We sue Sweden for Daniel’s death
The subsequent police investigation was defective and, with reference to self-defense, no one was held responsible for the killing.
Daniel’s parents and sister are now suing Sweden before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), with the assistance of Civil Rights Defenders.
– The shortcomings that led to Daniel’s death are unacceptable. If the operation had been planned and implemented correctly, Daniel would have been alive today, says Robert Hårdh, Executive Director of Civil Rights Defenders.
Civil Rights Defenders believe that the poorly planned police intervention together with structural shortcomings in the police force have contributed to Daniel’s death. For example, there is a lack of knowledge, proper training and regulation concerning police interventions against mentally ill persons.
Furthermore, the current Swedish legislation regulating the use of of firearms is deficient and out of date and this, together with the use of expanding bullets (hollow point bullets) as standard police ammunition, leads to an unacceptable situation.
– The ammunition was banned in war in 1899 because it was considered to cause superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering. It is difficult to understand why the same humanitarian principles do not apply to our citizens in peace time, says Robert Hårdh.
Seven years have passed since Daniel was killed but so far no lessons have been learned by this or other police shootings. It is not reasonable, says Robert Hårdh:
– The tragic events in Lindesberg cannot be undone but the government must ensure that it is not repeated.
For more information please contact:
Robert Hårdh, Executive Director, +46 709 14 63 14
Cecilia Tengroth, Legal Director, +46 70 484 96 96
The events in brief
Four police officers were called out to the family home of Daniel in March 2005. He had appeared strange for some time, and his family and friends were worried. All, except Daniel himself, realized that he was suffering from a psychosis and needed medical care.
Parents and employers had been in contact with the police, as Daniel had not wanted to seek treatment voluntarily. The police therefore knew about the need for care when Daniel’s mother called on Sunday morning to ask for help with her son who had become increasingly agitated. The local hospital was also contacted, and the police were informed that doctors were on their way.
When the police arrived, Daniel appeared confused and was standing on the porch holding kitchen knives. Daniel’s parents were standing behind the fence together with the police officers, and an iron gate separated them from Daniel. Two of the officers immediately upon arrival to the scene pulled their weapons, and the parents urged them not to shoot.
One police officer, who was not team leader, took command and shouted to Daniel to put down the knives, go down the stairs and lie down on the ground. He made it clear that they were going to shoot him if he came at them with the knives in his hand. The police did not wait, go back, call in negotiators or wait for reinforcements. They did not wait for the doctor, who was on his way, or even talk to the parents that were standing right next to them.
Daniel, who constantly went up and down the stairs, dropping and picking up the knives, reacted very negatively to the inflated atmosphere. He got scared and upset and yelled back at the policemen. Daniel took off his shirt and at one point he turned his back to the officers and pulled down his pants.
The police officer who wrongly took command, let’s call him J, asked a colleague to contact a superior officer. The superior ordered the officers to “freeze” the situation. But before this order was communicated to the other officers, J had shot Daniel in the stomach.
Resuscitation attempts were given but Daniel bled to death before the ambulance arrived. Only about 5-10 minutes had then passed since the police had arrived and Daniel’s mother said with relief: “At last, Daniel will get help, what a relief.”
Our assessment of the case
Due to improper handling of the crime scene, the removal of key evidence and faulty technical investigation of the iron gate, the subsequent police investigation did not manage to clarify the central question of where the police and Daniel hade been standing when the shot had been fired. J claimed that he aimed at Daniel’s leg, but the bullet ricocheted on the gate and hit the abdomen. The four police officers gave contradictory statements that were never contested.
J was charged with aggravated assault and involuntary manslaughter but was acquitted since the court found that he had acted in self-defense. The family appealed to the Court of Appeal, which upheld the ruling and the Supreme Court, which did not grant leave to appeal.
In addition to the failure of the police operation and flaws in the subsequent police investigation, Civil Rights Defenders has identified five structural shortcomings that contributed to Daniel’s death and that must be addressed:
1. The Swedish legislation governing the use of firearms must be revised. This legislation is over 40 years old and does not regulate, in a legally secure manner, the situations police officers face today. It does not meet ECHR standards on use of force having to be “absolutely necessary” and that lethal force may not be used in administering procedural arrests. This has meant that Penal self-defense rules have formed the legal foundation for almost all judicial review of police use of firearms since 1995. It is unfortunate, as they are not intended to regulate police use of force, but rather the individual citizen’s right to self-defense.
2. Police knowledge, training and regulation concerning police interventions against mentally ill persons must be improved. In at least six of 14 cases of fatal police shootings since 1995, the person in question was mentally ill. We believe that the main reason for this group being overrepresented is that current rules, police procedures and training does not take into account the specific nature of intervention against mentally ill persons. This has the discriminatory effect that mentally ill persons are at greater risk of dying in police intervention than others.
3. Liability rules must be reviewed. Since the Swedish police, unlike police in many other European countries, always carry guns, there should be a reporting and monitoring system that notes when a specific police team and individual police officers often use their gun or are reported for criminal offences. Linked to this there should be a system of sanctions in other ways than dismissal and a regular test of policemen who need and who should bear arms.
4. Complete statistics must be kept, and made official. The National Police Agency’s (Rikspolisstyrelsen) statistics on police use of firearms is not complete, although it is required both by UN rules and Swedish legislation. Statistics are based on voluntary reporting and for instance the authorities cannot explain why the number of cases where a police officer fired his weapon has more than doubled in 2011 compared to the previous year. Without statistics and analysis, it is impossible to develop the appropriate weapons training and knowledge of the situations that trigger a dangerous situation.
5. Police use of expanding bullets must stop. Since 2003, all Swedish police officers use this kind of ammunition. When the bullet hits a body it is deformed with extensive damage as a result. The ammunition was banned in war in 1899 because it causes superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering. The damage that the ammunition caused was not seen as proportional to the military advantage gained. It is hard to understand why the same humanitarian principles that are granted to the enemy in times of war shall not apply to a country’s own citizens.Categories: Achievements and News.
Tags: Cecilia Tengroth, European Court of Human Rights, and Robert Hårdh.