European Court of Human Rights - case of Hermi v. Italy (2006) (excerpts)

European Court of Human Rights - case of Hermi v. Italy (2006) (excerpts)

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61. Leave-to-appeal proceedings and proceedings involving only questions of law, as opposed to questions of fact, may comply with the requirements of Article 6, although the appellant was not given an opportunity of being heard in person by the appeal or cassation court, provided that a public hearing was held at first instance (see, among other authorities, Monnell and Morris, cited above, p. 22, § 58, as regards the issue of leave to appeal, and Sutter v. Switzerland, judgment of 22 February 1984, Series A no. 74, p. 13, § 30, as regards the court of cassation). However, in the latter case, the underlying reason was that the courts concerned did not have the task of establishing the facts of the case, but only of interpreting the legal rules involved (see Ekbatani, cited above, p. 14, § 31).

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64. However, where an appellate court has to examine a case as to the facts and the law and make a full assessment of the issue of guilt or innocence, it cannot determine the issue without a direct assessment of the evidence given in person by the accused for the purpose of proving that he did not commit the act allegedly constituting a criminal offence (see Dondarini v. San Marino, no. 50545/99, § 27, 6 July 2004).

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71. The Court has held that, in the context of application of paragraph 3 (e), the issue of the defendant's linguistic knowledge is vital and that it must also examine the nature of the offence with which the defendant is charged and any communications addressed to him by the domestic authorities, in order to assess whether they are sufficiently complex to require a detailed knowledge of the language used in court (see, mutatis mutandis, Güngör, cited above).