Amanda Knox’s rights violated in Italy murder probe: ECHR

by Samuel Abasi Posted on January 24th, 2019

Italy has been ordered to pay €18,400 (£16,000) to US citizen Amanda Knox, who spent years in prison for a murder of which she was later acquitted.

Ms Knox’s long-running legal battle was closely followed by global media during years of retrials and appeals.

She took Italy to court over her initial treatment by Italian police, alleging her rights had been violated.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said Ms Knox had not had proper access to a lawyer and interpreter.

But the court rejected Ms Knox’s claim that she was subjected to degrading treatment and slapped by police.

‘False confessions’

Ms Knox has been fully acquitted of the murder charge, and this case related to her last outstanding conviction for “malicious accusation” – she had briefly, under questioning, accused another innocent person of the murder.

In a statement after the ruling, Ms Knox said the court was “acknowledging the reality of false confessions”.

“I was interrogated for 53 hours over five days, without a lawyer, in a language I understood maybe as well as a 10-year-old,” she said.

“I was in shock, and I volunteered to help the Perugian police in any way I could. But they weren’t interested in my help. They were determined to break me.”

In a statement, the ECHR said she was interviewed “without legal assistance, at a time when there was a criminal charge against her” without any exceptional circumstances to justify it.

“Ms Knox had been particularly vulnerable, being a foreign young woman, 20 at the time, not having been in Italy for very long and not being fluent in Italian,” it said.

The police interpreter had gone beyond their role “to build up a personal and emotional relationship with Ms Knox, seeing herself as a mediator and taking on a motherly attitude which was not called for,” the ECHR said.

That “compromised the fairness of the proceedings as a whole”, it said.

The murder of Meredith Kercher

British woman Meredith Kercher, 21, was murdered in Perugia in 2007.

An exchange student from the university of Leeds, police discovered her body in November that year. Her throat had been cut, and there were signs of sexual violence.

Police arrested Amanda Knox, who was her housemate, and Ms Knox’s boyfriend, Italian Raffaele Sollecito, five days after Ms Kercher’s death.

The crux of Ms Knox’s case at the ECHR is that she was mistreated during that initial phase of police questioning.

Some two weeks later, another man, Rudy Guede, was arrested. A year later, in 2008, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison for the murder of Ms Kercher

But prosecutors did not drop charges against Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito, who were accused of holding the victim down – and prosecutors alleged that Ms Knox delivered the deadly blow with a knife.

They were both also found guilty of murder in 2009, sentenced to 26 and 25 years in prison.

After more than three years behind bars, both were acquitted of the murder.

But in 2014 the convictions were reinstated, though Ms Knox was back in the United States and refused to travel to Italy. US media largely portrayed her as an innocent victim of Italy’s court system.

In 2015, Italian courts acquitted Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito in the final verdict of the case.

What was this latest case about?

In 2016, Ms Knox was given permission by the European Court of Human Rights to put her case against Italy.

Despite her acquittal for murder, she was still convicted of making a “malicious accusation” by telling police, in her initial questioning, that she believed a local bar owner had committed the murder. That person had an alibi, and was released without charge.

Ms Knox had retracted that statement within hours of making it, but was charged with the offence.

Part of her complaint to the ECHR was that her interpreter encouraged her “to imagine hypothetical scenarios”, and she claimed she was slapped on the head twice during questioning.

She also said she was “was subjected to extreme psychological pressure and forced to speak at a point where she was incapable of showing discernment or willpower”.

The ECHR agreed that she had not had proper access to a lawyer or interpreter, and that Italian authorities had not properly investigated her claims of ill treatment.

But it did not uphold her complaint that she was not clearly made aware of the charges against her. Neither did it find evidence of inhuman or degrading treatment.

Italy was ordered to pay €10,400 (£9,050) in damages and €8,000 (£6,960) in costs.

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Samuel Abasi

Samuel Abasi

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