European Court of Human Rights - case of Doorson v. The Netherlands   (1996) (excerpts)

European Court of Human Rights - case of Doorson v. the Netherlands   (1996) (excerpts)

(...)

70. It is true that Article 6 (art. 6) does not explicitly

require the interests of witnesses in general, and those of

victims called upon to testify in particular, to be taken into

consideration. However, their life, liberty or security of

person may be at stake, as may interests coming generally within

the ambit of Article 8 (art. 8) of the Convention. Such

interests of witnesses and victims are in principle protected by

other, substantive provisions of the Convention, which imply that

Contracting States should organise their criminal proceedings in

such a way that those interests are not unjustifiably imperilled.

Against this background, principles of fair trial also require

that in appropriate cases the interests of the defence are

balanced against those of witnesses or victims called upon to

testify.

 (...)


72. The maintenance of the anonymity of the witnesses Y.15

and Y.16 presented the defence with difficulties which criminal

proceedings should not normally involve. Nevertheless, no

violation of Article 6 para. 1 taken together with Article 6

para. 3 (d) (art. 6-1+art. 6-3-d) of the Convention can be found

if it is established that the handicaps under which the defence

laboured were sufficiently counterbalanced by the procedures

followed by the judicial authorities (see, mutatis mutandis, the

above-mentioned Kostovski judgment, p. 21, para. 43).

(...)

76. Finally, it should be recalled that even when

"counterbalancing" procedures are found to compensate

sufficiently the handicaps under which the defence labours, a

conviction should not be based either solely or to a decisive

extent on anonymous statements. That, however, is not the case

here: it is sufficiently clear that the national court did not

base its finding of guilt solely or to a decisive extent on the

evidence of Y.15 and Y.16 (see paragraph 34 above).


Furthermore, evidence obtained from witnesses under

conditions in which the rights of the defence cannot be secured

to the extent normally required by the Convention should be

treated with extreme care. The Court is satisfied that this was

done in the criminal proceedings leading to the applicant's

conviction, as is reflected in the express declaration by the

Court of Appeal that it had treated the statements of Y.15 and

Y.16 "with the necessary caution and circumspection" (see

paragraph 34 above).