Inadmissibility of evidence obtained by private persons through the use of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment: the case of Ćwik v. Poland

Tobias Thienel, associated fellow at the Walther Schücking Institute of International Law at the University of Kiel, Germany, and lawyer with Weissleder Ewer*

A classic staple of the cop show genre has the detective ‘roughing up’ a stubborn defendant in order to produce a confession. This somewhat hackneyed story line never had much to do with the law, because it is clear that evidence that the police have obtained by serious ill-treatment is inadmissible in court. But the story becomes more original if it is not the police, but a relative of a victim or a rival criminal that commits the violence and obtains evidence. The law is rather less clear on whether evidence obtained through ill-treatment by private persons is also inadmissible. The European Court of Human Rights has now answered this question in Ćwik v. Poland. The answer is very much in the affirmative.

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