Press Release No: Individual Application 41/22
Press Release concerning the Judgment Finding a Violation of the Right to Life as regards the Obligation to Conduct an Effective Investigation
On 19 January 2022, the Second Section of the Constitutional Court found a violation of the right to life, safeguarded by Article 17 of the Constitution, as regards the obligation to conduct an effective investigation in the individual application lodged by Yıldız Cingöz (no. 2019/16011).
While the applicant’s husband H.C. was working as a construction worker (a concrete former) in the construction of the building belonging to a private electricity company, he was severely injured by falling from height and died approximately two months after the accident in the hospital to which he had been taken.
The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office initiated an investigation, carried out an incident scene investigation, conducted an autopsy procedure, took statements of the eyewitnesses and suspects, carried out an inquiry about video recordings, ordered an expert examination and issued an indictment at the end of the process by considering that M.C., namely the owner of the contractor construction company, had caused death by negligence. The court which accepted the indictment ordered an expert examination in order to establish those to whom any fault/responsibility could be attributed in connection with the incident and delivered its judgment by concluding, as a result of the proceedings, that M.C. had committed the offence of causing death by negligence due to his failure to take necessary security measures at the construction site. The judgment became final after a review by the Regional Court of Appeal.
The Applicant’s Allegations
The applicant alleged that the right to life had been violated due to an intentional delay in her husband’s transfer to a health institution after he had had an accident by falling from height at the construction site and the authorities’ failure to take this issue into consideration during the investigation process although it allegedly changed the nature of the offence.
The Court’s Assessment
In the present case, when raising an alleged violation, the applicant essentially claimed that there had been an intentional delay in her husband’s transfer to the hospital -for the purpose of his registration with the social security system-, which would possibly change the nature of the offence, that an assessment had not been made as regards the argument that her husband had been kept waiting in a severely injured state, and that the criminal proceedings had been ended without clarification of the said issue. In this context, the alleged violation of the procedural obligation within the scope of the right to life was assessed within the framework of the indicated issues.
In her statement she gave as a complainant at the very beginning of the investigation, the applicant alleged that there had been a delay in her husband’s transfer to the hospital according to the information allegedly obtained from the doctors involved in her husband’s treatment and that the Emergency Services Line had been called in a delayed manner. She maintained those allegations throughout the proceedings by giving details concerning the alleged delay and continued to raise them even at the stage of the proceedings before the Regional Court of Appeal. Although the records and reports drawn up by the police officers in respect of the incident indicated the time of the incident as 4.30 p.m., the workers who had witnessed the incident at the construction site declared, in their statements taken in the immediate aftermath of the accident, that the incident had taken place at 4 p.m. The workers also stated that the emergency ambulance had arrived at the incident scene shortly after the call. Moreover, İ.C., whose statement was taken during the criminal proceedings, declared that there was a distance of 100 to 200 meters between the incident scene and the hospital and that when he had arrived at the incident scene upon being informed of the incident, he had seen the deceased being taken to the hospital. On the other hand, the report signed by the doctor of the hospital to which the deceased had been taken, noted that H.C. had been brought to the hospital at 5.02 p.m. According to the document provided by the applicant at the stage of the proceedings before the Regional Court of Appeal, the registration of H.C. with the social security system was performed at 4.57 p.m. on the day of the incident. In view of these allegations and findings (such as statements, reports, etc.), H.C. could be taken to the hospital one hour after the accident although the ambulance had arrived at the incident scene in a very short time and that the distance between the incident scene and the hospital was only 100 to 200 meters.
During the investigation process, no explanation could apparently be made as to which data/information/evidence had been taken as basis in the recording of the time of the incident as 4.30 p.m. in the reports and documents drawn up by the police officers although the workers who were present at the incident scene at the moment of the accident declared, in their statements taken immediately after the incident, that the incident had occurred at 4 p.m. This uncertainty creates a negative impression as regards the diligence required to be shown by the investigating authorities. Regard being had to the issues raised by the applicant, the statements of the workers/witnesses concerning the time of the incident and the distance to the hospital, as well as the time schedule established in view of the report concerning the time of admission to the hospital and the established findings, it has been understood that the authorities’ failure to investigate or address the allegation about an intentional delay in transfer to the hospital/a delay in informing the health institution, which would possibly change the nature of the offence, constitutes a significant deficiency likely to cast doubt on the seriousness and thoroughness of the investigation and on the steps taken by the investigating authorities to ascertain the circumstances of the incident.
Throughout the investigation and prosecution processes, the judicial authorities did not apparently make any assessment as to the issues concerning the transfer of H.C. to the hospital after the accident, the alleged delay in that process and the alleged existence of an intent in the incident (in the context of a delay in transfer to the hospital). In this regard, the judicial authorities did not exchange correspondences with and request information/documents from the relevant institutions (in relation to the time when the emergency ambulance had been called, the issue of whether the registration of the deceased with the social security system had been performed in the aftermath of the accident, etc.) in order to verify whether the allegations reflected the truth, to establish the time schedule, and to ascertain the process in all aspects.
Accordingly, it has been concluded that the authorities failed to carry out a serious and thorough investigation/prosecution as required by the guarantees of the right to life in such a manner as to establish all the evidence capable of ascertaining all the circumstances surrounding the death of H.C. and establishing the facts/intent/negligence giving rise to the death.
Consequently, the Court has found a violation of the right to life as regards the obligation to conduct an effective investigation.
This press release prepared by the General Secretariat intends to inform the public and has no binding effect.