having published an article in which he openly defended the view that the officer concerned had acted in self-defence. However, the expert in question had been just one member of a four-person team, who had been appointed by the prosecuting authorities (and was therefore not acting as a neutral and impartial auxiliary of the judge), and whose involvement had been largely confined to carrying out technical tests for the purposes of the ballistics report. Accordingly, his presence was not capable in itself of compromising the impartiality of the investigation.
Lastly, the Court had to determine whether the proceedings had been conducted with the promptness required by the Court’s case-law. As the domestic investigation had lasted for approximately one year and four months after Carlo Giuliani’s death, that requirement had been satisfied.
The Court concluded that there had likewise been no violation of Article 2 with regard to the investigation.
Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment)
As the Court had already examined the facts on which the applicants based this complaint from the standpoint of Article 2, there was no reason to re-examine them under Article 3.
Article 6 (right to a fair hearing) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy)
The applicants argued that, in view of the inconsistent and incomplete findings of the investigation, the case had required more detailed examination within a framework of genuine adversarial proceedings. In the Court’s view, that issue fell to be examined under Article 13 alone3. It pointed to its finding that an effective domestic investigation compatible with Article 2 had been conducted into the circumstances of Carlo Giuliani’s death. That investigation had been capable of leading to the identification and punishment of those responsible. Although the applicants had not been able to apply to join the proceedings as civil parties (since the criminal judge concluded that no punishable offence had been committed), they had nevertheless been able to exercise the powers afforded to injured parties under Italian law. Finally, it had been open to them to bring a civil action for compensation.
The applicants had therefore had effective remedies available to them in respect of their complaint under Article 2. Accordingly, there had been no violation of Article 13.
Article 38 (adversarial examination of the case)
The Court took the view that, even though the information provided to it by the Italian authorities was not exhaustive on some points, the incomplete nature of that information had not prevented it from examining the case.
There had therefore been no violation of Article 38.
Three joint partly dissenting opinions are annexed to the judgment (joint partly dissenting opinion of Judges Rozakis, Tulkens, Zupančič, Gyulumyan, Ziemele, Kalaydjieva and Karakaş; joint partly dissenting opinion of Judges Tulkens, Zupančič, Gyulumyan and Karakaş; and joint partly dissenting opinion of Judges Tulkens, Zupančič, Ziemele and Kalaydjieva).